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Postgraduate study is a big commitment; it requires perseverance and dedication. However, accelerating or changing your career while juggling a busy personal life is possible with the right resources and strategies. Read how Master of Education (Gifted Education) student, Christine Castle and Graduate Certificate in Computing student, Alexandra Tingey find a balance between work, life and study.
Juggling your responsibilities with the additional commitment of study can put pressure on your lifestyle - but it doesn’t have to. Flexible study options such as online learning, evening classes and intensive courses can help you fit study into your life as you reap the benefits of gaining an extra qualification.
Christine, Principal of Hurlstone Agricultural High School, thought that attaining a master’s degree wouldn’t be possible. “Raising a family and working on my educational journey, I couldn't see myself having time to study, nor did I have the funds.”
During a professional development meeting, Christine expressed her ambition to pursue further education. “The Principal at the time encouraged me to take up the challenge and spoke to me about his master’s degree, which he had completed online at UNSW. I found that UNSW’s online courses had so much to offer. This meant that I could navigate my masters and continue my job.”
While completing a Graduate Certificate in Computing, Alexandra managed her commitments by accessing digital resources in her own time, “covering all the basics such as getting set up on the lab machines, accessing them virtually and style guides for coding assignments.”
“All my lectures are offered on-demand so I can easily fit my learning around my work schedule,” says Alexandra, who found the flexible learning a key part of her ability to manage commitments.
Settling back into the routine of studying after time away from the books can be daunting. It’s essential to reach out and lean on your support networks at work, home and university. If they’re on board with the goal you’re trying to achieve, you’re more likely to get there.
“As a School Principal I let my staff, students and parents know of my study - this helps when I need to attend a lecture or an assessment,” explains Christine. She chose to study a Master of Education (Gifted Education) to benefit her community. It was also important to get their support in return, as “the community knows how important study is to me and that my study will support our community.”
Taking advantage of the support network at UNSW is also key to settling back into study. See your tutors, lecturers and student services as a great resource while you’re at uni. Ask questions, get advice on how to apply your new knowledge and use it as an opportunity to brush up on academic skills such as referencing, essay writing or exam preparation.
“I found referencing challenging, ensuring I complied with APA style and checking the resources provided online at the library was imperative,” she says.
Managing your time and accepting that you won’t always get it right is part of the ride. It’s unpredictable what life can throw at you but reaching out when things get challenging can help you find a solution that keeps you on track.
“The university has been extremely accommodating in working with me personally on my educational goals, especially in the context of my complex role,” explains Christine, who faces uniquely challenging situations while studying, as the Principal of a large school that operates around the clock.
“Living on-site with my students and staff means there’s always something to do. Last year I had quite a few challenges in my personal life,” says Christine, “but I was able to work with UNSW and defer study until I was able to resume the course in 2020.”
Alexandra found that anticipating clashes between study and life commitments was vital for her to keep on track. “Your major assessments will likely line up with other commitments and although you can’t move either, the sooner you realise this, the easier it will be to prepare for those tough weeks,” she says.