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The Secret To Success At Studying Part-Time

No matter where you are right now, at some stage you are going to want to build on your skillset, even if you already have a job and that means you will need to navigate the world of studying part-time.

Over 50% of young people in South Africa say they can’t afford to study full-time because of a lack of funding, so studying part-time is a great way to improve your qualifications while still making money working. You can choose how many courses to do at a time, so you can study according to your time and budget. And there are a few proven ways to help you succeed.

How to Study Part-time Successfully

Student stuck on a particular part of a lesson
Student stuck on a particular part of a lesson

Understand that there is no universal secret to successfully studying part-time

No matter how smart you work or plan, studying part-time is going to take hard work, organisation, sacrifice and support. You’ll be frustrated, sleep-deprived, and wondering if it’s worth it when you say ‘no’ again to your friends.

That said, you’ll also feel pride and satisfaction as you finish another assignment. You find new friends who enrich your social and professional life and start enjoying feeling more competent and skilled as you learn.

Set modest goals

Before you start making ambitious study time-tables, be prepared for good and bad days, and keep reminding yourself of the goal you are working towards. There are definitely some tried and tested ways that will help you succeed if you persevere.

Get organised and plan ahead

This tip is an obvious one, but organising only after there is already chaos, creates unnecessary stress – and missed deadlines, so get organised first. When studying part-time, schedule all your assignment deadlines, online lectures, group discussion and exam dates into your diary – you get a clear picture of what the next months look like and you can plan accordingly.

Set timetables 

You need to be brutally realistic with a timetable – if you didn’t study for 6-hours straight in matric, you’re not likely to suddenly start doing it now. If you’re not a morning person, planning to get up at 4 am to study is probably a bad idea – for you. 

It’s usually easier to chunk your time into small, regular study periods in a week, and remember to include a long-term plan for your major assignments and exams, as well as your weekly tests.

If you’re studying around your nursing shifts, then your study times will rotate along with your work schedule. Your study timetable needs to realistically fit your work life, life at home – and your own usual habits and preferences, including taking into account how often you might get distracted. 

Tell your employer you are studying part-time (this one is really important!) 

Tell your employer and immediate boss that you are studying part-time – you might need to negotiate time off to write exams or flexible work hours for a practical assignment.

In South African labour law, study leave does not exist, so an employer does not have to make any accommodations for you. But a lot of companies have internal policies to support employees studying part-time and may give you days off or time to write exams – or make you take unpaid or annual leave. You need to know what to expect from your bosses, and what they can expect from you, including still being committed to your work with them!  

Get support from your tribe 

Studying in groups can help students working part-time keep up with course requirements
Studying in groups can help students working part-time keep up with course requirements

Hopefully, your boss and work colleagues join your support team, because you will need support and resources to get good study time, especially if the changes in your life affect other people.

Share your goals and your schedule with your friends and family – finding time, space and quiet to study will be easier if your partner pitches in with chores and keeps the kids busy every Saturday, or if your friends have Q&A study parties with you, not beers & movies.

If you are doing an online course, set up study groups and get involved in online discussions. Learning new skills and ideas is often hard to do alone, but you know you understand something if you can explain it to someone else!

Look after yourself 

Fitting study time into a busy life is going to put pressure on all your regular routines and the time you have. Start by getting rid of wasted time – turn off the TV and do your best to limit your social media scrolling. 

Eat a balanced diet with good fats to support all your extra brain workouts. Try to limit fast-food and sugary things – such foods affect your blood sugar levels and make you suddenly tired when you want to study. 

And exercise! Going for a walk boosts oxygen to your brain, improves thinking and kicks up your serotonin levels – those happy chemicals that keep us positive and motivated!

Stuff to Watch Out for When Studying Part-Time

As you get organised and set up your “cheer squad”, make sure that you’ve got the technical and practical resources you need too.

Get application paperwork correct, get all the supply lists and full course requirements – and ask questions! Deciding to study part-time is about taking charge of your life – so stay in charge and make sure to get all and any information that you want. 

You are likely going to need to be online and have a computer to complete a lot of your assignments, so be prepared for that set-up and cost. Watch out for extra costs like transport to an exam centre, buying medical supplies for a practical assessment or having to take unpaid leave. 

It’s All About Attitude

Studying part-time to acquire new skills is a commitment and it’s about you working for a better life, so get self-focused, encourage and forgive yourself for setbacks, just as you would support and cheer on your best friend. 

Find habits that work for you – maybe *that song always motivates you, so play it before each study session – you and your brain will learn the ‘cue’ for work-time and more easily get into a study mindset.

Mark small milestones and give yourself small rewards – keeping track of how far you’ve come, will keep you motivated. And remember – this is all only temporary, for now. 

Have faith in Yourself

There are hundreds of online articles with tips and tricks to succeed at studying part-time, but the only person who can really make it work is you. You will be the one making changes to the routines at home, organising time off for studies and exams with your employer, or saying no to a party. The time and schedules that you can manage will fit your unique life and ways of working, not your friends.

With some honest self-assessment and choosing the strategies, methods, and ways of working that best work for you, the secret to successfully studying part-time is you.

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