Content courtesy of USAA

Many military spouses consider the idea of going back to school during a deployment. I was motivated to complete something during my husband’s last 15 month deployment. Call it my mission if you may.

When I decided to tackle this big challenge I didn’t think it would be possible. I was working full time and had an active 2 year old running around. I ended up not only finishing; I was on the Dean’s list all of my semesters. When I would think about trying to fit school and homework into my already overly stretched schedule, it would make me want to run to the nearest exit! The large amount of military spouses who tackle this challenge every day and actually survive to graduate have been a great source of encouragement to me on days when I just didn’t think I’d make it to the end.

If you are in that spot and looking for some helpful advice, I’ve got some insight to share.

Here are 4 tips that helped me survive both college and graduate school during a deployment.

Money – Research Financial Aid and Scholarships

My biggest obstacle for going back to school was money. When you are 18 years old and living at home with your parents, you don’t really tend to think about everything that needs to be paid on a day-to-day basis. Working full time and having so many grown-up expenses really did scare me into thinking I would never be able to afford going back to school. Fortunately, with the help of financial assistance, grants, scholarships and payment plans, going back to school is possible for non-traditional students. I suggest you do some research on financial aid for military spouses. Depending on the program you choose, there are various different options out there. Don’t let the money factor scare you into not pursuing your goals.

The Military Spouse Education Initiative Facebook page features links to available scholarships and programs that can assist spouses with their education.

Time – Pursue Flexible Online Learning
I have always been one to manage time rather well. This time in my life I had to figure out how to fit a busy school schedule in with work, raising children and having a deployed husband! Cue, online learning! Having the ability to go to school online assures the non-traditional student has the time, flexibility and portability needed in our already busy lives. If you think you don’t have the time for a traditional school, check out online schools. There are so many military friendly schools. features a section within their website highlighting military friendly schools.

Work – Schedule Class, Study and Project Time

It’s not just class time you need to make sure you stay on top of, you also need to remember to schedule the time weekly to study, complete projects and get all your assignments completed on time. Put the time on your calendar in advance and leave it there. Treat it as you would a work or doctor’s appointment, don’t move it unless there is an extreme emergency. Don’t worry; it’s okay to decline other events and activities in order to protect your personal education dates. We all know military life tends to throw us a curve ball or two.

Nozbe and Evernote are task management apps that allow you to schedule tasks, take notes, and prioritize projects (just to name a few).

Taking Care of You

When our lives and schedules get jam-packed, why do we tend to put our personal health last? We cut out very important things such as; sleep, eating properly and exercising. When you take care of you, you perform better. These shouldn’t be the things we cut back on, but the things we should also remember to do a lot of. When you invest in your health the same way you are your education, you are remembering why you are working so hard to begin with. Make the time to eat well, sleep and exercise. Your body AND your brain will thank you.

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Angela Caban's avatarAngela Caban is a military columnist and published author. Her husband, who was deployed in 2008, was one of the many soldiers impacted by the unprecedented activation of the Army National Guard. In 2010 she founded the Homefront United Network to provide assistance and family support through encouragement, educational articles and resources. She is dedicated to assisting National Guard and Reserve families with resources and ensuring no spouse or family member is left behind.