Family And An Online Degree

Feb 22, 2013
  |  by Jennifer Cook

There are a lot of reasons to go to an online college for your degree (convenience, flexibility, learning using the latest technology), but the effect those things have on your personal life often gets overlooked. Students aren’t the only ones making sacrifices to get themselves through school, and online education can really offer the elbow-room in your schedule that you need to balance family and school.

Flexible Class Schedules Don’t Steal Family Time

The time flexibility that you get from earning a bachelor degree online let’s you adjust your learning schedule around family responsibilities and activities. Those daytime hours can get crowded, and many of us would much rather sacrifice sleep for school than time with our kids or significant other. So, the ability to jump online to do homework or digest class material after the kids are in bed is a significant plus for your everyday family life.

In a traditional classroom setting, you can’t time-shift your class time that way; the class starts when it starts, and you can’t get your participation portion of the grade unless you’re in the chair. Commute time eats away at family time, too. If you’re on the bus or train, your study options are limited. And you can’t study at all if you’re driving to campus.

At Strayer, we let you structure your schedule so that you can get hands-on classroom instruction when you need it and still have the flexibility of doing class-work online.

Realistic Workload Expectations

I’m not saying that earning your degree online doesn’t require some sacrifice, from your family and from you. To get through a semester requires that you be on top of project deadlines and study schedules so you don’t get left behind, and that takes time. Meeting those demands could mean you miss some little league games. And while that’s a knife in your heart, it’s worth it to achieve a better future for your whole family.

Be realistic with your family about how things are going to change with you in school. Family members may have to pick up the slack to help out around the house, cook meals and other things that used to be your share of the household chores. Adjusting to school life is going to affect all of you.

How Do You Balance College and Family

So, how do you do it? How do you make sure your family life doesn’t suffer while you’re working to make a better life for all of you? It’s going to take discipline from you, and some serious coordination with the whole family to make things work, but it’s doable. I recommend the following:

  • Make a schedule with your family. To make sure every minute counts, both for learning and family time, you’ll need to get detailed about how your family spends time, develop a schedule, and stick to it. Conflicts will have to be ironed out, and everyone should know exactly what the schedule demands of them.
  • Use digital tools to help you get organized. Technology is a great equalizer, and it may just make the difference between you finishing school and getting overwhelmed. Little tasks like locating coursework can steal minutes away from your schedule. Having all of your notes, assignments and course materials in one place (Google Drive, Dropbox, or other online storage) can help save time and let you access all of your school stuff even when you don’t have access to your computer.
  • Take care of your health. You’re not a machine, and if your body suffers, so will your brain. Keep them both in learning-ready condition by eating right and sneaking exercise when you can fit it into your schedule. Don’t stretch your sleep hours too thin, and take study breaks; those marathon cramming sessions are inefficient when it comes to absorbing the information, and your body will punish you for them later. Trust me.
  • Keep yourself motivated. You’re in this for the long haul. During those late-night study sessions, it’s easy to get discouraged. Just remember to keep your eyes on the prize. You’re doing this for yourself and your family. And Future You is going to be satisfied and proud that you stuck it out when you hang that diploma on the wall.

If you can do those things, you’re already halfway there. Preparation and organization will carry you through and make sure the school-family-work balance maintains until you finish your degree program.

How do you juggle family, work and school?


Author bio: Jennifer Cook writes on higher education, student life and emerging technology for Strayer.edu. When she isn’t writing, she’s reading everything from the Hunger Games to blogs on cupcakes.

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