Make sure you allocate time each day to focus on your studies, without interruptions, says the writer. File picture:

Cape Town - Many people consider further studies in an effort to boost their careers or improve their chances of landing a promotion.

With mid-year registrations now open at many higher education institutions, improving your skills is an attractive option. But going back to school years after you thought you had closed the book on studies, is challenging.

“Further study can be very rewarding, bringing new energy and drive into your life, and having a positive impact even beyond the workplace, if certain guidelines are followed,” says Tammy Oppenheim, head of the applied humanities faculty at the Independent Institute of Education.

“However, too often adult students throw in the towel without ensuring they have the basic structures and strategies in place. Studying while having to juggle a job and a family is very stressful and intimidating. Accept that compromises will have to be made.”

Oppenheim proposes some strategies to smooth the path for adult students:

* Create a study roster and stick to it. Working on your studies as and when you have the time can create unnecessary stress and is setting you up for failure. Find a standard block of time every day, or at least four days of the week, which will be used only for study. This time needs to be free from interference so that you can focus.

She says creating a consistent study block is also a useful mechanism to manage the expectations of friends, family and colleagues, who will come to understand that you are unavailable during your study time. “Those hours should not be spent on endless admin and drawing up of schedules – at least 85 percent of it should be spent learning.”

* Get your ducks in a row. Being a parent can make study a little bit more complicated.

“If you have children, ensure that you have reliable childcare lined up as well as a back-up plan. Having group-work meetings, lectures or exams interrupted because of unreliable child-care creates unnecessary stress.

“If you are employed, make sure that your colleagues and your line managers are supportive of your studies. Make sure that your decision is supported and use the study leave available to you.”

* Harness networking opportunities. Furthering your studies is an opportunity to cultivate relationships with lecturers, guest lecturers and fellow students. In the future, these people can be great resources for potential job opportunities.


Nurture a support base among fellow students. You are not alone and many other students will be going through the same stresses and pressures that you are.