Imagine this: you wake up to the sound of your alarm clock going off. It’s the early hours of the morning, and it seems like you have barely slept for five minutes. You wash up and get dressed, then perfect that homework you’re supposed to hand in tonight, while having something that vaguely resembles breakfast. Straight after, it’s time to face morning traffic and get to work to meet a hectic work day. At the end of the eight plus hour affair, your colleagues head to their homes for rest and recreation; you, on the other hand, still have several hours of school to look forward to.
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This scenario gives a glimpse at what it is like to learn and earn at the same time; it is nothing like going off to college fresh out of high school. Those starting their graduate studies are adults; they have to pay the bills, work on their relationships and spend time with their families, and advance their careers; all the while balancing these needs with their graduate education. Obviously, this is not an easy job, but with the following point in mind, you should be able to fulfill your educational goals while working a full time job, without compromising in any area of your life.
Understand Your Personal Outcomes for Earning an Online MBA
People decide to go back to school for different reasons; your individual reason controls the degree of your motivation and, therefore, the amount of effort you can put in. Earning a graduate degree requires years of continuous effort and work, and many students lose momentum halfway. It is by understanding your goals in the very beginning that you find the reason that will keep you going and recharge you drive throughout your journey.
The best goal for getting a graduate degree would be for the student to further professional skills and achieve a career objective. A tangible goal such as a promotion, raise or climbing the corporate ladder offer the motivation needed to follow through with the long, rough graduate degree journey with its many requirements.
However, it is common for adults to go back to school for the sake of quelling boredom or seeking inspiration. The problem with this is that the excitement of the new step wanes to leave the student with busy schedules and no reward at the end of the tunnel. For these individuals, it is important to create rewarding milestones to keep motivation levels soaring. It is also preferable, since there are no career objectives involved, to aim for a mini degree that takes less time and effort to complete.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare for Earning an Online MBA
Graduate school is not something to jump into unprepared. The effort put into qualifying exams and admissions leading to that acceptance letter is not where these preparations end. Accepted students should do their research about what’s needed in their program and the amount of hours they will have to dedicate to their degree, and then think of how these requirements can be integrated into their everyday routine.
To do this, create a detailed comprehensive list of everything you regularly; whether on daily or weekly basis. The list should cover your major responsibilities as well as relatively less important activities and duties. With this list, and an accurate figure of the hours your program requires weekly, you can move on to the next step of clearing up space in your schedule for your studies. Most students will have to eliminate almost all leisure activities during week days in order to fit in both school and work into their day beside essential daily responsibilities.
With the finished schedule in hand, students will be able to have a clear idea of what their day will be like, and set realistic expectations before starting. Additionally, they will have enough time to sum up any standing responsibilities and adapt to less hours of sleep, if required.
Earning an Online MBA is a Second Job
Many people mistakenly assume that online degrees will be less exhaustive than their traditional classroom counterparts. In fact, online graduate degrees only differ from traditional ones in terms of flexibility; students should not underestimate the amount of commitment and responsibility they will be putting into their degree. An online degree should be treated like a second job.
Study in an area free from all manners of distraction and attend all classes, keeping in mind that your success as a student depends on showing up for class, especially with the online medium of study where the student is his own supervisor, and where skipping one class will only make it easier to skip others.
Get Help, Maintain Connections, Don’t Do It Alone
Just like with most major life decision, support system is of outmost importance for those going back to school while maintaining a full-time work position. Ideally, a friend or study colleague can help by providing you with support and companionship from somebody going through the same journey as you, in addition to offering help with the material, assignments and study related technicalities. This, however, is hard to come by. Just because you can’t find a ‘study buddy’, doesn’t mean you have to work and study simultaneously without assistance at all.
Getting the support of your spouse or a friend in taking care of daily chores such as driving the children to their classes and/or activities, or picking up a relative from the airport will go a long way in freeing up your schedule, allowing you to better focus on your job and your studies. Remember that there is no shame in accepting help when offered.
With the amount of effort, both physical and psychological, that is involved in working while going back to school, every student will have to plan ahead, enlist the support of those close to him, and stay optimistic throughout the entire journey. The most important factor here, beside preparation, is to keep your goal ahead of you where it can act as a magnetic driving force pulling you towards your goal and making the hardships of working and studying at the same time tolerable.
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At MBAGuide you are teaming up with MBA graduates, managers, professors, MBA students, data modelers, designers and other professionals to learn from experts about business careers, degree programs and salaries. Our staff of MBA professionals has written this article and it has been reviewed by an MBA graduate and editor on our staff.