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Coordinating Going Back to School with a Job or Family

The decision of returning to school after a break involves planning and resolve. It can be difficult to adjust if you are working or raising a family. Even without these obligations, college can be daunting after a long gap. To cope with work-related commitments and school curricula is not easy. However, it is a decision prompted in most cases by career necessities, and being able to accomplish it is extremely fulfilling both in material and intellectual terms.

Since the two most important factors that act as constraints are time and money, it is better to be prepared to deal with them. The fact that you are returning to school after a pause implies you seek to enhance your skills and knowledge. Try to identify the specific skills you need so that you can pick out specialized colleges and courses that offer the appropriate training. There is no need to go for a degree program when you can choose a job-specific course or a certificate program. This step is important as you can then chart a schedule that will interfere least with your job and family obligations.

How to Manage your School Activities
When you choose your school or program, choose a mode of education that gives you maximum flexibility. Regular day-classes may interfere with your job schedule. Choose from various options such as distance learning (correspondence courses), online colleges and universities, evening classes, and weekend classes. Aim for a school schedule that can be accommodated during your spare time.

How to Manage your School Activities

Look for "transfer credits". Credits earned at other institutes or sometimes even at work can be transferred to your current program. This will reduce your work load to some extent. Also find out if your work experience can be transferred to course credits.

Create a time chart and plan out the time spent at school and on out-of-school study. Stick to the chart as you are already working to a tight schedule. Try to adjust study hours into your best slots, whether morning or night, so that the limited time is utilized to maximum effect.

How to Manage your Office Work
Your decision to go back to college needs to be communicated to your employer. Employers are usually quite supportive of such a decision, as it involves enhancement of existing knowledge that will be beneficial to the organization in the long run. Ask for adjustments in your work hours, or a reduced workload. Make a "time chart" for your office work so that your job commitments are not hampered.

How to Manage your Office Work

Your college study will involve a fine balancing act between home and work. Try to get a friend and family support network. Loop in children, if they are old enough, to share some of your home chores. Arrange day care for the younger kids. Your decision of going back to school needs the support of those close to you. Please visit Balancing School and Family for further information regarding situations that may pertain to many adult students.

How to Finance your Studies
Undoubtedly there will be extra costs involved to finance your education (direct and incidental), as well as of opportunity costs at work and at home. If your personal savings are not enough to finance your education, then the three main options available to you are grants and scholarships, loans, and work study. You will be able to get funding from state and federal government, your college or school, private organizations, etc. If you are enrolling for higher studies look for fellowships and assistantships at your college.

How to Finance your Studies

You can ask your employer for tuition reimbursements. There may be certain obligations involved, but this assistance will be tax free, up to $5,250. IRS Publication 508, "Tax Benefits for Work-related Education", can give you more information. There are also various tax incentives such as Lifetime Learning Credit and Hope Credit to ease your financial burden while you study.

The Federal Governments financial aid application or FAFSA will qualify you for the various federal aids. Federal aid can be in the form of loans, grants, work study, and military aid.

To know more about student financial aid, check out the following sites:

FAFSA.ed.gov
Students.gov
Michigan.gov
Finance.Yahoo.com

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