Trying to fit in anything while working full time can be hard. Especially if you have a family to consider and a house to maintain.
When you throw in studying something as important as your A Levels into the mix, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Sometimes to the point of giving up.
It’s an extremely common concern for anyone returning to education after a long period of time.
Especially when traditional colleges and adult learning providers expect you to attend class during the day or in the evenings.
This means you either need to sacrifice lunch breaks and work late to make the time back. Or sacrifice precious time at home.
Under these circumstances studying becomes a grind and a source of stress. Rather than something to look forward to with a major sense of achievement waiting at the end.
Distance learning – on the other hand – allows you to study at home.
Which eliminates the problem of how you’ll attend classes. Because there aren’t any. That means no long days catching up at work, or evenings spent in a class when you’d rather be spending time with the family.
However, distance learning isn’t the easy option. You still have to do the work, and you won’t have a teacher there to drive the learning. It will be up to you to progress in the course.
Despite that, there are few simple things you can do to manage your learning so you can get your qualifications and still have a life.
Choose the right courses
This is possibly the most important thing to consider. Achieving your A Levels is a worthy goal, but if you’re studying for a specific purpose, course choices count.
You may need A Levels to progress your career or to be eligible for promotion. Or you could be studying A Levels as a steppingstone to university.
Regardless, the most important thing you should consider before you enrol is whether or not you will enjoy the course. After all, studying each of your A Levels can take between six months to two-years.
The decision may be out of your hands if it’s a requirement for a job or course, but all the same – make sure this is the right approach for you.
If you’re plan is to go to university, you need to consider that your grades are equal to UCAS points. If you struggle to get through the A Level, your overall grade could suffer, robbing you of your place on your undergraduate course.
Where possible, always choose an A Level or A Levels that interest you as you will be significantly more likely to study.
If you are studying more than one A Level, then attempt to study courses that complement each other. Sociology and Psychology, for example. The parallels will enhance your level of understanding and make the learning process easier.
The Balancing Act
Even with the freedom distance learning provides, studying A Levels takes time and focus. It would be pointless to pretend otherwise.
That means you still have to balance your home life – even if you don’t have the issue with work. At least you don’t have to worry about finding childcare. Or clock watching while in class because you’ve got to get home to feed the family or put the kids to bed.
But because you don’t have that recurring and ring-fenced time for class, you need to impose a similar structure on yourself at home.
The most successful students are the ones who budget their time effectively. Starting from the date they want to complete the course and working back, they block out study sessions.
This prevents study drift. Unfortunately, there are instances when students put off their studies to the extent that they exceed the two year study window.
In such circumstances the student has no choice but to re-enrol and start again.
In short, managing your time is important.
By working back from your desired completion date, you can work your studies around the stuff that simply can’t be moved. Such as school plays, date nights, birthdays and holidays.
There is little value in trying to study on a day when you can’t focus, so don’t try. Keep your studying to days when you know you can give it your all.
Blocking the time is one thing, doing the work is another. Again, if you’re studying a subject that really interests you it should be a little easier to find the motivation.
However, the human brain struggles with learning new things. It takes a lot of concentration and therefore energy. To put it another way – learning is tiring.
Anyone with young children can attest to this after the first couple of weeks of school. This is because their brains are learning at a far greater rate, for longer periods of time, than they are used to.
It’s exactly the same for adults. Except we’re already tired.
Because the brain doesn’t like to learn it tries to protect itself. This is where our knack for procrastination comes from. We think of all the effort required just to start studying – let alone the studying itself – and we suddenly find lots of other things to do.
While it may clear down your list of chores, it won’t get you your A Levels.
Therefore, you need to make it as painless for yourself as possible to study.
This includes having a quiet place to study, devoid of interruptions. This includes your phone and television. It takes 20 minutes for us to regain our focus after an interruption which is a big bite out of an hour-long study block.
Identify when you’re at your most productive. Some people work best late at night when the house is peaceful. Others are early birds. Where possible, schedule your studies when you feel you can do your best work.
Also, set yourself realistic study goals. These should be based on both the work and the length of time you’re planning on studying.
By setting yourself a target – be it read X number of chapters or covering a section of study – you give yourself focus. An objective to work towards.
Without that light at the end of the tunnel it’s easy to procrastinate or spend your time doodling.
We are exceptionally good at working to deadlines. If you know you have three hours (minus breaks) to complete a specific section of your course, then you will achieve it.
Compared to giving yourself three hours to ‘study’ with no real aim at all. During which time you will likely draw a magnificent picture of a spaceship but not really learn anything.
Taking breaks can help with focus, but only if you’re disciplined with yourself. Do not go and watch TV or check your messages. Don’t play a game on your phone.
Avoid anything that could take your mind out of that learning head-space because it will take you ages to get back there.
Breaks should be peaceful and relaxing. Take a walk – even if it’s just around the garden. Sit and read a book for a few minutes. Studies suggest that reading has a similar effect on our minds as meditation so as an activity during your break times, it’s ideal.
You’re also keeping your brain limber.
You should also avoid caffeine and sugary snacks during your breaks as you’ll lose focus as the stimulants wear off. Stick to water and nutritious snacks.
Take the leap
Distance learning allows you to gain your qualifications on your terms. But it won’t suit everyone’s lifestyle or commitments.
To get the most out of your studies you need to allow yourself the time required to learn and complete your assignments. If you’re plan is to go to university than some personal sacrifices may be required to get your qualifications.
Thousands of people achieve A Levels each year through distance learning, while in employment. So it can be done. The question isn’t do you have the time? The question is do you see the value?
Because if you don’t then no amount of planning will get you to where you need to be. Gaining your A Levels represents real academic and professional opportunities.
All you need to do is enrol and go for it.
Whichever A Level courses you opt for, Stonebridge Associated Colleges can help you in your studies. All you need to do is get in touch with a member of the sales team or enrol online. There are flexible payment terms available to help you spread the cost.
You will also have access to a dedicated tutor who will help you through the process. Check out our blog for useful tips on how to get the most out of your study experience.
Click below to check out our A Level courses and enrol today.