Grad School,  Mom Life

Grad School + Life = Busy

Some of you may not realize that I am in grad school. Yup! I am. I am actually VERY close to being finished (thank the good Lord in heaven!) but still have a little ways to go. I will be presenting my thesis in January 2020 and graduating with my Masters in Teaching in May 2020.

This road has been long…and hard…and challenging…but it has also been fulfilling…uplifting…and gratifying. I have learned and discovered things about myself and about others that I did not previously know, which is just amazing. I have learned how far I can be stretched before breaking (yes, I did have a “breaking” period earlier this year, it happens). I learned who my good friends were and, unfortunately, who weren’t. I have learned so much and gained so much. It has been an awesome experience, all in all.

However, one thing that I wish someone would have told me long ago – before I ever started this full-time-grad-student-plus-stay-at-home-mom-journey was that the work/life balance is REAL…and it is HARD. That’s why I’m writing this post: I want to share with you the tips that I wish someone had shared with me before I started on this path. Tips that are tried-and-true and work, no matter what your lifestyle or degree is or will be.

So, without further ado, here they are:

  1. Schedule time to study: sounds so simple, right? Well, it isn’t always. But trust me when I say: you HAVE to. Life as a non-traditional grad student is so different than life was as a traditional college student at 18 years old…SO different. There are things that have to be taken care of at home (or at work, if you are working still), with the children, with your spouse, with the pets, etc. and balancing that with schoolwork can be daunting. But…if you schedule in time each week to study, it seems doable (and it is). I typically study/complete schoolwork three days a week, for about three hours at a time. Now, of course, this varies depending on what I have due and my schedule, but this schedule has worked well for the past nearly two years. I recommend it. Tuesdays and Thursdays are my most productive days, so I make sure I am scheduling time on these two days at the very least. Speaking of scheduling: if you’d like to see which planner I use, I will link it in a clickable picture below, but you can also find it by clicking here. My Panda planner has been a LIFESAVER!
  2. Hire help if you can: I am speaking to those of you who are PARENTS. Hire the nanny or babysitter. DO it. Start looking as soon as you decide you want to go to grad school. Whether it is for time you will need to study, time you will need to go run errands, or time for a date night, you will WANT to do this if you can. Trust me on this one! Our nanny has been a lifesaver. She comes to our home about two days per week for about 3-4 hours and I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done without these guaranteed hours to complete school work or keep my sanity.
  3. Stay organized: I can’t say this enough. You HAVE to stay organized when juggling grad school and life…and you have to stay even MORE organized when juggling those two plus parenting small children. What helps me stay organized? My planner (see number 1), Google Docs, Google Keep, and One Note. I recommend you check all of these out and get everything in order before you start grad school. You will need it!
  4. Plan ahead: hopefully this is something you already do (most people who pursue higher education degrees do), but if it isn’t, I would start now. I always look at the week ahead on Sunday nights, and look at the month ahead on the last day of the month, and plan accordingly. This is paramount to your success as there will be a lot of new deadlines and tasks ahead in your life if you decide to go to grad school.
  5. Use music for studying: you probably already know this trick, but if not, or if you just need some new music, here you go…I listen to “alpha waves” on Youtube or Apple Music, and also “chill study” on Pandora or Apple Music. Both have really helped me focus and concentrate on the task at hand and I wouldn’t be here without these tunes/waves!
  6. Coffeeshop rewards: chances are, you will go to your fair share of coffee shops while attending grad school. I have about three I choose from and everyone who works in each one knows my name! I have been a regular customer for almost two years now. One is a Peet’s Coffee and one is Starbucks. I would highly recommend you check out their rewards system and get their VIP cards…you get free coffee/drinks/food for so many dollars spent. Highly worth it for a grad student!
  7. Check out your school’s study area: recently, my university redid their student study lounge and it is now state-of-the-art and pretty much the only place (outside my home office) where I study. It is so nice! I recommend you checking out your school’s study areas because chances are, they have one, and who knows-it may be super nice and/or new!
  8. Amazon student: I cannot express this enough—GET AMAZON STUDENT WHILE YOU CAN. If you are in grad school and have a school email address, get Amazon student. With Amazon student, you save 50% off the Amazon Prime rate! You can’t beat this! And do I need to go in to the Amazon Prime perks? Ok, I will a little: free two-day shipping, tons of movies and music, books, etc…on HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF ITEMS. Forget the office supply stores (they are ghost towns these days anyway, and rarely have what you need)…go through Amazon Prime. Do it now while you have a student email address. Trust me! I will link it below in a clickable picture. I have also linked it above and here.
  9. Libraries: check them out. I’m sure you know of at least one near your home. They have free wifi, study areas, oftentimes free printing, and obviously a wealth of resources for whichever program you are in. I love my library and although I don’t frequent there often, it has come in handy several times throughout my journey.
  10. Make a goal chart: this may be the corniest-sounding tip yet, but hear me out. Making a goal chart saved me during a very rough time earlier this year. I was feeling overwhelmed and was *this close* to quitting grad school. It was just too much (or so it seemed). My husband was actually the one who recommended I put my goals/tasks due on something visual and hang it to be seen by anyone and everyone who came in our home. Because he is almost always right about these sorts of things, I followed his advice and made a goal chart on PowerPoint (very simple to do, make however many circles of tasks/goals you have and place them in several rows and about 5 columns, add cute pictures if you’d like), printed it out, and hung it on our kitchen/garage door. I instantly felt accountable, responsible, and as if I could achieve the goals and tasks I had written on the chart. I haven’t checked them all off yet, but I am very close. What happens when I check them all off? Well, I will then have my Masters degree. Very much so worth it.

I hope these tips help you. It may make you feel more overwhelmed, but rest assured, if you have Googled grad school tips and have read these, you are ALREADY on the right track. You can do anything you put your mind to.

Please share with me your goal charts if you make them, I would love to see pictures of them! I have a video that I filmed with these tips and one bonus, so be sure to check that out here and below. Also, as promised, the planner and Amazon student are below for you.

Thanks for reading, and take care. 🙂

~Leslie W.

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