When you get the itch to take your life’s purpose in a new direction, graduate school can offer a solid roadmap to help you get there. But while grad school can expand your career options, boost your earning power, and give you more independence, re-entering the life of a student can be challenging. Fortunately, making the leap is possible—even if you’re currently employed, raising kids, or attached to other adult responsibilities. If you’re considering graduate school, here are a few guidelines that can help you prepare your mind and body for a positive transition into higher education.
Set a Realistic Workload for Your Schedule
Not all students can put their life on pause to return to school full-time. The good news is that many graduate programs are designed to flexibly work alongside other obligations—such as those that come with work or family life.
Before you apply to programs, consider those that will give you room to live and study without overwhelming pressure. For example, night classes can be ideal for those who have full-time jobs, while online education can be a relief for those who may need to stay home with the kids. Talk to a school advisor to get an idea of what options you have and how breaking the plan up into smaller chunks can help you earn your degree in a balanced fashion.
Rev-Up Your Reading Habits
Most graduate programs involve hefty amounts of reading—and that’s not always easy to jump back into if you’ve been taking a break from books. To help you prepare, set aside a regular time of day (even if it’s 20 minutes) to indulge in any kind of book.
As you grow accustomed to the change, your reading speed may increase and your mind may become more receptive to learning—two factors that will help you focus once you start school. While it doesn’t matter what you read, picking out books in your intended field of study can help you get familiar with relevant topics and identify areas you may want to specialize in.
Take Control of Dependencies
Take a moment to examine your daily habits and identify those that won’t serve your academic pursuits well. Smoking cigarettes, for instance, may impair your memory and sleep abilities to the point where it interferes with your learning. Alcohol and substance abuse, on the other hand, can derail studying by weakening decision-making abilities, impairing mood, and diminishing physical wellness.
If you have any dependencies that could cast a shadow over grad school, talk to a doctor or mental health professional about ways you can recover—such as counseling, smoking cessation aids, or short-term drug and alcohol rehab.
Rest is always critical for wellness—especially when you’re attending to home, school, and work responsibilities. But if you slip out of an active lifestyle, your physical and mental health can suffer to the point where your body isn’t up to the challenge of studying.
That’s why it’s essential to make sure regular exercise is part of your routine. Even if you can only squeeze in a brisk daily walk, keeping your body moving will help relieve stress, boost stamina, and increase immune health so you can take on responsibilities with confidence.
Create an Organized Workspace
Whether you live alone or in a full house, you’ll want to have a dedicated spot where you can study and make the most of grad school. Before you enroll, set up a desk or reading zone in a quiet area that is free of distractions. Preparing a workspace can also be a good opportunity to clear away any clutter that may make your home a disruptive place to study.
Communicate Your Goals With Loved Ones
When you enter grad school, your life may change a bit—and that could impact loved ones that depend on you. Talking to your family and friends about your goals, however, can help them prepare for the change and see the bigger picture.
As you have these conversations, focus on why you’re doing what you’re doing and what the expectations are. For example, you might tell your family that going to school for a few years will help you provide better for the household—and enrich their lives. With this in mind, partners and older children may become more willing to help out around the house so you can focus on academics.
Talking about your plan with others will also allow you to reflect on your mission and solidify your goals. When you face moments of challenge during this adjustment, keeping these objectives at the front of your mind can help you stay motivated for the best outcome.