By Keating Bartlett

5 tips for completing college when it seems impossible

Earning a degree isn’t easy and earning one as a military spouse can be even more challenging. Between all the moves, deployments, trainings, and everything else this life throws at you, it can be easy to get discouraged when you just cannot find the time or energy to focus on your own educational goals. As a military spouse, we’re expected to support our spouses in their careers and follow them wherever their careers take them. But what about those of us who want an education and career of our own? There’s hope for us too!

After 6 long years, I finally completed my bachelor’s degree this past Spring. I transferred schools 5 times, moved homes 8 times, went through 2 horrible breakups, got married, watched my parents divorce, and changed my major more times than I could count. It was quite the bumpy journey, but somehow I made it. Here’s how I did it:

1. Set realistic goals.

Goal from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 Charlie Bird, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

First and foremost, you have to set some goals. And they must be realistic. If your schedule is completely packed, then it may not be the best idea to go back to school full-time. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Yes, it’ll take a little longer to complete your degree, but you also don’t want to risk failing a course (and having to take it again later) just because you’re overwhelmed with the amount of work you have. This will also leave you feeling discouraged if you aren’t able to take on the amount of work you’ve signed up to do.

2. Create a schedule that works.

Spring Quarter Schedule from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 Rodolphe Courtier, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

This goes along with setting realistic goals. Find options that work best for you and your schedule whether you’re going to school full-time or part-time. In-person or online. If you’re a parent and still work a full-time job then day courses aren’t going to work. Your best option would be to do either night and weekend courses or complete your education online. And again, there’s nothing wrong with taking a non-traditional route.

[Tweet “The key to being successful in college? Schedule realistically.”]

When setting up your schedule, you must remember to set aside enough time in your day for all your different tasks while still allowing yourself some time to breathe and relax with your family and friends.  Online courses tend to offer the most flexibility so that students can set their own schedules around everything else they have going on in their lives. Perfect for military spouses. But again, this is completely your choice and you should do whatever works best for you.

3. Choose the right school.

Old Main at Penn State from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 shidairyproduct, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

I’ve attended five universities since I graduated high school in 2010. Five. After my first two colleges, I married my husband and decided to switch to online learning so that I wouldn’t have to transfer every time we moved. More and more military spouses are choosing this route simply because of the flexibility. It works really well with this type of lifestyle. The first two online universities I tried were complete nightmares.

But then I found a school that was perfect for me. With my current university, I am able to take two courses at a time as opposed to five which makes each semester easier to manage. Undergraduate courses are also 8 weeks long as opposed to fourteen (graduate courses are ten). All of my professors and advisors are extremely supportive and check in with me on a weekly basis to make sure everything is going well in my courses. This school worked so well for me that I’m now earning my MBA through them as well. I couldn’t imagine attending any other university. Do not settle for a mediocre school. Take the time to do your research and find one that will help you succeed and reach the goals you have set for yourself.

4. Gather your resources.

Not Understanding Why Daddy Must Go from Flickr via Wylio
© 2014 Johnny Silvercloud, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

There are many resources out there for military spouses who are working towards a college degree and improving their career. If cost is a concern in completing your degree then look into financial aid, scholarships, loans, or even your MyCAA benefits. Some schools will offer a military discount as well which can make school more affordable. You can easily get more information on finances by contacting your school’s financial aid office. Your academic advisor can also be a huge help in connecting you with helpful resources depending on what type of resource you’re needing.

5. Build a supportive network.

Friends from Flickr via Wylio
© 2011 Pepe Pont, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

This is going to be the most important thing you can do. You must surround yourself with amazing people. Your support system can include family, friends, professors, classmates, your advisor, and anyone else who is helping you reach your goals. These people should be those who are extra positive, supportive and motivational so that you’re able to stay on track in this journey. I owe a ton of my success to my amazing support system. My husband being my biggest motivator. He’s always pushing me to be bigger and better. Find those supportive people and be sure to hold on tight to them.

Earning my degree was the most emotional accomplishment of my life. Regardless of what I had going on in my life these last 6 years, I was determined to earn my degree so I found a way to make it all work out. Don’t feel discouraged if you still haven’t been able to attend college or complete your education. There’s still time and there’s always a way to make it work. It is possible!

Keating is a military wife, freelance writer, PR and marketing enthusiast, recent graduate of SNHU, iced latte addict and the Founder + Editor of Keating & Co. Keating’s blog is focused around inspiring millennial bloggers and online business owners to create a well-balanced lifestyle and business that they’re in love with without limitations. Follow her onFacebook, Twitter, and Instgram.