How to balance your life while attending college and working full-time

If you’re a working professional, you may have a full-time job, a family to support and an active social life. How could you ever make time to go back to school? It may sound daunting, but with an increasing demand for advanced skills your employer may require you to earn a higher degree if you hope to climb the ladder or, in some cases, retain your current position.

The choice to return to school is a very personal decision, but it’s one that an increasing number of working professionals are making. If you’re thinking about taking classes next semester while continuing to work full-time, follow these tips to help you create a healthy work, educational and life balance.

Select the Right Program

The single best way to set yourself up for success is to enroll in classes at a university that fits your needs and busy schedule. It’s likely you know exactly what you want to study, either because you plan to pursue a new job or you need to further your education to progress within your current company. This means you must pinpoint a university that offers the courses you need.

That’s step one. The next task is to find the courses you need from a distance learning program. Taking classes online is often the key to returning to school while working full-time. After all, your job may require you to work 9 to 5 on weekdays, so unless you can find classes in the evenings or on weekends, you won’t be able to earn your degree. Fortunately, distance learning changes everything.

UIU’s Online Program

The flexibility and convenience of distance learning is the number one reason why working professionals choose to take online classes at Upper Iowa University. Our online program offers asynchronous courses, allowing you to “attend” classes any time, day or night, weekday or weekend. You actively participate in discussions on course topics to enhance your learning, even as you study when it’s convenient for you.

Choose from various online degrees ranging from associate and bachelor’s degrees to MBAs and post-graduate certificates. Courses last for six to eight weeks.

UIU’s Self-Paced Degree Program

We began offering our self-paced degree program in 1973. The purpose is to make higher education as flexible for non-traditional learners as possible while still providing valuable one-on-one interactions with instructors. More than 100 courses are available to students looking to earn select associate and bachelor’s degrees, and you can take up to six months to complete each course. This allows you to pace yourself, even as you continue working full-time and raising kids.

Get Your Family Onboard

If you have a partner and children, you’ll need their support to make your goal of earning a college degree a reality. This should be a decision you make together since it will affect everyone in your family, not just you. Make sure you discuss what your return to school will look like before you even apply for a program. Everyone should be prepared to make sacrifices, which may include early mornings, late nights and less one-on-one time with you for the next few months.

Remember the Ultimate Objective

Stress levels are bound to run high when you’re working full-time and going to school, but there’s a reason for it all – returning to school will make you a more skilled, qualified and desirable employee in your field. It may be the ticket to a lucrative promotion or getting hired at your dream job. On especially tough days, remind yourself and your family that this stressful time won’t last forever. Once it passes, your lifestyle will be all the better for your efforts.

Celebrate Small Victories

Even as you focus on the long-term outcome of returning to school, don’t forget to relish in day-to-day triumphs along the way. Submitting your research paper on time, understanding everything discussed in a lecture and earning an A on the final are all accomplishments worth celebrating!

Remain Organized

When your schedule is cram packed, and your to-do list is a mile long, organization is the key to staying on top of things. Here are some tips for keeping your life in order so you meet deadlines, keep appointments and avoid losing things:

  • Create a designated, kid-free workspace, preferably in a room with a door you can close. Not only does this help you concentrate when you’re studying, but it prevents your kids from getting into your stuff.
  • Hang a bulletin board with important deadlines, reminders and inspirational quotes pinned to it.
  • Write in a planner. Here, you can keep track of your whole life, including work deadlines, school assignments, to-do lists, doctor appointments, the kids’ soccer practices and anything else you have going on.
  • Keep your supplies well stocked. Always keep a spare ink cartridge for the printer, extra pencil lead, mouse batteries and other supplies on hand. When you start running low, write it down so you can replenish it before you run out.

Use Your Time as Efficiently as Possible

Your time is never more precious than when you’re balancing the responsibilities of work, life and school. Schedule every minute of the day to help you stay on track. Use your planner for this or set alarms on your phone to remind you to switch between tasks at certain times. If you spend your day being productive at work, you should have ample time to study in the evenings and on weekends, perhaps even leaving time for recreation and time with your family.

To prevent wasting time and procrastinating, you may need to make some changes. Start by uninstalling social media apps and silencing your phone to prevent interruptions during study hours. These tips help you stay focused so you can finish what you’re working on faster.

Take Care of Yourself

Remember to schedule breaks, too! If you don’t, you’re not achieving the right balance in your life. You’re also more likely to feel miserable and become ill if you neglect your personal needs. Here are some suggestions for staying healthy and level-headed:

  • Take a five-minute break every hour to stand up, stretch and get a drink of water. Clearing your head for a few minutes may help you focus when you get back to work.
  • Fit in a 20-minute walk every day. The fresh air and increased circulation are just what you need.
  • Never pull all-nighters. If you can’t find time to sleep, you need to cut back on work or school.
  • Take one hour each day to do something for yourself, such as enjoying a long lunch, reading a book or watching your favorite TV show.


If your workload is too overwhelming to handle, don’t suffer in silence – speak to your employer about adjusting your work expectations, especially if your boss is the one who insisted you go back to school. Perhaps you can work fewer hours or telecommute for a while. Your studies will ultimately make you a more valuable team member, so it’s okay to request a little leeway to help you get there.

Speak with your school instructors as well. If you have too much on your plate at once, consider asking permission to submit a late assignment. Then, stick to the new deadline to prove you’re not just procrastinating. Also, don’t be afraid to get a little extra academic help when you need it. NetTutor is a free online tutoring service available to distance learners at UIU.

It’s also critical to maintain open communication with your family and friends. Let them know when you need a little extra support to prevent burning out during a particularly hectic week.

Achieve a Healthy Work/Life/School Balance at Upper Iowa University

At UIU, we strive to relieve some of the pressure of working full-time while attending school. Our online and self-paced programs were made just for you.

Let us help you reach your goals with our flexible, affordable distance learning opportunities. We’re here to help you succeed!

For answers to your questions about attending UIU as a working professional, please contact us today at 800-553-4150 or send us an email at