Wails of frustration, erratic sleep schedules, new surprises daily, and the single most rewarding experience of your entire life. Are we talking about raising a child -- or going to grad school? Both! Whether or not you’re a parent who’s juggling earning a graduate degree with raising a family, we think you’ll agree that these two major life experiences share a lot of similarities.

1) Unusual Sleep Patterns

Babies have unusual sleep patterns, and so do adults attending grad school. The lack of sleep can really take a toll on the quality of your work, so self-care is essential. Recognizing that you might not be able to attend every social event will help you mitigate any feelings of missing out during this time of your life. A few missed happy hours will be worth it in the end as you hang your degree on the wall.

2) Schedules are Key

Babies thrive on a schedule, and so do grad students (see #1). Parents track their baby’s patterns to help predict when they can sneak off for a shower or a nap. Grad students have to be aware of their own natural rhythms, set a workable schedule, and stick to it in order to maximize their time and energy.

3) Flexibility is Required from Everyone

Infants and grad students receive extra flexibility from those around them. For example, when you get in front of a screaming infant in the grocery store checkout line or on a cross-country flight, you probably smile, take a deep breath, and feel empathy for the little one (and the parent!). When a grad student shrieks in frustration or whines to friends and family about their overwhelming workload, they usually receive a consoling “there, there, Honey”. While we wouldn’t recommend a meltdown in a grocery store, the occasional outburst of tears at home is acceptable. After all, you are in the middle of a life altering task.

4) Communication is Essential

Adults respect the time and energy limitations of an infant. No one expects a baby to tackle more than he’s capable of. Keep your family and friends in the loop about what you’re working on, and ask for support when you need it. Your grad school program is demanding, but your loved ones probably don’t understand the rigorous expectations and constant demands of your time and energy. Have open conversations to let your inner circle know when you’re going to be less available and why. You can’t expect help and understanding if you don’t let them in. They just might surprise you with their outpour of support.

5) Different Learning Styles

Babies have unique learning and information-processing styles. Guess what? So do grad students. Choose a program that’s right for you. Perhaps you need a flexible online program that lets you work at your own pace. Maybe self-discipline isn't your strength, and you need a more traditional, classroom-based program. Playing to your strengths and recognizing your weaknesses can help you maximize your graduate school experience.

6) Every Day Brings New Knowledge

Every day is a new challenge for a developing baby. Being a graduate student is an intense experience that requires you to hone a variety of existing skills while learning new ones. The best programs are those that allow you to apply what you learn immediately.

7) Reading is Fundamental 

Toddlers and grad students have to learn to read. Tara Kuther, Ph.D., professor at the Department of Psychology at Western Connecticut State University, says, “In grad school, reading is a whole skill unto itself.” She advises to “read with purpose” while identifying how the information fits with your subject matter. Again, time is precious so utilize your time to get the most out of your reading.

8) This Time is Temporary

Infancy is temporary, and so is grad school. Sure, you have less time for social events and vacations, but once you graduate, your time is yours again. Always remember there’s an end to all of the work.

9) There Will be Sacrifices

Having a baby requires a lot of sacrifice and a major investment of time and money, just like grad school. But ask any parent, and you’ll hear, “It was totally worth it.” Similarly, most grad students feel that the rewards of education far exceed the costs.

10) It's Just the Beginning

Just as birth is the beginning of one major life stage, grad school isn’t the end of your education but the beginning of a lifetime of learning.

11) It's Always Worth It

Having children provides a sense of accomplishment and an overwhelming love of life. Grad school is the same way. Once you achieve your degree and move onto your personal path of fulfillment, you hardly remember all of those sleepless nights and temper tantrums.

Deciding if grad school is right for you is an important, personal decision. University of the Cumberlands has over 130 years of experience. We understand the unique challenges going back to school can create and have dedicated faculty and staff to help you attain your educational goals. For more information on how we can help you achieve your dreams, please call us at 833-958-0560 or visit us online.