1. Plan ahead
Discuss your educational goals with friends, family and colleagues to ensure you will have the support and time to maximize your academic success without straining your relationships and obligations. Get into the new groove at least a month before classes start. Examine upcoming work and personal obligations for the session so that you can plan your studies effectively around these dates. Work backward in your calendar and figure out how much time you need to complete large projects.
2. Choose your path
Decide which path will best align with your career aspirations, graduate certificate or master’s degree. Schedule an appointment with an academic advisor. Make sure you choose the path that will land you where you want to be after you have completed all your hard work. And most importantly, select what you will enjoy or have an interest in already.
3. Start your financial planning
Find out if your place of employment will offer any financial assistance. Oftentimes education expenses will be reimbursed if the program aligns with the company’s goals for you. Be sure to talk to your manager or HR department to see if they can offer any assistance.
4. Know the entrance and course requirements
Be sure you understand the requirements for being admitted into the certificate or degree program. Be ahead of the curve and know what is required early. Review course syllabi to know if software or hardware is required and purchase it prior to enrollment.
5. Prepare for your graduate career
Get in the mindset of going back to school once you've been accepted. Communicate your new obligations to your employer, friends, and family. Make sure everyone knows you have new obligations that might require a new schedule.
6. Set realistic goals for coursework
Work on coursework when your energy level is at its highest and for only the amount of time that you can remain focused and productive. For many individuals, this means no more than two hours in a row of studying with regular breaks and no social media distractions. Study in a place that you have established to be ideal for concentration and peak performance. If you can obtain the textbook ahead of time, start reading during those times when you envision setting aside for course work to acclimate to the routine and discover if any adjustments are necessary.