Balancing life and graduate school

Attending graduate school is a goal that most of us want to achieve, but with busy personal lives and work schedules – putting graduate classes on top of that can be overwhelming. Mastering the perfect work-life balance is not an easy task, and we all have different ideas of what the perfect balance is. With so many available options for MBA programs, there is no shortage of options that could fit your life. It’s all about doing your research, determining if it’s the best fit, and making the commitment to further your education.

Here are some tips to help make balancing life and graduate school a little bit easier!

Choose a program that is the right fit for you.

Are you pursuing an MBA? Make sure you know exactly what your wants and needs are. Consider things like program cost, length, and expenses like textbooks or other course materials. Understanding the ins and outs of a potential program can help you determine if it’s the best fit for your life. Most importantly, make sure that you understand the financial side of your MBA. Decide what you can afford, what scholarship opportunities exist, and if you qualify for any financial aid. Check with your current employer to see if they will help pay for the cost of your program – some organizations will pay for part of your tuition as professional development. Also, check to see if the college you want to attend offers special discounts that you may qualify for.

Make time.

Making time seems like a no brainer, but if you don’t set aside specific blocks of time to study or complete your coursework, you may find yourself in the never-ending cycle of procrastination. Eventually, “I’ll do this tomorrow” becomes “It’s due tomorrow,” and you may not get the grade you think you deserve. MBA coursework can be more challenging than you think, so it is important to allow yourself enough time to study the material so that you fully understand the information you receive through instruction. Whether you decide to get up two hours earlier in the morning or you decide to stay up two hours later at night, know this is a short term adjustment – after all, your program won’t last forever, but your degree will!

Take care of yourself.

In your already packed schedule, it can be challenging to find even five minutes to give back to yourself. After all – you’re the one that’s juggling it all, and you deserve a break now and then! Take a five-minute dance break when you would normally take a study break to scroll through social media on your phone. Before a big exam, take a relaxing bath or go to bed an hour earlier than you typically would. No time to for the gym? Take your notes or books along with you, and read through the material while walking on the treadmill. Prioritizing your mental health is essential in any situation, but it is especially important when you go back to school.

Find your team.

When Abraham Lincoln was president, he surrounded himself with a team of people who challenged, encouraged, and advised him. Graduate school isn’t easy, and there will be bumps in the road along the way. The key to getting around roadblocks and overcoming temporary setbacks is by surrounding yourself with people who are on your team. You’ll find yourself needing encouragement, motivation, and even a little tough love at times, but that’s all part of the process. Make sure these teammates know that you might need to lean on them from time to time!

Talk it out.

Be open and honest about your desire to pursue a graduate degree with those closest to you! You may find that your friends and family members are supportive in more ways than one. The value of a graduate education is so good that they will understand that the temporary sacrifices you may need to make are all necessary to have a brighter future. It may also help you to make a pros and cons list of each program that you’re interested in, or about going back to school in general. Talk through each of these things with people you trust to ensure that you’re making the best decision for yourself. If your heart is set on a specific program or school, reach out to your admissions officer and talk through the process with them! They’re a great resource to help you think about their program in a different way – after all, they know all of the ins-and-outs in ways that you may not. These conversations can be valuable to help you determine the long term goals that you ultimately want to achieve after completing your graduate degree.

Figure out what to expect. Do you know anyone who’s completed an MBA program? Seek out their advice and use them as a resource when deciding if graduate school is the best choice for you. It is important in any situation to understand what you’re getting yourself into, and you may find that it’s not as tough as you think!

Celebrate the small stuff.

Don’t let your life get into the “work, eat, sleep, repeat” cycle. It’s important to take some time to celebrate the small achievements that ultimately advance you to your goal. Just passed that challenging class? Received a high grade on a test or assignment? Made it through another week? Make time to celebrate, even in small ways. Whether it’s treating yourself to a new pair of shoes, eating your favorite dessert, or even watching another episode of your favorite show on Netflix – these small celebrations can help you reset and recharge in the face of another week. Don’t let the grind get you down!

Prioritize and divide.

Ultimately, the state of your work-life balance will depend on where you are in your degree program at any given time. You’ll have classes that are easier than others, while other classes will seem impossibly challenging. You’ll have research papers to write and final exams to study for, and it will look like there aren’t enough hours in the day. Prioritizing the tasks in front of you and breaking them up into smaller blocks of time can be a very beneficial way to get the work done without becoming overwhelmed.

And finally...keep it all in perspective!

What worked best for your friend at work or your neighbor down the street that just finished their MBA might not work for you. After all, your life isn’t identical to anyone else’s, so your work-life balance will also be different.