School-Work-Life Balance: Full-Time Parent, Part-Time Student

At UC Online we understand that going back to school is a big commitment. Finances are one thing, but often we find the bigger commitment from students is the time it takes away from family, friends, and general life activities. Learning to find a balance between school and life will ensure that you can be the best parent possible and produce higher-quality work in class.

Our faculty understand your commitment when deciding to return to earn a master’s degree. From the minute you enroll, we want to help set expectations and work with you on a plan that fits your lifestyle. Our student success coordinators are here to help and will discuss the curriculum and provide tips on how to manage the courses. Our professors are known for being well-organized and giving you the details needed to plan out your schedule well in advance. The professors are only an email away if you have other questions or concerns.

Still not sure you can do it? Check out some of the stories of our former students and how they made the program work for them.

Meet Chandler K, a mother of three and Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Chandler graduated from the Master of Education in Foundations in Behavior Analysis program at UC Online in December of 2021.

Chandler’s journey to BCBA began with her undergrad studies when she graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s on-campus Bachelor of Psychology program. Upon graduation, she accepted a role as an education aide (EA) at an alternative school where she coordinated and helped with behavior interventions for troubled students. She continued this career path which eventually led her to the role of Behavior Support Specialist. Throughout her 10-year career, she considered going back to school but attending classes on campus was a big-time commitment that would be difficult with a family. It wasn’t until a few years into the role and after some conversations with her family that she decided to pursue her goal of being a Behavior Analyst. Nearly a decade after graduating undergrad, Chandler enrolled in the master’s program at UC Online.

Finding a Program

Entering her first venture into the space of online classes, Chandler had some reservations about what she might gain from the program. Taking online classes meant she would be lacking the face-to-face interaction with professors and students that she was used to. The flexible asynchronous classes added a layer of concern since they required her to focus on pacing and finding ways to stay committed to the program. On top of schoolwork, distractions are common when you have a family and are working full time, but Chandler had a plan.

The main thing that drew Chandler to the program was the fact that it was 100% online but that meant she would need to rely on her organizational skills to lay out a plan that would fit her needs. It was important for her to still find time for her family and normal activities. This meant frontloading her school responsibilities and dedicating a few hours each night, Monday through Thursday so that she could keep her weekends free. Every student handles the workload differently, but Chandler found her strict 4-night schedule of schoolwork, studying, and reading was the best way to balance the commitments she had in her life. By attending virtual office hours and keeping an open channel of communication with her professors, Chandler was able to not only remain committed to the program but also build relationships that would eventually lead to her job as a BCBA.

Despite the program being fully online, Chandler still felt like she received the same benefits as an on-campus program. The group work she participated in allowed her to create relationships and gain different perspectives on the work she was doing. There were easier times in the summer semesters when she was off work but there were also struggles she was forced to overcome. The ABA 3 course specifically required a lot of reading, which meant putting in extra time that semester to make sure she fully comprehended the material. Life obligations and the ABA material fluctuated throughout Chandler’s time in the program but the weekly modules stayed consistent. Chandler liked the fact that she was able to work at the pace she designated, while the weekly modules and schedule helped her find consistency in her education.

Feeling connected and supported was important to Chandler when she was weighing the benefits of an online program. Her relationship with the faculty at UC Online was one of the things she credited for her future success. Chandler recalls simple conversations with her professors and felt comfortable asking for feedback and help when there was a difficult subject. Through classes, emails, virtual office hours, and more, relationships were built that extended beyond the classroom. For Chandler, there was never a doubt that the faculty cared about her well-being and wanted her to succeed.

Finding a Balance

Working full-time as a behavior support specialist and being a part-time behavior analysis student meant that there was limited time away from the ABA subject. While time management was difficult, there were also benefits of working while in school. Chandler was able to apply many of the concepts she learned from the program to her job to create more efficient and ethical practices. She worked on overhauling their current data-collecting services which led to her connecting with several high-ranking members of the district and helped propel her forward as a leader. Coworkers viewed Chandler as a thought leader and expert in the field that they could rely on for support. The more Chandler learned, the more her confidence grew.

Parenting is a full-time job on its own. Balancing family obligations with both work and school grew more difficult as time passed. Tears were shed at times. Going back to school meant there would be evenings at home and family events that Chandler would miss. Bedtimes were often handled by her husband while she studied. While the weeks were difficult, knowing she would have her weekends to focus on family time helped her find the motivation to see the program through. The support her family provided through the whole process helped Chandler not only attend but succeed in the program.

Now that her education journey is complete, Chandler is working as a BCBA at Applied Behavioral Services in West Chester. The field of behavior analysis is something she is passionate about and hopes to see flourish. She regularly talks to experienced members in the ABA field and some that are just starting. Her biggest tip for getting started is “know what you are getting into, and fully commit”. There are many nuances within this field and the best way to understand them is to dive in and start your career in ABA. While in the program, she would recommend starting supervision hours as soon as possible and taking the extra steps to connect with students and professors. BCBA exam prep and COBA prep work are also other areas that require a lot of preparation that Chandler wishes she had understood more before graduation.

The journey to becoming a behavior analyst meant juggling school with work and life. There were several ups and downs, but with the right preparation and mindset, Chandler was able to accomplish what she set out to do. She now takes great pride in her abilities and credits the UC Online program. She is grateful to have found a program that was committed to her, where professors knew her name, and the curriculum emphasized ABA rather than “fluff” material. Chandler is a proud alumna and can now say she is a Full-Time Parent & Full-Time BCBA.


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