If you’ve been out in the working world for a while, going back to school can be a huge lifestyle change. This can be true whether doing so is entirely your choice or you are looking for a new career after being downsized. However, there are steps you can take to prepare yourself for the shift and to thrive throughout.
Make the Mental Leap
It’s going to be a challenge to go back to being a student after you’ve been in the workforce. If you didn’t enjoy your job, you may embrace the change because you feel like you’re finally on the right path. You might enjoy the opportunity to use the abilities your job didn’t allow you to. However, if you are more ambivalent about the shift, you may struggle, feeling that you have less autonomy. If you are staying at your job and going to school part time, you might need to make some big adjustments to cope with the extra workload. Whatever the case, you may need to work to get into the right head space for the big change ahead.
Create Your Budget
One of the biggest changes will probably be having less disposable income. You can’t just pick up a shirt online or grab drinks with friends whenever you feel like it because money will be tighter in most cases. You’ll need to plan how you will pay for your education as well as what your budget will be in the years ahead. If you’ve been working for a while, you may have some savings, but you may still be better off taking out student loans than dipping into that. Do some research so you know what your borrowing limits are for paying for your tuition with private student loans. These can supplement any federal loans you are eligible for along with grants and scholarships.
Organize Your Time
When you’re working, your time is generally fairly regimented. As a student, you may initially feel as though you have a great deal of free time, particularly if you are not working at all. However, this can be deceptive. It can be easy to fall behind quickly if you aren’t careful, especially if you are taking some online classes that offer less structure than a face-to-face class might. You may need to develop some new strategies for time management to do your best.
Focus on Your Goals
It can be easy to get frustrated, particularly if you gave up a job where you had some prestige and earning power to go back to school. Even in a program you are enjoying, you may feel self-doubt about your decision. The key is to keep an eye on your goals, even writing them down someplace where you can refer to them frequently if you want, and remembering the ways in which your education is one part of reaching those goals. You may find it helpful if your college has resources aimed at nontraditional students and opportunities to meet others in a similar situation. Be sure to reward yourself, and practice plenty of self-care for stress relief.