Work-Life Balance: How to Stay Focused While Earning Your Degree at Home

Work-Life Balance How to Stay Focused While Earning Your Degree at Home

If you want to get something done, ask a busy person — and there is no better place to find that busy person than at National University. Our students know a thing or two about managing their work-life balance while studying for their degree at home — primarily because so many of them have a lot of other things going on in their lives.

For many National University students, studying in a traditional on-campus degree program, taking three or four years to complete with extended breaks over the summer and holiday periods, just isn’t an option. While there is no typical National University student, many students have jobs to hold down, others have families to support, and many are actively engaged in military service or returning to civilian life as Veterans. And some of our other students just enjoy the flexible nature of our online degree programs. But whatever their unique situation might be, all our students share a common ambition — to improve their lives by securing a high-quality education.

Studying for an online degree at National University isn’t an easy option. For some students, it may be the only option and they may have to work harder than many of their peers on traditional university campuses to achieve their goals. The pressure of juggling multiple commitments, in and out of the classroom, can have a detrimental impact on a student’s work-life balance. If not addressed properly, it may create a poor learning experience.

So how do our students create a healthy work-life balance and stay focused while studying for their online degrees? We spoke to students across National University’s diverse student body and alumni to find out their secrets.


Online Degree Programs That Work for Everyone

Just as there is no typical National University student, there is also no one-size-fits-all solution to creating a healthy work-life balance while studying for an online degree.

Many of our students need the flexibility to be able to adjust their intensity of study to suit their personal circumstances. A single parent, for example, might wish to plan their degree program around their child’s academic year, helping them better manage childcare responsibilities with their educational goals. Similarly, a student in military service may need to start and stop periods of study based on their cycles of leave from active duty or even while they are on active duty. Others, perhaps holding down jobs and eager to advance their careers, want to invest every moment of their time completing their education as quickly as possible, sacrificing their current work-life balance in the short-term, for the long-term benefits that follow.

Creating the right work-life balance for our diverse student body starts with creating online degree programs that can work for everyone.

National University’s approach to delivering flexible degree programs to meet diverse student expectations around work-life balance starts with our unique four-week courses. These monthly start classes (running throughout the year) mean that a student is never more than 30 days away from beginning a program while enabling them to concentrate all of their efforts on one subject at a time. This also allows the student, depending on their personal circumstances and desires, to either complete their degree at a much faster pace than would be possible in a traditional university setting, or take a more a more staggered approach that accommodates other responsibilities.


A Social Environment

When considering what a healthy work-life balance looks like, it is important to remember that both elements of the mix are not mutually exclusive. If you are happy in your work there is a very good chance this experience will enhance other areas of your life — and vice-versa.

Social engagement is, of course, a very important aspect in any area of life, enhancing our work, educational, and leisure pursuits. It would, therefore, be counter-productive to create an environment where people are unable to come together and build a rapport with their peer groups.

Unlike many other colleges that offer online courses, in most of our programs, National University students can choose to study exclusively online, on campus (across multiple locations), or divide their time between both, creating more convenient and comfortable learning environments that cater to each individual’s specific needs.

In the online environment, students are encouraged to connect with each other using a range of technologies pioneered by National University. This same technology means that professors and other faculty members are accessible and able to offer their full support regardless of a student’s location.

Our alumni tell us that the relationships they build at National, in both real world and virtual learning environments, help them to focus on their studies and often continue long after their graduation, turning into lifelong friendships and powerful professional connections.


Building a Community with Education at its Heart

National University is particularly proud of its close links with the military and welcomes thousands of active service personnel and Veterans to its courses and degree programs every year. The university is particularly adept at helping military students fit their degree studies around their duties and at helping Veterans with the, often difficult, transition from military life back into civilian roles.

As Veterans adjust to their new work-life balance, coming to terms with everyday challenges of life outside of a military unit can be stressful. A reassuring first port of call is National University’s Veteran Center, where experienced staff can assist with issues relating to benefits and finance, career advice, and specialist support for any concerns outside of the classroom.

Another vital service provided by the Veteran Center is simply connecting Veterans with each other across a range of activities and in the center’s lounge; there, students can meet, study together, or just grab a coffee with new found friends with shared experiences — the kind of support that is critical when making such a significant transition in life.


Military Discipline

Members of National University’s military community are no strangers to the concept of discipline, and many of them put this military mindset to good use while studying for a degree at home or while on leave from active service.

Military Veteran and National University graduate Raul Sanchez told us, “To get through any National University program, you do have to apply yourself. The Veteran mindset to get it done will help here. I think, by and large, some of the experiences, job skills, problem-solving techniques, and team building skills that I’ve acquired in the military, have been incredibly beneficial in helping me to get through my education. I don’t think I could have done it without it.”

Sanchez, who was juggling a 50+ hour work week, family life, and his studies (initially in an undergraduate degree program before moving on to an MBA program) was primarily motivated to complete his education as quickly as possible. This was made possible by National University’s four-week class structure and year-round enrolment.

Sanchez drew on his experience in the U.S. Army to manage his time with military efficiency.

“I tell my kids, time can either be your friend, or it could be your nemesis,” says Sanchez. “How well you use it is really up to you. When you are getting a little bored or complacent, that means that you are not using your time efficiently. Don’t make time your enemy because you’ll be caught on your heels and flat-footed.”

Grace Gonzalez is another military Veteran who used her military experience to help her manage her work-life balance while studying at National University.

Following a similar approach to Sanchez and committing to intense periods of study, Gonzalez also puts her success down to careful planning and understanding expectations before committing to a program.

“The person that got me started at National University was my husband,” says Gonzalez. “He has a Bachelor of Business from National University, and so he understood the best how I could fit studying around my schedule.”

For potential students without family connections, National University’s faculty members are always available to talk to you about how you can fit studying for an online degree into your life. If you are not quite ready to start a conversation about setting expectations around going back to school, this useful checklist can help answer many of your questions.


Taking the First Step

Of course, not everyone will have the advantages of a military mindset or wish to adhere to such a rigorous regime when studying for their degree at home — but that doesn’t mean they lack courage.

As a single mother following a divorce, Jennifer Lamb had to find a way to balance caring for her two small children, working full-time as a supply chain specialist, and managing her studies in an MBA program at National University.

Lamb’s ambition to graduate from the program was a personal goal, so she didn’t feel any pressure to complete her degree over an accelerated period. This meant she was able to take an extended break between classes to focus on other priorities in life.

Prior to her divorce, Lamb had studied on campus with National University, but on her return to education she felt that online classes would better suit her new circumstances. She found the flexibility and convenience of online learning worked well for her family and enabled her to pick-up her studies exactly where she left off.

Lamb stresses the importance of managing your time well to achieve your goals. She used her lunch hours, evenings, weekends, and even time spent at the soccer field or basketball court with her children to study and do classwork. By staggering her studies and taking a month’s break following each four-week class, she was able to find more balance for her family as well as apply what she had learned in each class to her professional life.

“You just have to do it,” says Lamb. “It’s going to be hard and challenging — but you have to take that first step and sign up. As simple and clichéd as it sounds, it’s about taking that leap of faith. It’s like having a baby — you’re not ready, but you do it.”


Making Time

Clearly, time is a big issue for many National University students. It’s not just the time that studying takes away from family or work life that makes it so hard to commit to attending class on a traditional campus. Sometimes, just getting to a campus from work or home and finding a parking space can be stressful enough. How much time, money, and stress could you save if you could access your education from your laptop, tablet or even your smartphone?

By cutting out the commute to class, you could find it isn’t so difficult to find those extra hours you need to dedicate to your studies and ensure that your work-life balance isn’t too off-kilter.

This proved to be a huge benefit for Angie Hernandez who decided to return to education as an adult; a downturn in her family’s business meant a dramatic reduction in income and many new priorities that needed to be juggled.

The flexibility afforded to her by studying at National University enabled her to work at her own pace and concentrate on her business when it required her attention.

“You can press pause if you want and skip a month,” says Hernandez. “I was never stressed and that really helped me.”


Financial Aid

Careful management of time isn’t the only thing that helps determine work-life balance. Financial worries can also have a negative impact on every area of your life. It is almost inevitable — if you are worried about money, your education will suffer.

A high-quality education isn’t cheap but as a nonprofit organization, National University is committed to offering the best possible value to our students. Our faculty members are committed to ensuring students have access to the best education possible and our advisors are here to help students access financial aid and support. This includes grants and scholarships for single parents based on merit, need, and experience and other benefits such as the GI Bill for Veterans and active duty military students.


Short-Term Pain, Long-Term Gain

The time, effort, and financial outlay you make in our online degree programs are a solid investment in your future. Nobody at National University will tell you that studying for your online degree at home will be easy. If it was, would it have the same value?

When it comes to creating a healthy work-life balance, the value of an online degree shouldn’t  be underestimated. This is especially true when looking at earning potential, job security, and because work is a significant part of our lives, job satisfaction.

According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS), an individual with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn approximately $1,173 per week, $461 more than someone with just a high school diploma and no college education. A master’s degree widens the gap even further with a median weekly wage of $1,401. Typically, these higher salaries come with greater responsibility and greater job satisfaction.

The unemployment rate of college graduates is also significantly lower, at 2.5% for a bachelor’s degree holder and 2.2% for those with a master’s degree — compared to 4.6% for a high school graduate with no college degree.

Every student considering further education must always weigh the potential long-term gain against any short-term inconvenience.


Make an Investment in Yourself Today

If you are ready to make an investment in yourself and build a better future for you and your family, National University has the options and support you need to make the change. Start your journey today by exploring our programs page and let us know what you want your future to look like.

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