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Eight Tips for Coping with the Holidays as an Online Student

November 24, 2015 by Coventry Kessler |

Online-Student_Surviving_Holidays_R2_Cropped.jpgYou work. You have a family. AND you’re taking online courses for a degree and/or a better career. Your life is already as stuffed as a Thanksgiving turkey. Now that the holidays are coming, how can you juggle family expectations, classes, AND Thanksgiving-Chanukah-Christmas-New Year without losing your mind?

  1. Remember, everyone wants you to succeed, right? 
    Most of the time, people want family members to do well and be happy. You’re in college because you have an important goal in mind. Let family members know up front why earning a degree is SO important to you. This will make it harder for them to put the squeeze on you to ignore what you need. 

  2. Be honest but diplomatic.
    “Aunt Sally, as much as we’d love to, we just can’t drive 250 miles for Thanksgiving this year. My project is due next week, and I need the time. I look forward to seeing you when things aren’t so hectic.” Being truthful but kind about your situation may help the other person see your viewpoint but also feel valued. There’s a reason people say, “Honesty is the best policy.” Just sprinkle in a little diplomacy too.

  3. Scale down your expectations.
    Do you always fix the macaroni and cheese and the pumpkin pie for your family’s big Thanksgiving get-together? This year, how about offering to bring the rolls and the drinks instead? It will save you time and effort, and no one will really mind. Same with giving up making handmade gifts and all those fancy cookies. Sometimes less really is enough.

  4. Don’t let yourself get guilt-tripped.
    “But no one makes apple pie like you do! Everyone always looks forward to it so much!” You might remind this person that your pie-making friend Sara Lee has a sterling reputation, and she’s SO much faster than you are. While some requests can’t be ignored (this may be Mee-Maw’s last holiday), others are more about the convenience of the asker. Be polite, express regret, but hold your ground. They aren’t the ones who will suffer if you don’t get your degree.

  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
    There's no reason you have to be responsible for all the holiday prep. Maybe your brother can hold the feast at his house this year. Or you can host a potluck rather than cooking everything yourself. Your sweetie and your dad can buy the Christmas tree. Just ask early enough that people aren’t blindsided. They really don’t need YOU to do everything.

  6. Plan ahead. Buy online.
    If your holiday involves gift-giving—and whose doesn’t?—that big bookstore-cum-department store on the web (you know who we mean) really has changed everything. It’s fast, convenient, and saves you tons of running around time. So start your list early and begin buying before the rush. Bonus: The site also offers Wish Lists where friends and family can list the gifts they really want. Which can cut down on buying those disappointing reindeer socks for Uncle Fred.

  7. If you have to, fudge.
    The truth is, the real treasure of holidays when you’re going to college is having a much-needed break. It isn’t always about studying or working on a project. But no one else needs to know that. Just make that excuse and curl up with Jane Austen or Orange is the New Black in your. . .

  8. Fortress of Solitude.
    No, it doesn’t have to be Superman’s magnificent castle of ice. Just someplace quiet where you can shut the door and rest and recuperate for a while. Spare bedroom, heated shed, garage, corner of the attic. And don’t forget your sign that says: DO NOT DISTURB.

All joking aside, getting through college while you’re working and raising a family is tough. Your family may still want you to do what you always do and may squawk if you don’t. But you’re taking online classes for a reason: a better life once you’re done. The time will pass. The only question is, will you stick with your goal and get the degree? Eventually everyone—including you—will be glad that you did.


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