Sunday, August 9, 2009

Working while Attending College

Nontraditional students often don't have the luxury of not working while attending college classes. I have been working the entire time I have taken graduate classes, and learned some things that might be helpful to other nontraditional students.

Organization is crucial. I use Excel to print out calendar pages (click on the button at the top left corner, then click New and locate calendar templates), one for the entire year at a glance, and one with each month on its own page. Work hours, assignments and other tasks I have to accomplish for the month are penciled in as soon as I know about them. These sheets are clipped into a zipping binder, so that I can take them with me everywhere I go.

I also print out an appointment page for each day, and pencil in more details as needed. For instance, my full page monthly calendar may have Week 2 Assignment 3 on it, but the appointment page for the due date will have the page numbers of books I am to read, and specific information about the assignment.

There never seems to be enough time to read everything required for graduate courses. To help with this issue, I carry at least one textbook everywhere I go, spending 10 minutes at the doctor's office, or 15 minutes at lunch, to read a few pages. Highlighting makes a textbook hard for me to read. Instead, I purchase sticky notes. I write the page number in the top right corner in case it falls out of the textbook, and write whatever notes or comments I have on the sticky note. The note is stuck to the page on which I am commenting, with about 1/4 of the bottom edge sticking out of the book like a tab. This makes it easy to find my notations when I am ready to write my papers.

I am visually oriented. When writing papers, I struggle to create an outline. To get past this, I use some inexpensive (about $65 for students--you need to contact for accurate pricing information) software, Inspiration. You can download a trial version at This software allows me to create a mind map of the topic, using circles with my notes in them. Once I have the overall concept down, I can click one button on the toolbar and Inspiration creates an outline for me. The more detailed the mind map, the more detailed the outline becomes. I plan to use this tool extensively once I begin the dissertation phase of my degree program. Inspiration is the only software I have found that will create the outline for me, so it is one of my most used tools.

1 comment:

  1. This is an interesting post. I have heard of Inspiration before, but have never had it explained to me. I also like to use a calendar. It helps me so much. I like your idea of using Excel for this. Thanks for sharing your ideas.