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Your Toolkit for Success in a Hybrid Master’s Program

January 14, 2021

With the flexibility of a hybrid master’s program, graduate students can take some of their coursework online while also attending in-class sessions on occasion. 

A hybrid master’s program format provides flexibility that helps busy or working professionals continue their education without disrupting an already full schedule. 

That said, there are some challenges that can come with a hybrid-style graduate program, but having the right support from your classmates, family, professors, and employer will help you manage your workload and balance your responsibilities (both in school and at work).

Thinking about enrolling in a hybrid master’s program? Access our resource  first to get all your questions answered...

To position yourself for success in your hybrid graduate degree program, consider assembling a graduate school "toolkit." These tools and practices will help you handle the challenges and demands of grad school, and with some careful planning, you can set yourself up for success in your hybrid master’s program. 

Our team at Sacred Heart University has compiled a list of essential tips you should consider in order to successfully navigate your graduate school experience.

1. When preparing for graduate school, ask for the support of your family. 

Your family is the number one place to go for support. Going to graduate school is a significant commitment of time and energy, and your family’s support and understanding are crucial. 

You may have to cut back on some of your normal family activities to make time for your coursework. A supportive family will be your best help in the days ahead.

To get your family's support, sit down with them, and explain why you are pursuing a degree. Let them know how this degree will benefit your career and your family's future. Ask for their understanding and maybe even request that they take on some additional responsibilities to free up some of your time. When they see the potential benefits, they will be more likely to help you and support you as you pursue a graduate degree.

Pro Tip: At the start of each semester, sit down with your family to go over your schedule so they know what to expect. Make sure to include some time for family fun!

2. While enrolled in a hybrid graduate program, you’ll need a quiet space to work. 

A hybrid degree gives you the flexibility to study anywhere, but doing your schoolwork from the couch or your bed can actually hurt your productivity. In a busy part of your home surrounded by other distractions, you may not be able to focus well on your studies. 

Instead, consider finding a dedicated space to study in a quieter part of your home.

If your home isn’t conducive to study, try to find an outside space where you can get the peace and quiet you need. Set aside time to visit the library or a local coffee shop. If all else fails, use the dining room table and schedule your study time for times when the rest of the family is occupied.

Pro Tip: Consider having a designated bag or cubby where you can store all of the school supplies you need. In doing so, you’ll never have to search and gather your supplies when it’s time to get to work.

3. A study group can offset the possible lack of peer interaction while enrolled in a hybrid master’s program.

Joining a study group can help you get the most out of your graduate courses. With hybrid learning, you won't meet in-person for some or most of your classroom instruction. A study group can supplement the lack of in-person (or virtual) interaction with fellow students that makes grad school so valuable. It also gives you a place to delve deeper into ideas outside of the classroom with others who are interested in the same field and learn from different perspectives.

As you set up a study group, make sure you establish clear guidelines for how it will work. Will you meet in-person, or will you meet over video chat or an online forum? How much participation is required? How often should you expect to receive communication from group members?

For the foreseeable future, you may need to get a little creative for your meetings. Outdoor meetings, socially distanced, of course, could work well. If that’s not doable, online platforms such as Zoom or Google Hangouts can be an option.

Pro Tip: Having clear boundaries and guidelines at the start of your study group will ensure it is beneficial to everyone while respecting the time of each participant.

4. While enrolled in a hybrid master’s program, you’ll need to stick to a consistent schedule.

One of the benefits of hybrid learning is its flexibility. When you take some of your courses online, you can fit your study time around your work and personal schedule. Though, if you aren’t firm with sticking to this schedule, you might find yourself overwhelmed and scrambling to get your schoolwork done.

A solid schedule can help prevent this problem. Your graduate studies take time to complete, and you need to know when you will have that time. For example, if you have a family and your kids finish school at 3 pm, it would be unwise to schedule your study time for 4 pm. This is the time when your family is going to need your attention. Instead, set aside time in the morning while the kids are at school or at night after they've gone to bed to tackle your studies.

Once you have your schedule, find ways to stick to it. At the beginning of each week, look ahead at your assignments so you can plan when you will do each one. When it’s time for study, set a timer and dedicate that allotted time to studying only. Turn off the phone and close all other browsers so you can focus entirely on school. 

Pro Tip: Each individual is going to have a different schedule that works for them. You need to look at your day-to-day responsibilities and carve out the time to get your schoolwork done.

5. Be open with your employer regarding your decision to go back to school for a hybrid master’s degree.

Finally, try to gather support from your employer by telling them you're going back to school. In a hybrid program, you may have to attend some in-person classes or meetings, so you will need your employer's help to manage your work schedule.

To make this proposal, set up a private meeting with your boss. Be honest about your needs and your concerns, but also about how your degree will help support the company. Frame your request for flexibility around the benefits your graduate degree will offer, and be ready to discuss the flexibility of your hybrid program. Show your employer that you have a plan for managing your coursework and your work responsibilities. Finally, be ready to make some accommodations of your own, especially if you’re asking for flexibility from your employer.

With this conversation, you may discover that the company offers tuition reimbursement, which will help you cover some of the costs of your hybrid graduate degree. If your education is going to benefit the company, they will be more inclined to work with you on scheduling and ensuring you have time to attend your classes.

Pro Tip: If you're pursuing a degree that will lead to a career change, you may not want to inform your employer. In that case, try to arrange your classes and coursework around your existing schedule.

Interested in a hybrid master’s program? Connect with SHU today!

Remember, your degree is going to benefit your career, your employer, and your family, and with careful scheduling, the right support, and the help of a peer study group, you will be well-equipped for success. 

If you’re ready to take steps toward your graduate education, we’re here to help you. You can begin by requesting more information or scheduling a call with one of our admissions counselors. You can also start your online application if you’re ready!

We’re looking forward to getting to know you better and wish you the best of luck in your future academic endeavors!

Thinking about enrolling in a hybrid master’s program? Access our resource — The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Hybrid Programs.

Access the Guide

SHU Graduate Admissions Team

About the Author

We are the graduate admissions team at Sacred Heart University. We aspire to create a welcoming and supportive environment for students looking to continue their education while empowering them in mind, body and spirit. We hope you find our resources helpful and informative as you explore and pursue a graduate degree at Sacred Heart!

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