Student Connections

Part II: The Importance of Balance for the Adult Student: a CDL Student Perspective

By Kristen Yard, student, Center for Distance Learning

March 5, 2012

As an adult student who has children and a few serious health issues, I have learned that balance is everything. Still, I am by no means an expert, and I have plenty of days when I want to rip my hair out. I’d like to conclude this two-part article by sharing some more tips that have helped me keep said “hair” in its follicles.

Stick to your routine, but make some allowances and be realistic with your goals.

I am a type-A individual, meaning I am ambitious with a high-achieving personality. I want my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and a book deal yesterday. When I started at SUNY Empire State College, I had unrealistic expectations of myself, which lead to a sensation of drowning, and therefore a feeling of failure. Set your work load at a reasonable pace, accounting for down time to meet a friend for dinner, to spend time with your family or to get out and relax. As a student, you should allow yourself a break and time to reflect on where you are and where you want to eventually be./p>

Keep open communication with your professors and mentor.

This is why they are there. They understand that we are adult students, which means we have families, careers and/or adult issues that need to come before our studies at times. I have found that if you are honest, they will work with you. The faculty at SUNY Empire State College shares your long-term goal, they want to see you succeed and earn that diploma. If your arm was broken you wouldn’t ignore it. Don’t let stress and life cause a rift in your studies by not talking to your professors and mentor about your issues. They are there to help.

Be positive and kind to yourself.

I promise you I don’t spend my days hugging tress and levitating over hot coals or anything, but the fact is — like attracts like. If you are negative and miserable then things will probably not work out for you. I have had very trying times with my health while attending SUNY Empire State College. Some days it’s hard to take care of two very active children on top of studying. I have learned that when I focus on the negative, my eyes miss all that is good in my life. The college’s online program is a blessing to so many. I never would have been able to earn a degree otherwise and I have met wonderful people through the online community. If things are bad, try to find a bit of good. It’s always there. Once you learn to do that, things will begin to look up. Exercise and meditation/quiet reflection help as well.

Don’t try to be a perfectionist in every area of your life.

First of all, it’s impossible. Pick one or two things that really matter to you and focus on them. I am fortunate to be able to stay home, and I take my hat off to the men and women who are working, going to school and raising families (or any combinations of these things). In my case, my priorities are my family and studying. I sacrifice my writing life and a “perfectly” clean house. What will you sacrifice? A few dirty dishes mean nothing compared to an advanced education. I know that once I graduate, I will be able to return to my writing and OCD housecleaning tendencies.

This too shall pass.

My grandma’s favorite saying. But it is so true. Nothing in this world lasts forever. The struggles to balance your career, family life and education seem unending now, but ten years down the road they will be a blip on the timeline of your life. On the other hand, your degree and the pride you hold in yourself will last a lifetime.