January 14, 2011
How to survive grad school while working full-time
Before the holidays, I mentioned that the University of Washington was hosting a panel for professionals thinking of enrolling in graduate school while working full-time.
[Photo by alamosbasement]
If you missed the event, you're in luck. UW Professional and Continuing Education kindly compiled a list of the panelists' top recommendations for those considering returning to school while holding down a full-time job. My favorite tips of the bunch follow:
Give yourself at least a year to research financing options. Applying for grants, scholarships, and federal funding requires a long lead time as the deadlines are often infrequent. Be sure to ask the specific department you're interested in about any financing opportunities they provide. And remember to claim the lifetime learning credit on your federal tax return.
Get your boss on board. Before you apply, talk to your manager about your interest in returning to school and ask what he or she thinks. When angling for your employer to foot the bill, you'll need to make a strong business case for why an advanced degree would help you better serve the company. Either way, you'll need to convince your boss that returning to school won't jeopardize your ability to get your job done efficiently and effectively.
Go for practical, real-world skills. Don't just submerge yourself in academic theory. Pick a graduate program that combines the theoretical with professional knowledge and best practices you can put to work immediately -- in your current job. Not only will this energize you and keep you motivated while juggling work, school, and personal life, it will make your boss really, really happy.
Make sure the program is a realistic fit for your life. If you're already juggling a newborn or an ailing parent with a demanding 55-hour-a-week job, this might not be the right time to return to school. Be sure you realistically consider the workload, commute, class schedule, financial investment, and other obligations in your life before filling out those applications. Sure, you can cut back on social and leisure time to make room for grad school, but you can only skimp so much before your life starts to feel completely out of whack and devoid of fun. Don't set yourself up for burnout before you even begin.
For more tips on returning to school while working full-time, see the UW Professional and Continuing Education website.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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