Going back to school after having a full-time job is a challenging change of pace that many of us experience at the GCSW. Instead of going from full-time student to employee as most graduates, we are doing the reverse!–The contrast between what our lives were at work, and that of school now, is a very unique experience that highlights our strengths as adaptable students and future graduates of the GCSW–a skill essential to us as future social workers. Luckily, we at the GCSW have a strong bond. We have the support and motivation of our colleagues and professors to carry us through the transition. I would like to share the contrast I experienced coming back to school from the real world. I went through Aha! moments, where I realized that things were not going to be as simple as I had planned!
The Idea: Grad school is super easy compared to working 40 hours weeks! Full time is a 12 or 15 hour (3-4 classes, plus internship) class week! I’ve got this down, I’m a professional!
The Reality: Each class takes preparation, anywhere from 2 hours a week or more of study time per class. If you do the math using 3 classes +internship (12 hour full-time) as the framework, that’s about 6 hours a week of study time+ 9 hours a week class time+ 15-20 hours of internship hours=30-35 hours a week. (almost full time!)
Tips: You’ve handled 40 hour work weeks before, this can be done as well! However, preparation must be taken in organization and time management for each semester so that you aren’t overloaded or caught off guard. The GCSW offers evening classes in addition to daytime classes. We are also having more online courses becoming available. Be aware of these course options, and use them to your advantage when planning your semester. There are also many workshop opportunities to learn more on how to stay on top, such as those at Learning and Support Services. The bottom line: It can be done!
The Idea: I have money to pay for school! yay! Loans plus grants and scholarship opportunities cover all of my expenses!
The Reality: Although loans, grants, and scholarships may cover tuition expenses, there are other expenses that are forgotten and need to be factored in: Clothing: If you worked in a setting with uniforms, this will be a pricey change to consider. At my old employment, uniforms saved me a ton! There are also some internships that may require professional attire. Supplies: Textbooks, professional posters. Parking and Health Insurance: Unlike the workplace, these are fees paid in addition to Tuition if you select them (much to my disappointment!) Also, there is no reserved parking spot for us like at work, we have to challenge the thousands of other students at the university for an optimal spot!
Tips: Keep these costs in mind when saving and accepting loan amounts
The Idea: Now that I’m not working, I’ll have time to cook! and if not, I’m sure the campus has cheap options in those rare cases!
The Reality: It’s easy to forget to take care of simple needs such as nourishment, even when not working full-time. Even though there isn’t a strict 9-5 schedule every day, it is still hard to stop and make a meal for the next day. The campus has various food options, but they are mostly fast food (and pricey!)
Tips: Plan ahead and buy larger packages of snacks to take on the run, or make extra food for dinner so that you can take your leftovers for lunch the next day.
These were some of the transitional elements I experienced as I came in to the GCSW as a new student and former full time employee. I’m not new to the block this second semester, and going through these learning moments have made me ready to take on what’s left until I graduate!