Student Life amidst Family and Work

Posted: October 26, 2010 in Finance
Tags: , , , ,

By Nobulungisa Mangisa

The step-by-step guide to financing and managing your postgraduate studies whether you are part-time or fulltime.

Quitting your fulltime job to go back to studying fulltime is obviously not an easy decision for any average South African to make. But, sometimes it is necessary if earning that extra degree will enable you to earn more money and to be able to better support your family.

But, first, if you are going to make this decision, you need to look at your circumstances. If you are the breadwinner in your family, it will obviously not be possible to go back to school full-time and you will need to look at other options like studying part-time via institutions like the University of South Africa (UNISA) or online schools such as The University of Phoenix, Ashford University and Colorado Technical University Online, just to name a few.

Going back to school also puts incredible strain on your time. So, you must employ good time management skills. Because as you will be going to work and doing research for school assignments, less time will be spent with family members and friends.

So, how are you going to finance your studies?

You could look for a bursary, but unfortunately most scholarships cater for people who actually want to do the degree or diploma fulltime. Obtaining this bursary could provide some much needed breathing room if you are wanting to return to school fulltime.

You could also find out from your employer if they offer any opportunities for people wanting to go back to school. Employees from SANDF or those in teaching field are sometimes offered by their employers courses that are really essential and most critical for them. These courses sometimes entail an onus that if you finish them and pass, you will have an increase in your salary.

You could also finance your studies yourself and make a paying arrangement with your faculty or finance office in your university. Or, if all else fails, you could apply for a loan that will finance your studies and when you are finished with your studies you will be required to pay back the money, but it will have a certain interest that you have to pay back as well.

And if you don’t want the burden of a loan, you are only left with the option of having to study whilst still working. It can be done, but it needs a lot of determination and commitment from you as an individual. If you are going to be working whilst  studying, you will have to learn how to:

Manage work and school

In this day and age, more and more students are working whilst studying, whether it is on a part-time or fulltime basis, so it is nothing new. They do this in order to pay for their extra classes, textbooks etc. You need to learn how to properly manage your time if you are going to survive juggling school-life and work-life, because not being able to do this could lead to fatigue, poor performance in your job, poor performance at school and stalling. Balancing the time you spend doing school-related things with the time you are doing work-related things will help you to both cope better and be more energetic.

How to manage school

Choose the best school that totally caters for your needs – As a working person, you will not have many options but to choose a place of study that will allow you to study in your own time, study in your spare time or simply just study from home. You could either look at night schools, online schools, distance learning classes such as UNISA or schools that will allow to you to attend classes on weekends when you are not working etc.

Study efficiently – Set up a time to study. By doing this, you are making sure that you do not procrastinate and put the studying off for later. Go to a quiet place (it could be a study library or a quiet place in your house) and study there. Take frequent, regular breaks to make sure that you do not overtire yourself.

Make yourself a daily planner – This planner will basically allow you to write down beforehand things that you will have to do on any specific day – the classes that you will have to attend, work that has to be handed in, etc. This will allow you to manage your school work better, so that you do not forget to do that important assignment or that test to study for, or even your anniversary if you are married, because you are so stressed out and busy with daily life.

How to manage work

Many people think that work is not as hard as school, but it can be just as challenging, if not even more so.

Pace yourself – Make sure that everything that you call ‘work’ is done in the office, so that at home you will have more time to concentrate on your studies, your family and friends. Make sure that, as often as possible, you do not bring  your work, or even the issues regarding your work, home with you.

Talk – Alert your HR Department or your manager that in the coming year, you will be heading back to school and that there is the possibility that you might just need more leave to study towards your exams. This will ensure that they know in advance, and you do not just bring it up to them unexpectedly.

On the other hand

If you are lucky enough to have sufficient funds to be able to quit your job and focus on school fulltime, it should not be hard to get back into the swing of student life again.

Time management – You need to manage your time fairly between your family and school, which shouldn’t be hard, since you are acquainted to managing your family life with work life.

Take time out – You do not have to be glued to your schoolwork all the time. Take time out to enjoy and just be a student again. Go to social events that suit your interests and just have fun.

Study effectively – Ask questions. Research. Make sure that you understand every single element of what you are studying.

Whatever you decide, make sure that you make the most of it. Opportunities like this come only once in a lifetime and some people are not even able to arrive at a level whereby they receive an education, especially since our country is still developing. Cherish every moment. Study hard and earn that degree which will eventually open new doors for you in the world.

Lastly, the most important thing is making sure that you do not spend money as recklessly as you used to. You need to save money to buy textbooks, and you will also be using twice the amount of money for travelling if you are studying whilst working. Stop with the take-aways and start with the cooking, because you will need as much money as you can get, to support your family, and to finance your studies as well. It will be a bumpy ride, but it can be done. You will often find yourself out of money, but remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

In this next article, student Mmoloki proves that, despite old age and a family, you can still better yourself through acquiring more knowledge:

On the way to reaching fulfillment

Mmoloki

Mmoloki Ntesang, a 30-something year-old full-time student from Botswana says that the reason that he returned to his studies was largely for self-fulfillment and for better performance at work. He says that he has learnt more in terms of communication and public relations, and believes that this will prove to be very effective for him as he comes from an agricultural background.

“It is very hard to be here all alone in South Africa without my wife, daughter and son, but what makes it better is that we communicate on a daily basis and besides, being here is for a good cause. Technology has really made it very easy for us, but I’m so glad it is my last year and I will be reunited with them next year”, says a rather ecstatic Mmoloki.

When asked about how he funds his studies, provided that he is not working anymore, Mmoloki says that he gets an allowance from government and that his family lives on a half-salary from his previous employer.

“At the end of the day, it is all about prioritizing. Coming here was planned, and I knew I would not have as much money as I used to have while working, but greater rewards will come from these rather tough three years spent in South Africa”, he shares.

The only challenge that he faced as an older student is that of moving from a science discipline (having a diploma in Agriculture), which is what he studied before, to a media-based discipline. “To adjust to being a learner after eight years was tough, but you adapt”, he says.

Mmoloki says that his experience as a student in South Africa at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) was an “amazingly interesting  and wonderful experience. Learning never ends. Learning bring knowledge, with knowledge comes power and it also broadens your mind.”

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