If you work 40 hours or more a week, the thought of going back to school to continue your education can be overwhelming.

Going back to school as an adult can be extremely challenging.

going back to schoolGoing back to school as an adult with a full-time job, a family and a household to run can be downright overwhelming.

The good news is this: thousands of people successfully earn a degree every year while working eight or more hours per day. Here’s how you can prepare yourself to do the same:

1.Set Realistic Expectations

You probably understand that going back to school while working a full-time job is going to be difficult. It’s important that you understand just how difficult it’s really going to be.

You’re not going to be able to slack off on your work and family obligations to study or complete assignments, and you’re not going to be able to forgo assignments to complete a project for work. Expect to have some sleepless nights and to spend days at a time feeling completely drained.

2.Set Goals

Do you know why you want to go back to school? If you want to earn your college degree simply to say that you’ve done it, now probably isn’t the time. Returning to school is a huge undertaking and you better do it for the right reasons.

You should return to school only if you know that a degree is going to help you further your career or change careers altogether. Knowing exactly how you will use your degree can help get you through the tough times ahead.

3.Take it Seriously

College is a place to earn your independence and learn more about yourself, but you’re an adult now. Consider college to be a part-time job, not a place to socialize and party. Treat college as seriously as you treat your full-time career and you’ll be much more successful. If you choose to enroll in an online school, you should know that it can be just as intense, if not more intense, than a traditional college. Don’t enroll in an online school because you think it will be the easiest option.

4.Find Support

Whatever you do, don’t take your journey alone. Let your friends and family know that you are planning on enrolling in school and ask for their help and support. Remember that you’re only one person, and you can only do so much.

When the going gets tough, you’ll need a rock-solid support system behind you. Whether you need a babysitter, a research assistant or a study partner, a great group of friends and family will be invaluable while you are in school.

Nothing worth having in life is easy to obtain. Going back to school while working a full-time job will be incredibly difficult.

If you prepare yourself well by setting realistic expectations and surrounding yourself with supportive people, you’ll make it to graduation in one piece. You may be utterly exhausted by the time you walk to the podium but getting there is what counts.

Kara Martin writes full-time for education blogs nationwide. She writes for www.ufl.edu where you can find out more about masters music education.