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balancing work and school

I am currently a  full time software developer, going back to school for my masters.I will then be working part-time and also telecommuting, and will bea full-time cs student, with 3 grad courses.i would then have to work remotely, around 10 hours/week.
How are people's experience with balancing these,
that is working 10 hours/week, as well as taking 3 pretty tough grad courses?

sherry
Friday, July 25, 2003

Could you be more specific? What do you mean by "3 grad courses" - you mean 3 modules of your Master's? Or you're going to take 3 degrees at once? What?

Now theoretically, since I'm doing a part-time Master's for two years instead of one, I should be studying 40 hours a week divided by 2. Call that, roughly, 2 1/2 hours every weeknight and 8 hours on Saturdays. Though it rarely works out that neatly in practice.

Fernanda Stickpot
Friday, July 25, 2003

While Bella's response was a bit rude, I do tend to agree with the spirit of his post -- just not his tone.

I got my undergrad degree while working full time, and going to school full time. I had a loaded schedule: (a) 40 hours of work (flipping burgers or delivering pizzas -- hey, ya gotta do what ya gotta do to pay the tuition right?). (b) 16 to 19  hours of classes per quarter (full-time was considered 12 hrs -- anything over 19 you had to pay extra for, so I never went beyond that). (c) I gave up a weekend a month for military (national guard) service (d) I was in a local band that and gigged actively (3 nights a week (at roughly 5 hours each) as well as a 4th night for rehersals). I had a full-time girlfriend (whom I'm happily married to now) and kept up with the house-cleaning/chores and whatnot.

I still managed to graduate in the top 10% of my class -- with 2 traditionally "difficult" degrees (Computer Science and Mathematics), and make the Dean's List for 9 of the 14 quarters that it took to get my degree.

I'm not trying to brag about it. It was *hard* -- but there's a list of things I want to accomplish in my life and these things take RealWork(tm).

If you learn to manage your time properly, there's no reason you can't *both* work a full-time job *and* go to school full-time.

Anonymous Coward
Friday, July 25, 2003

I'm with AC on this one too, as I'm currently doing the same thing (minus the band, but I have three kids).

It takes some discipline but it is definately doable.  The thing that has been most helpful to me is to do as much of the work as you can when you have the time.

At the beginning of the semester I start working ahead on the syllabus as soon as I possibly can.  Sometimes all I can do is get ahead on the reading, but often assignments will be included in the syllabus and you can start working on those as well.  Plan ahead for emergencies to happen, they will, you just need to pad your schedule as much as possible to account for it.

Another thing is to use your time wisely.  I do a lot of my reading over lunch and breaks, always have at least one text book and some school work with you so that you can work on it if free time arises.

Good Luck!

Steve Barbour
Friday, July 25, 2003

I completed the first part of my bachelor's degree working full time and going to school full time, and finished it off going to school part time.  In general I'm a pretty busy person, anyway - for instance, I publish our church's newsletter and website, as well as creating our Sunday School curriculum materials in my "spare" time; we do many renovation type projects (during most of the bachelor's we were rebuilding a boat); we visit with our inlaws at least twice a week; we do normal life things and we still maintain a life...

By the end, I stopped doing the "school thing" full time because I wanted to avoid burnout, and the demands of my business really picked up. The last few credits I had left were also extremely demanding ones, and I wanted to do them justice on an academic level.

Things I learned about doing both:
-Some classes are easier than others.  I took some courses that required "only" 6 hours of classwork per week, but in excess of 20 hours of work outside of class.  Luckily, I managed to avoid having two of these in the same term, but that was mere fluke.  Handling my full time work at the same time as *one* of these was extremely challenging.  Two would be miserable, and I can't imagine three.

-I took several mixed 4th year / grad level courses. They tended to require more outside work - although in many cases I guess I *could've* done less work, but I would have learned a lot less.

-The discipline of your courses also matters.  Math and science courses tend to have more in-class hours, fewer out of class hours.  More artsy courses have many fewer in-class hours, more out of class hours.  Rule of thumb: The amount of out of class hour time required is much harder to predict, and most people are better at managing their time if they know the time requirements in advance. 

-Most people spend a great deal of their time in front of the television.  If you lead an extremely busy life, even your relaxation time must be planned.  You can't really afford to sit down in front of the tv for a few minutes and stay there all night.

-You have to get your priorities nailed down in case of conflict between your job and school.  It is inevitable that there will be a time that you need to do both.  Try to plan ahead for conflicts (eg, if your course has an exam, take vacation time around then so that you can spend time studying).  Always keep on top of your work and studying. 

-Many universities have guidelines about working and doing class work at the same time.  For instance, most comment that it is not recommended to complete an engineering bachelor's and work more than 10 hours per week.  These guidelines are based on past experience.  You have to have above average time management skills and a lot of drive to succeed working more than the guidelines, and many people lack both the management skills and the drive.

All that said, three courses and 10 hours a week sounds very do-able to me.  I suspect, however, if you have no prior experience with the balancing act, and the three courses are time-consuming, you may find it quite difficult at first. If you are finding it hard to stay afloat, cut down your non-school and work activities before you cut down on sleep (adequate sleep really does make it easier...)

Ultimately, the best way to balance the two is to put your head down and just plough ahead.

Phibian
Friday, July 25, 2003

To that anonymous coward I have great respect for you.

I'm in not so sunny UK and University here is a lot cheaper than USA and I'm a real lazy git :)

I'm doing CS, have 18 scheduled hours a week and probably managed 1-2 hours / week. Outside of class I did no work whatsoever until a week before exams....

Where do find your motivation? I don't want to waste this opportunity and get a good degree...

James'Smiler' Farrer
Friday, July 25, 2003

I have to second what Phibian said about getting adequate sleep.  I'm currently working full time  as a programmer while going to school half-time for an undergraduate engineering degree.  (Fortunately I already have a B.A. in psychology, so at least my arts & humanities requirements are taken care of.)  I also have a fiance and a band to take up my time.  At times I feel permanently sleep-deprived.  Sometimes that sleep deprivation is necessary.  The problem is, you need adequate sleep for your brain to process and absorb all the stuff you're learning.  You also need sleep to keep the motivation and focus necessary for getting everything done.  My new rule of thumb is, if I've set aside an evening for studying, but I'm so tired I can't focus & start wasting my time doing unproductive crap, it's time for bed, no matter how early it is.  Better to sleep than killing my time with random web-surfing.

Also, TVs are evil time-suckers.  If you have one, put it in the closet and forget about it.

That being said, 10 hours a week working while doing a masters program full-time sounds very doable.  My fiance completed her masters while working 20-25 hours a week as a research/teaching assistant and is now doing the same thing while working on her doctorate.  It's a lot of work, but after a while you just accept that as normal.

Tony
Friday, July 25, 2003

Well, although Bella is the prototypical no social skills geek, he is pretty much right.  What you're doing is a vacation.  The only thing you have to balance is what to do with your free time.  Enjoy yourself, you won't have too many chances to do this in your life.  I worked part time (20-30 hrs) while going to school full time (15 hrs)  for my first bachelors, then worked full time (40+hrs) while going to school part time (6-9 hrs) for my second.

      
Friday, July 25, 2003

Uninstall computer games and sell them to people other than your room mates so you can't play them even if you wanted to.

John
Sunday, July 27, 2003

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