Racing to get the kids to school before work, running errands after work, rushing to help get the kids’ homework done—all before you can even consider starting your homework. For many adults, balancing family and work is a challenge. Add the stress of returning to school, and many adult students find the experience overwhelming. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone! With a growing number of adults, many of them parents, seeking their degree, universities across the country are working to accommodate the needs of nontraditional students. Now, competency-based degree programs are rising to the top of the heap as an ideal way to earn a degree for parents on an already hectic schedule.
Carla Lundeen, a student in the University of Wisconsin Flexible Option Nursing (RN to BSN) program, finds that “not having to be at a certain class at a certain time” makes it possible to deal with her busy, often unpredictable schedule. “Flex gives me the ability to get home from work, get the family settled, and then I can focus on my schoolwork.”
Competency-based programs like UW Flex provide students the flexibility to create study and test schedules that fit their life demands. Norman Ramdohr says he’s able to structure his school commitments to limit the impact on his family and work, while maximizing the amount he learns. “With Flex, you find the pockets of time that are most convenient for you to study and test. You’re not missing out on work, and you become even more efficient with your time,” says Ramdohr. “For me, it means instead of making a 40-mile round-trip commute to Madison for class, that’s time I can spend getting work, family, or school items taken care of. It’s easier on the family, and you can’t put a value on that aspect.”
In addition to finding a program that revolves around your schedule, the following tips might help make balancing school and family easier.
Set a schedule and stick to it.
An Academic Success Coach will first ask UW Flex students to envision when they will do their homework. Maybe it’s easiest to work when everyone is asleep in the morning or in bed at night. Maybe you have a long lunch break or can carve out some time after work or on the weekend. Be realistic, though—can you really wake up at 4 a.m. and be productive? Will you be able to work in the house if your kids are running around in another room? Find a time and place that work for you and stick with them!
Get a UW Flexible Option Degree Guide
Download an introductory guide (PDF) to the self-paced, competency-based UW Flexible Option programs, including details about costs, admission requirements, and more.
Include your family in your routine.
If your kids are a little older, set aside an hour when you all do homework together in one room. If they don’t have homework, they can work quietly on another project, like reading, drawing, or writing a letter. Not only will you get your homework done, but you’ll be helping your children develop their own study skills.
Look for support.
Even if you’re working on your own schedule, you’ll need to find time to study. Can a family member or friend watch your kids once in a while? Older children may be able to take on a few chores, which will free up a little more of your time. Having a system in place before you begin will help a lot when you’re approaching a deadline or feeling stressed.
Knowing you have the support and encouragement of those closest to you will make a huge difference if you start feeling guilty about your new schedule. Let your family, friends, and especially your children know why education is important. Help them understand how earning your degree will not only help you achieve your goals, but provide greater opportunities for the family. Sharing these values with your kids will help them understand your new schedule and encourage them to appreciate education throughout their lives.
While it’s important to stick to your schedule, it’s impossible to predict what might happen. Your kids get sick. The babysitter decides to move away on a whim. You have a new deadline at work. Things will surely come up, and you will inevitably lose your balance (and sleep) at some point. Don’t get discouraged! Instead, remember that this is a short-term commitment that will improve your family’s life in the long run.
Although making time to earn your degree might be difficult at first, competency-based degree programs like UW Flex make it easier by letting you decide how to fit an education into your schedule—not the other way around. Instead of wasting time driving to and from campus, finding babysitters so you can make it to class on time, and missing out on your kids’ sporting events and school performances, competency-based programs allow you to take care of your schoolwork where and when it’s convenient for you. By choosing a degree program that’s tailored to fit into your lifestyle and remembering these five strategies, earning your degree can be less stressful and a much more rewarding experience for you and your family.
To find out more about the UW Flexible Option and whether this competency-based education option is a good fit for you, call a friendly enrollment adviser today at 1-877-895-3276.