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For adult learners, going back to school can seem like a challenging or stressful experience. Having to work, study and take care of the family can be overwhelming, even when you know that it is necessary for a better career and future. So how do you combine education with other life demands?
We have asked our alumni and current students to give their perspective on going back to school and to share some tips on what helped them maintain a healthy work-study-life balance.
The first step towards successful adult learning experience is to get rid of the stigma. “We used to think that education was for young people, and going back to school in your 30s, 40s and 50s was unheard of,” shares Vitoria Correia, Ashton’s IMCD graduate and now an immigration consulting instructor. “But that’s not the case anymore. Times are changing, and adult learning is becoming more prevalent, especially in North America.”
Many professionals look at education as an ongoing process: you never stop learning and improving in your profession. Canada recognizes the importance of education and diverse qualifications and reflects it in how education is conducted.
“Canada is providing many more options for different professionals. You can get more credentials, re-certify or even start a new career from scratch much easier. You just need to choose the study format that works best for you.”
Before you jump into any new program, make sure you do you due diligence and find out important things about the program or course. What is the format of the class (online, in-class, blended learning)? What will the program help you achieve? Do you meet all the prerequisites? How long will it take to finish the program, and what will the workload look like? These are important questions to address prior to committing to going back to school.
“I did a lot of research before I chose an institution for Human Resources program,” shares Joan Wild. “I wanted to have access to instructors with real-world relevant experiences, and I was looking for education that I would be able to apply right away. I chose Ashton College, and was not disappointed.”
Bill Murray speaking at the 2016 Ashton Achievement Awards.
When things get difficult, remind yourself why you chose to take on more education in the first place. “I had a growing family to support,” shares Bill Murray, Ashton’s CFP graduate. “I knew I needed a good income, and I also wanted to run my own business. So I chose to completely switch my career path.
By reminding yourself about your goals and dreams, you can keep yourself focused on the things that are truly important, and set a good example for others to follow. “The busier you are, the more persistent you need to be,” reminds us Cheryl Johnson-Engmann, Ashton’s CFP and CLU graduate. “And if you have children, your perseverance in education sends them a powerful message about the importance of learning and education.”
“I’m all about helping people,” shares Jagdeep Chahal, Ashton’s ICCRC Exam Prep alumni. “I want to become the best in my profession: offer my confidence, compassion and my honesty through my services.”
Let your goals be your motivators!
There will be many things that demand your attention, but you can only focus on so many things at the same time. Sometimes, that means putting things on hold until you can take on more responsibilities. But putting things on hold does not mean forgetting about them completely.
“For years, I had been looking at getting educated in the area of mutual funds,” shares Bonnie Angelini.
“But then I had a baby and I had to postpone those plans. When the time came for me to pursue education again, I had been out of student life for a long time and I was a bit nervous about taking classes again. But I knew that I needed to persevere, stay organized and focus on my studies.”
If you already made a decision to study, you should try to find the work-study-life balance that works for you. Remember: your time is valuable; so do your best to stay focused and organized. Learn to prioritize and try to stay away from distractions, knowing that it is a temporary matter to achieve your goals.
“Remember that you are not just studying to pass the exam – you are studying for yourself, so that one day you can be an expert in your field,” says Sara Chokre, Ashton’s IMCD graduate.
“Don’t be afraid to express your opinion and ask questions,” says Gladys Hsu, graduate of the Diploma in International Trade. “Asking questions and speaking up helps you become better and learn more.”
If you made a decision to go back to school, you should take advantage of every learning opportunity. Don’t be afraid to ask your instructors for help and clarification. If you need to, you can also reach out to the staff at the college or university for advice and support. If you are taking the class online, remember that the same ideas apply to you.
“Ashton’s online programs allowed me to communicate with my instructors and classmates online, and helped me manage my time and keep my schedule flexible, shares Suzie Xue, IMCD graduate.
“The fact that the programs were offered online was the icing on the cake, because I live in rural Saskatchewan and work-part time, so I needed a flexible format.”
You will do yourself a favor if you surround yourself with supportive people that you can rely on when things get difficult. Having a network of friends and family around you can give you the support and encouragement you need to persevere.
“I don’t think I would have gone through with my studies if it wasn’t for the support from my family and friends,” shares Erin Wanini, Ashton’s IMCD graduate. “Everyone around me was really supportive, telling me that they would back me up in my decisions, but at the same time encouraging me to strive for more.”
Building a support network of like-minded people can also help you keep your eyes on your goals, especially if those goals are ambitious. “Getting a new career or building a business is never easy, and not everybody will support you in your journey,” says Bill Murray.
“When I left my job to start out in the financial services industry, I had many people tell me I was crazy. So I chose to associate myself more with the people who encouraged me in my choice – and that was one of the factors that brought me to success.”
Our most important asset is ourselves, and well-being should always take priority. “There is nothing more important than staying healthy and taking care of our well-being,” points out Sara Chokre. “How can we focus on our goals, help others or contribute to our society if we don’t take care of ourselves?”
So when you are out there, learning, growing and persevering through life, remember to listen to your body and give yourself well-deserved rest when you need it.