In August, I will have been in grad school for four full years (!!!). I've been full-time, part-time, working, you name it. I've been in two different schools and three different programs. I'll finally be done come December, but 9 semesters of graduate school is enough to make anyone lose their marbles at least once.
I've been working full-time and going to grad school (both full-time and part-time…depends on the semester) for the majority of my time there. I think I've finally nailed down the magic combination for dealing with the stresses that come from being a student in the working world: a lot of wine and coffee. Jay-kay guys….although there is a grain of truth to that combination.
Back to being serious now.
- If you work, don't be afraid to ask your boss for a more flexible schedule. During the summer, the building I'm in closes the cafe down at 2pm and I'm unsufferable in class without dinner. After multiple summers of leaving work at 5:30 for a 6pm class and only having time to grab pretzels from a vending machine, I finally asked to work a 7:30-4:30 shift on the days I have class. By leaving an hour earlier, I have time to grab a more substantial dinner and shift my mind from work to school. It's made a huge difference.
- Learn when to separate school and work. What I mean here is learn when to stop answering emails and focus on school. I have a strict no-work-email rule when I'm physically in class, and people at work respect that. I need to focus on class when I'm physically there. Other people I've met choose other times to do this. However, it really helps to have a dedicated school time set out.
- Know your limits. Last summer, I took three class (which put me at full-time status) and was regularly putting in 50 hours a week at work. Somehow I pulled off a 4.0 that semester, but I was constantly exhausted. My life at work suffered as a consequence. I thought I was pulling it all off, but I really wasn't. Never doing that again…
- Don't be afraid to take time for yourself. Johnny is also an MBA student who works full-time, and it's really interesting to see the differences between us. I always try to take time for myself during the week. He doesn't, and he is constantly short on sleep and stressed. Don't be afraid to skip a class if you need a night off. Find an exercise class to participate in. Veg out to netflix for a short time period. Finding something to treat yourself with when you're at that breaking point really helps you refocus your energy back on school.
- Remember, it will be done eventually. This isn't a child that you will have for at least 18 years. It's just school. At USF, we have a 5-year time limit at the master's level. No matter what, I would have to be done in five years. Enjoy the learning process again and take advantage of everything you can in grad school. In the end, it's worth it.
Are you in grad school right now? Are you considering it? How do you handle the school-work-life balance issues that come up? I love hearing from other grad students about their experiences.