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Tips for Balancing Graduate School and Family Life

Graduate school can open many doors, giving you a boost in your career and your earning power. At the same time, if you're headed off to graduate school after starting a family in an attempt to make a career change, you may feel ambivalent about the opportunity if it also means taking time away from loved ones. It's possible to go to school for your graduate degree and still spend quality time with your family, but it will take some extra consideration and planning.

Figure Out Finances

A big concern for you might be the effect of your studies on family finances. It can feel as though you're taking money away from them, but keep in mind that in the long term, your degree will give you more earning power. However, you do need to figure out how you're going to manage finances while you're in school. If you and your spouse were both working full-time and now you're working part-time or not at all, that's going to mean some big lifestyle changes. You also need to figure out how you're going to pay for the school itself. There are graduate private student loans available that can cover the entire amount or can help supplement other funding sources, including scholarships, grants, fellowships and your savings.

Figure Out Time

You might be very careful about mapping out your finances but a little more lackadaisical about time. In fact, you need to plan out your time just as carefully. If you have kids, this will affect them and your partner in different ways depending on their age. If they're very young, they won't be able to understand that there may be times when you're at home but can't give them your attention, and your partner may need to take over a larger part of the childcare. If they're a little older, you can talk about working on your degree and the time that you need to study.

You can be a good role model for them, but you do need to make sure that you spend quality time with them. If they're teenagers, it might be tempting to try to convince yourself that this is the easiest time of all for you to return to school. After all, they're busy with their friends and activities and might be somewhere on a continuum from indifferent to actively hostile to spending more time with their parents. It's good to remember that this is usually both developmentally appropriate and also not to be taken to heart: they need quality time with you just as younger kids do, and you must try to create that.

Talk About It

Unless your children are very young, the best way to approach how your graduate studies will affect your family is by talking about it. How you approach this will vary depending on how you all interact with one another; it might be a family meeting, or it might be casual one-on-one conversations. Discussing your reason for going back to school and your concerns and making sure that your partner and your kids feel comfortable talking about how it affects them is important. Keep the lines of communication open.

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