Six Keys to Success for Working Students by Jon Mladic

Here is a guest posting from Jon Mladic. I really like it!

Six Keys to Success for Working Students

The recent economic downturn has encouraged more full-time employees to seek additional education.
How can someone be successful in school while working? Though it’s not impossible, it certainly requires an amount of wisdom to balance the act of employee and student.  Here are six keys to success drawn from informative college resources.

1.     Plan Ahead of Time
After a tough class, most students look back, and realize they could have anticipated the challenges they faced—whether a test, lecture, or assignment. A busy work schedule should influence a working student’s number of classes, the times of their classes, and (if the school offers both online and residential courses) the modality of their courses. West Virginia University’s Students’ Center of Health points out that seeking more education begins with “an honest assessment of yourself.” It’s important that students understand their strengths and weaknesses and take them into account when planning for classes.

2.     Prioritize
According to Wittenberg University’s "How to Prioritize and Get Things Done" resource, a common problem for working students is deciding what to prioritize. “Determining what needs to get done, and in what order” is much different than “completing the important stuff.” Due dates emphasized in a syllabus help students determine what to work on first. One week, this might mean dedicating more time to work. The next week, it might mean dedicating more time to classes. It comes down to urgency… Is a deadline for work or a class assignment coming up? As the deadline approaches, it becomes an increasingly higher priority.

3.     Break Tasks Down
The University of Georgia Health Center’s Guide to Managing Stress emphasizes the negative effects felt by students who “wait until the last minute to complete a project, they often feel overwhelmed, and the task seems insurmountable.” This is especially true for working students, who may find it near impossible to find time to catch up in a class. To avoid falling behind, one strategy is to break down the major project, essay, or study time needed for a final exam into small, manageable pieces, and work on it into 30-60-minute increments each week.

4.     Communicate
Over time, issues, and conflicts are bound to happen.  Establishing clear expectations with professors and supervisors is critical. It’s expensive for companies to recruit, hire, and train new employees, so most are flexible in helping their current employees further their education. Working students need to share their availability and academic commitments, but those who keep employers informed of their progress and share success with them often receive more support, especially if the company is footing part of the tuition bill. As the University of Illinois – Chicago’s Student Life Department points out, it’s as important for students to communicate personal needs to their support networks.

5.     Make Adjustments
Working students usually have a stable schedule. They can learn what works for them and try new approaches when their plans don’t work out. In other words, they become better, more efficient students each quarter. Volunteer State Community College notes that students should “learning from mistakes” and “examining old habits” as two ways to improve as a student. As classes become more difficult, working students aren’t finding more time to spend on coursework – they’re becoming more effective learners.

6.     Utilize Resources
Obtaining a degree is one of the most important and life-impacting choices you could ever make for your future. Utilize your school’s learning center resources to find effective ways to balance your life as a workforce member and a student. Learning centers often offer tutoring, schedule management, and more. Most of these resources are not only free -- but can impact your success as a student.

About the Author: This article was written by Jon Mladic, Learning Center Coordinator at the Rasmussen College Rockford, IL  college campus.  Jon holds a Master’s degree in English Literature from Illinois Wesleyan University. He has worked in the field of education for more than five years.

About Rasmussen College: Founded in 1900, Rasmussen College is a premier provider of educational experiences, offering Bachelor’s and Associate’s degrees in fields with the greatest occupation opportunities to more than 15,000 students both online and through its network of 21 campuses.


West Virginia University, By Thinking, and About Your. "The Secret to Balancing Work and School | West Virginia University." Wellwvu | Home | West Virginia University. WELL WVU, 22 Sept. 2010. Web. 21 Nov. 2010. .

Wittenberg University. "HOW TO PRIORITIZE AND GET THINGS DONE." Web. 05 Nov. 2010. 

Priorities, By Setting. "University Health Center | Stress Management | Time Management."University Health Center at the University of Georgia. Web. 01 Nov. 2010. 

"Balancing Work and School | University of Illinois at Chicago." University of Illinois at Chicago. Web. 01 Nov. 2010.

"Work, School, & Life Balance." Volunteer State Community College>. Web. 7 Nov. 2010.
Thanks, Mr. Mladic, for this very useful and well-researched article.

Nontraditionally Yours,

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