The end of summer is sadly approaching us, and quickly. As we begin to wind down from summer, families everywhere are getting ready for the new school year. For the working millennial, going back to school can be quite daunting. School is heavy enough as a kid with no real responsibilities. But once you add in work, bills and a young family to support, completing your secondary education can feel like an impossible goal. As a working millennial, I had lots of challenges completing my graduate degree. However, with a little bit of preparation, I was able to stay on track even when I was on the verge of giving up getting my master’s degree altogether. If you’re still working on your undergrad or graduate degree, or considering it, this one’s for you. Check out my new blog, “Get Your Degree: 5 Ways to Stay On-Track and Finish Strong.”
Beware of Dream Crushers
A key ingredient to success lies in your positive energy and outlook. If you delve into success stories of some of your favorite business moguls and entrepreneurs, you will quickly realize that many people achieved their goals because they kept their circle positive. School is hard enough, and the last thing you need to deter you from reaching your goal is a dream crusher. Who could that be, you ask? Anyone in your life that is discouraging you from your goals, including education. It’s important to realize that not everyone values education, for various reasons. However, if anyone close to you is questioning why your degree is important to you, or doubting that you will ever complete your education, they are not someone you should be in close communication with (or at least, ever discuss school with).
Now, I do realize that sometimes these dream crushers do not mean to give these bad vibes intentionally, and many times these folks can be family, close friends, or even a significant other. In these cases, it is imperative that you shut it down immediately. Let them know that while you appreciate their concern, this is your life, and your vision. If they can’t support it, don’t speak on it at all. But even better, surround yourself with like-minded people who are either on the journey to finish their degrees or have already completed them. Let them speak positivity and encouragement over you, and practice positive affirmations daily. Staying positive is half the battle!
Set a Schedule, and Stick with It
There’s one interesting caveat about being a college (or graduate) student: you have no one to answer to, which makes it imperative to stay disciplined with your studies. Once you have all of your curriculum for the semester, your best bet would be to set up a schedule of when you will read, study and write, and stick with it. With my full-time work schedule and workout schedule, I found that I needed at least two nights between Mon-Friday to work on schoolwork, and that I typically would reserve four hours (1-5p) on Sundays as well. That way, I could enjoy one carefree day to do what I wanted during the weekend. Now, that wasn’t always the case, depending upon the workload. However, when I stuck to that schedule, I usually was able to enjoy some personal time without panicking about everything that I still needed to do.
I noticed that people that aren’t a big fan of structure don’t always want to subscribe to this thought process, but a set schedule is so major for those committed to graduating. Tweak it as you need, but keep your schedule as similar and consistent as possible to prevent yourself from falling behind with assignments.
Ban Electronics During Study Time
When I was in grad school, the amount of writing that I had to do was practically insane. To top that, I had a very difficult time not getting distracted from my studies if a TV or my cell phone was close by. I would notice that although I had sat down a few hours earlier to complete my homework, I would barely get anything accomplished because I inevitably started wasting time on social media or unimportant text conversations with friends. Finally, I got fed up and decided to make a new rule: absolutely stuck to the new measures to make sure I didn’t get off-track. I would literally silence my phone, store it away in a drawer in my closet, and would not go to check that phone until everything was done for the day.
Although that seems pretty extreme, it was necessary for me to do well in my classes. If you have a hard time staying focused on tasks, get rid of all distractions. If you’re on every major social media platform, your cell is guaranteed to be a huge issue. Turn off the TV as well, and even the radio, if you find it hard to focus. I took a friend’s advice years ago and began playing classical music when I am on a hard deadline for something. I find that it’s not only soothing, but also keeps me focused on what I am doing. So put the tablet, phones and Apple watches away, and watch how much more quickly you work through those difficult days of studying and writing.
Create Meaningful Relationships with Your Professors
When you register for school, you are also signing up to work with a specific set of teachers each semester. Just as it was for your parents to know your teachers when you were growing up, it is equally just as important for you to know your professors. Why, you may ask? There are several good reasons. Not only is your professor a “subject expert” on the class that you’re enrolled in, but they hold lots more experience, and could provide the necessary feedback that you need to develop yourself not only professionally, but while you’re in the class.
Some of my most meaningful classes in college were all with professors that I had talked to at least a couple of times on an individual basis. They were also professors that challenged me to improve. I believe that any student can get more value out of their academic experience by speaking up, connecting with your professors, and taking their curriculum seriously. This is not to be confused with sucking up, or dropping by their office hours unnecessarily to discuss your favorite sports or hobbies. A genuine connection can be made by simply introducing yourself, and following that up with why you’re excited to be in that class, and what you hope to gain. This is especially important for those that are in online courses. Take the initiative to get to know your professor better, and you will notice that your commitment to your studies, as well as performance as a student, will also improve.
Say “No” When Needed
Similarly to cutting off electronics, there are many more distractions that can come your way and make it difficult to put your studies first. Some of my most popular distractions included: the best friend that wants you to come over grab some froyo with her, the neighbor that randomly pops over to invite you to her pool party that is happening right now, or the boyfriend that wants to take out on a spontaneous date. While there are times where it is perfectly appropriate to take a break, giving in to every invitation you receive, especially when you know you’re not caught up with your studies, will do more harm that good in the long run. School is pricey enough, and no one wants to have to retake classes because they weren’t committed and flunked out.
Make yourself the priority. When you’re in school, school has to come before all extracurricular activities. If you know you need more time to study or work on an assignment, politely decline the invitation, and let your friends know that you will catch up when you get done.
Celebrate Your Small Wins Until the Victory is Won
Each semester, set a benchmark, Upon successful completion of each class (with hopefully an ‘A’ or ‘B’), treat yourself to something you’ve been wanting. Whether it be a spa day, or a trip to Cancun, keep yourself accountable each semester so that you don’t have to worry about wasting time. Each semester that is completed is a small milestone, so make sure you take the time to treat yourself for the dedication!
I hope you all found this information useful as you get ready for school again. What helps keep you on track? Comment below, let’s chat.
With Love, MelanieWith Love, Melanie