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(ARA) – As the slowed economy has fueled a very competitive job market, more and more adults are making the decision to go back to school to build upon their skills and obtain the knowledge required to strengthen their career prospects.

Many of these students heading back into the classroom are working to earn their bachelors, or obtain a second degree while they juggle class and study time with their work, life and family responsibilities. Many educational institutions are taking notice of this, and encouraging students to fully understand the time and effort required to pursue their education.

DeVry University’s Senior Career Services Advisor and adjunct professor Kim Smith teaches a critical thinking and problem-solving course that introduces campus resources and academic information to help students “conquer obstacles that can prevent the achievement of their educational goals” – shortened as the acronym COPE.

“Most student responsibilities include work, family and financial obligations in addition to completing their degree, and, as a result, it can be a difficult challenge to find the right balance between them,” says Smith. “This course helps students develop a plan toward graduation based on the amount of time they currently have available for their class and study time. For students to effectively manage their time, they must first understand how they use their time.”

To start, students complete a personal time survey that maps out an entire week of activity. Identifying how each student spends each of the week’s 168 hours is critical in determining how many credit hours are realistic for their schedule and pinpointing specific days and times that can be set aside for studying. Students also choose their preference of class-type, as DeVry University offers a unique opportunity to pursue a quality education on-campus or online, or in a combination that fits their lives and schedules.

“The main focus of this assignment is to give students a realistic view of how much time they are spending on daily activities, including sleep, preparation time for meals, travel time, work, school and socializing,” says Smith. “The goal is to have students create an individualized course schedule that allows them to maintain a healthy balance between school and other obligations.”

Specific time management lessons addressed during the course that can apply to all adult students include:

  • Admit and commit – The key here is that people will only be successful at managing time well if they admit that any system is better than none, choose one, and commit to using it. Of the many planning tools available, find one that works for you, and commit to it.
  • Establish priorities – Use a “to-do” list to place items in order of importance. Understanding how many hours you can devote to typical daily activities allows you to plan your school schedule accordingly.

  • Keep the schedule flexible – It is best to be proactive in planning a schedule for each semester as soon as you meet with the class and receive the syllabus. Keep in mind that life will present unexpected demands, and that means you will need to re-evaluate and adjust your plan each week to meet your goals.

  • Be realistic – Can you sustain a grueling school and work schedule until the end of the semester? Can you really write an essay in just an hour? Be realistic. Be sensible about the amount of time a certain task will take, and plan study breaks with small, beneficial rewards for yourself. Planning time to see a movie or talk with a friend brings mental and emotional rest to prepare us to tackle harder tasks again the next day.

The goal of this activity is to provide students with the information necessary to make sound decisions that will allow them to maintain the balance between school, work, family, friends and financial responsibilities. “Students see value in implementing time management strategies,” says Smith. “They realize they don’t have to sacrifice work and family life requirements while pursuing their educational careers.”

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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