Too often, people desperately want to return to school but doubt they have the time. Whether it is their full-time job demanding more than 40 hours every week or a growing family that requires near-full-time attention, there is always something stopping you from applying.
However, advanced education will dramatically improve your career outlook. Even an MBA program, which lasts two years or less, promises qualification for positions that earn up to $40,000 or more per year than your current job. That means you can spend less time worrying about not having enough time to make money and more time on the things that matter.
However, applying to school and completing courses does require some time. If you hope to maintain your current employment while you return to school, here are some ways you can save time and stay on top:
The application process can be brutal — especially because it lasts so much longer than you want it to. Not only do you have to devote weeks to compiling letters of recommendation, writing essays, taking tests, and filling out forms, but you have to wait months to learn whether or not your efforts were in vain. The faster you can get this process over with, the better. Here are a few ways to minimize the amount of time you spend on applications:
- Letters of recommendations. You can automate the request, acceptance, and forwarding of letters of recommendation with services like FluidReview. This puts your schools directly in contact with your recommenders, so you can focus on other aspects of your applications.
- Essays. The key to a good college essay is a good story. Ultimately, you can modify any story to fit any prompt, and using the same story over and over again will save you hours on the creative process.
- Tests. This one is easiest: Don’t take them. Admissions tests are not required by all schools; even prestigious schools are no longer requiring standardized tests scores for admission. You can easily enroll in an online MBA program without a GMAT score, so you shouldn’t waste time or money studying for it.
- Forms. Some schools allow applicants to complete a single, common application which is then sent to every institution to which the applicant hopes to attend. You don’t have to limit yourself to schools that offer this service, but it will dramatically speed up the application process.
Finally, the most important trick to save time during applications is this: organization. By knowing every requirement and every deadline, you can stay on top of your applications and keep your worry and wasted time to a minimum.
Once the interminable application process is complete, you can turn your focus to maximizing your time taking courses and studying. This is especially important if you expect to enroll in online education; because you are responsible for finding time to actively watch lectures, participate in discussions, and complete projects, you need to be an expert at time management. Here are some tips to help you save time in school:
- Schedule. You won’t ever remember everything you need to do, particularly if you are working while obtaining advanced education. You should get comfortable writing events into a schedule and blocking off enough time to succeed in your studies.
- Materials. When school isn’t your only priority, you need to use every ounce of available free time to study. You can create study materials like flashcards to tuck in your purse or pocket, so you will always have tools on hand to help you review important terms or concepts from your courses.
- Breaks. Your mind can’t work 24/7. After a certain period of time — every 50 to 90 minutes, according to science — your brain gets too tired to function efficiently. If you try to power through, you will see diminishing returns. Conversely, if you take a 15 to 20–minute break, you will return to your studies with renewed energy.
When you are in school — and when tuition rates are so high — every second counts. You can make your seconds work harder by optimizing every aspect of your education experience, from application to graduation, with these serious time-savers. Fortunately, these habits die hard, so you can continue applying them for a more efficient career.