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Going Back to School: How to Fit Graduate Courses into Your Daily Routine

Tags:  Career advice, Work & Life balance, Graduate degree, Life after college

Are you thinking of returning to learning? Now might be the right time. Sources reveal that not only do college graduates earn an average of $23,000 more per year than high school graduates, but those with advanced degrees can earn up to fifty percent more than college graduates.

In addition, according to this article in U.S. News ""Nearly half of all grad students enroll between ages 24 and 35, according to the Council of Graduate Schools; one quarter start at age 36 or older. Most have real-world work experience. About a third are raising children.""

So if you are considering returning to school for your masters degree, here are some things you'll want to consider.

Look to On-Campus Organizations for Assistance

While it traditionally has been more difficult for returning nontraditional students because colleges and universities generally focus on the younger, more campus-centric crowd, many campuses have begun to realize that older students are a very large part of the demographics.

If you need help of any kind – advice, adult-learning conferences, even health insurance or child care assistance – check out what your campus may offer. Organizations like OWLs (Older Wiser Learners) at Middle Tennessee State or the Center for Work and Family Life at the University of Southern California are cropping up on a number of campuses.

Overcome the Financial Burden

One of the toughest decisions about returning to school for a graduate degree is the financial burden it may place on your family. Know there are some options depending on whether you are single, married or married with children.

Some campuses offer housing for students with families. While not always the ideal or the first choice, it can save you money each month. Or if infant and toddler care is your concern, subsidized daycare, preschool and after-school care programs may be available on campus.

Of course, the largest financial burden is the cost of the program itself. Before even considering enrolling, students are advised to visit a financial aid office to find out what is available. You may be able find a scholarship program that will help defray the burden. Or if you're a full-time employee, many employers offer subsidized support for further education.

Make the Commitment

Once you have done your homework and researched all that you need to know to move forward, your final step is making the commitment – something you have to do wholeheartedly; otherwise, don't start.

Once you move forward with your decision you will need to manage your schedule to include hours for attending classes, hours for studying, hours for working, hours for tending to your family and hours for taking care of yourself. That may mean relying on others to help you with housework, meals, and other things that you may resist giving up. However, if you want to be successful at school and your home and work life, you need to know what you can and cannot do.

Returning to school for a graduate degree is a great way to increase your knowledge and earning power. Know that you don't have to go it alone. Take time to investigate and weigh your options.

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