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Issue 20: 3/31/2023

Effective strategies for balancing studies with work

Effective strategies for balancing studies with work

The Union Education Trust’s programs ease the burden of the greatest barrier to going to school for eligible state bargaining unit employees: cost. But now that you can afford the cost of education with help from UET, how do you find the time?

UET can’t add hours to the day, but fellow participants can share their secrets to successfully balancing a full-time job, family commitments, and school.

“You figure out what’s going to work best for you with your other commitments,” Department of Developmental Disabilities Assembly President Jeana Campolo said.

Campolo, a therapeutic program worker at Mt. Vernon Developmental Center, took a four-course certificate program for human resources in 2021-22.

“My intent is to move into something less stressful on my body,” she said of her motivation to take the courses.

Angela Carlozzi, charitable activities compliance inspector with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, has studied criminal justice, graduating in May 2022 with her bachelor’s degree. Now she’s in graduate school, pursuing her master’s degree. While she’s taking classes and working for the AG’s office, she also works part time in retail and is a single mother. With all of those commitments, it’s still important to value yourself, she said.

“It’s a no-brainer for me -- utilize what’s being offered to better yourself,” she said. “Just do it!”

When you decide to add schooling to your already-busy schedule, it takes planning, Carlozzi said.

“You’ve got to make time for what’s important. Don’t put too much of a load on yourself,” she said. “You can’t be a superhero. I just had to make the decision to do what’s best for me.”

Your Support Network

Carlozzi offered an important piece of advice: Find your support network.

“I’ve had lots of people rooting me on,” she said.

Your fellow union members aren’t the only ones who want to see you succeed. Share your plans with family members, friends, and co-workers, so they can step in with a helping hand or word of encouragement if you need it. The George Washington University’s online Healthcare MBA blog suggests asking for help and remembering that it’s hard to balance work, school, and family life by yourself.

Other people who can be useful resources include fellow classmates at school, who can share information and support, and your instructors. It’s important to communicate with your instructor, especially if you have a scheduling conflict or question about the material.

Planning Your Time, Planning Your Space

Probably the most useful piece of information from your instructor will be the class syllabus with dates for assignments.

“As soon as I get my syllabus for my class, that’s the first thing I do: I prep my calendar,” Carlozzi said. “Then I always check the course at the beginning of each week. I check my grades and the announcements.”

Many schools and colleges have additional student support services, including both in-person and online tutoring services. You might consider whether in-person or online (synchronous or asynchronous) classes fit your schedule and studying habits the best.

As Carlozzi pointed out, having a schedule helps you to organize your priorities so that you do not become overwhelmed.

“You have to plan your week,” she said. “You have to have what’s due on what day. Usually the regular assignments are due the same day every week. I have a desk calendar and it’s my whole life – work, school, personal. Everything has to be on there.”

Carlozzi’s daughter is a competitive dancer, so she had that schedule to blend with her work and school commitments.

“I would do homework in the car when I was waiting for her at dance,” she said. “I’d bring my notebook and computer. The time that she was there allowed me at least an hour to do work.”

Campolo’s workspace wasn’t her car, but it was equally important to have it.

“You need a space at home, because your spouse is still there,” she said. “I’d say ‘This is something I have to do. I’m shutting myself in the office and I have to do this.’”

“That’s what you do. You figure out what’s going to work best for you with your other commitments,” Campolo advised.

The University of Massachusetts Global Program’s blog recommends paying attention to what works for you, especially whether you’re a morning or night person. People have a particular time of the day when they are more efficient and productive: Try to schedule your study and homework time then.

Making Sacrifices to Realize Your Goals

Of course, sometimes, no matter how much planning and scheduling you do, you have to sacrifice.

“For my statistics class, when I was getting my associate’s degree, I had to keep pushing myself,” Carlozzi said. “There were many nights I was up late or got up early to complete that. But I did it!”

Last, be realistic about what you can add to your schedule. Campolo knew that she was subject to mandatory overtime and had to consider that with her schooling.

“I just took my time,” she said of how she scheduled classes.

Carlozzi is pacing herself with her master’s degree coursework now.

“I signed up for two classes, but took one away,” she said. “It’s a little bit different in graduate school. I’m not in as much a rush to get it as I was for my bachelor’s degree.”

In the end, all the hours studying has been worth it, Campolo said.

“It has allowed me to take time for myself,” she said. “Before it was always about other people, so even if I end up not using this certificate program, it showed me ‘Do something for me.’”

Earning her bachelor’s degree has fulfilled a life-long dream, Carlozzi said.

“I’m 46 years old and I’ve been trying to get my bachelor’s degree my whole life,” she said. “Sometimes I do a doubletake that I do have my degree. I really did that!”

“Before I know it, I’ll have my master’s degree,” she added. “I think people think it’ll take forever to get a degree, but time goes by so fast.”




Online articles referenced in this article: