It’s not uncommon for students to have full work and life schedules while in graduate school.
According to Debra Fleming, executive director of business/MBA programs and professor of management and accounting at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, and Ray Henry, director of graduate programs at Cleveland State University in Cleveland, students should work to achieve a balance between each aspect.
“You don’t want to get burned out on either side of that,” Henry said. “To be successful, you have to find that balance. And that is going to be different for each individual but it’s recognizing that you have to find that balance to be successful.”
Fleming added many MBA and graduate programs have work experience requirements for admission, which leads to a lot of working professionals doubling as students.
“So, students who are working full-time jobs during the day and taking evening courses must be able to achieve a successful school/work balance because they have to be effective in completing both work-related responsibilities and related course assignments, both of which involve significant time commitments, and activities that have overlapping dates for completion,” she said.
Both professionals said many students struggle to find balance.
“Some students might struggle with finding an appropriate balance because successful accomplishment of requirements for work and school involves efficient time management skills, dedicated commitment to priorities, strong organizational abilities and determined dedication to complete obligations, responsibilities and activities that have overlapping due dates for completion,” Fleming said.
Henry added, “It’s easy to be absorbed in all the things you’re doing, take on more and then find yourself doing too much. The easiest thing to drop is the life side of things. Those are the things imperative to be a well-rounded and happy human. We can’t lose sight of that, though it is easy to do.”
Since technology connects students to work, school and their social life at all times, Henry added it can disrupt the balance.
“It is easier for those elements of our lives, both professional and academic, to reach into the rest of our lives because we’re always accessible via email,” he said. “Most of us are connected all the time because of technology. Those boundaries are a lot fuzzier.”
As students struggle with finding balance, both universities found merit in providing support opportunities.
At Ursuline, programs are designed for the “convenience and flexibility of business professionals” and to provide them with different types of support when they are working and pursuing their graduate degree.
“Courses are offered as accelerated eight-week or
five-week courses that meet only one evening per week, using hybrid and online delivery formats that reduce time lost in commuting to and from campus,” Fleming noted.
Additionally, students are given the opportunity to choose how they’d like to pursue their degree, whether it’s a fast-tracked program or more flexible scheduling, offering full-time or part-time opportunities.
Cleveland State also offers students flexible scheduling to work around commitments.
“The days where people would stop working and go back to graduate school, while there are still many people who do that, is kind of over,” Henry stated. “There are many people who are pursuing graduate degrees while working. We have to recognize that this is the population we’re dealing with. And Cleveland State sees that. Accessibility is something that we try and provide as much as possible.”
For students experiencing this, the professionals offered advice.
“Set off times and schedule and plan ahead,” Henry said. “As part of your schedule, set life time. This is the time you’re not going to let those other things encroach. The way you can manage that is planning ahead and being proactive.”
Fleming added, “The first semester in the graduate program could be the most challenging semester for them while they acclimate as a new student and become familiar with the amount of time they will need to devote to course activities while simultaneously managing their work-related obligations. ... But, we believe in (our students).”