I am in my junior year of my undergraduate degree and it has been a pain in the ass the whole time. Between working (when I was retail-bound) and driving from home to school, putting together a proper study schedule has been a bit of a workaround. When I was blogging at Two Girls Taste Texas and now with this blog, writing has been a non-stop thing; I am a history major so it is a combo of reading and writing multipage papers. I actually at one point stopped blogging in order to focus on my academic writing, but after a few months, I realized my voice was wavering in my academic writing. My researching skills, my critical thinking, and my self-confidence all took a complete dip, so I restarted blogging with a website that I have been tinkering with for five years. That is right five years!
But today’s post is not my journey through blogging and the up and downs associated with it. Today’s post is about being a responsible adult and studying like you should when you are a non-traditional student like myself. To say going back into the classroom was a struggle is the understatement of the century. I thankfully did not hop back into a large university right away and went to a community college to receive my associate’s degree. That year (I started in the fall and ended the following fall), was filled with stress, hair loss, and a lack of social life, except when I had school and work off which happened rarely. In order to keep a semi-decent GPA, I would settle into my favorite coffee shops & bars for hours on end and even took my schoolwork with me to work; this happened a lot during the holiday season seeing as I worked retail and was in charge of shipment in my department.
Want to know my secret, though: I would put a lot of things off last minute. Homework was and still is the bane of my existence and papers are always better when I put push them out the night (or even two hours) prior to handing them in or digitally submitting them. So here are my top four things I have learned since being back and will probably tweak in the next years hopefully leading towards a Ph.D.:
1. Never be afraid to get some help!
This is especially true if you are not a fan of writing papers. It doesn’t even have to be the professor or your writing center (they are good resources though). Get one of your classmates or friends to read it over and give you feedback. No matter what, re-read your paper, because it doesn’t matter how badass you think you are with writing, you will always fuck it up. Invest in Grammarly®, because even with writing blog posts, it has helped me out greatly.
If you are an older student (such as myself) and taking a language, reach out to the tutor or the professor. I have asked my professor via email or in person I give me a really detailed tutoring session when I didn’t understand something. This is great because you can try and work on your enunciation, pronunciation, and in general talk about what exactly is the English equivalent of that grammar rule you don’t understand.
2. If you take an online course, be prepared to hate your life.
Okay maybe not hate it completely because then you don’t have to drive to class, but that in-person help and interaction are essential (or at least for me). You can ask the question you really want to ask without it being misinterpreted when asked in text format. It takes a special kind of person to thrive in an online class. What if you forget to do that assignment or discussion board (yeah that has happened to you, admit it)? Well, it happens and you have to admit we have all skipped schoolwork in order to do something we want to do. You could always try and make it up by doing extra credit or blowing the project out of the water, but it is still a stain. I will talk about scheduling in another point so stayed tuned. I know I feel discussion boards (especially ones where you have to respond to a certain number of people) are easily duped and kind of impersonal. Most of the time you write the same thing over and over again or even use the person’s point to make it your own instead of having an actual discussion. Can we all just agree that online discussion boards are the worst and are completely pointless?
3. Scheduling your life around school.
I have blown off a number engagements or trips because I needed to get a book read or a slew of German homework done. My schedule is completely different from most of my non-traditional compatriots because I drive an hour and a half one-way to get to class every day. This means I have to do most of my work at night or even during my down hours between classes. I also try to do my classes on certain days, but when you have a language as a minor and a major requirement it is hard to do that. I have also invested in a planner to make sure I stay on track. On top of that, I put everything in my iPhone calendar with hourly or daily reminders so I can get to appointments or classes on time. If it takes this (and it has for me sometimes), set aside blocks of time to get things done. For example, do school work for two hours from 7 to 9 pm after dinner. It can be a pain, but in the end, you can get a lot of things done.
When it came to my job, I had to do double scheduling. I had to schedule schoolwork and my classes around my job. It came to a head when I was more stressed about missing work than I was about missing an assignment. I also had to step back and then eventually away from the job because of school. I thankfully get paid to go to school, but if you do not have the option make sure your classes and job don’t become a problem. One or both will suffer and having a problem with either will be a problem in the long run.
For my blog posts, I have tried dedicating one day on the weekends to writing out all my posts and scheduling them for the day and time I want them to be posted. Mind you, I have had a hard time keeping with this because I have missed my weekends, but on my editorial calendar, I have set aside the day to do it. It is up to me to do it.
4. Always take time for yourself.
If you finish a project early, then reward yourself with a relaxing bubble bath. If you make an A in all your classes, then take a stay-cation (that 4.0 was worth it). After all that stress you need a break to reset yourself; you do not want to run yourself ragged. If you have your weekends free, take the family on a trip to the zoo or go on a walk around the park with your pooch. Even if it is a five-minute meditation session in between school and work, take it and enjoy it you deserve it!
Being a non-traditional student can be the biggest problem for some people. You can take years to finish a two-year degree (like my mom did) or speed through it because you of funding, but in either case, you are different from your traditional student. You have experiences and a life that is something you should be proud of. So buck up buttercup, you got this and you can get through it because you took the biggest step...you went back to school. You are kick ass!