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My advice for AAT Distance Learning? Get a dog!

A coffee cup and an AAT workbook

Julie Dove is currently studying AAT Level 3 as a Kaplan Distance Learning Student. Despite suffering with Cystic Fibrosis her whole life, Julie has worked in finance for some 15 years and currently works as Head of Finance & Administration, managing a team of five. In this interview, Julie talks about how she manages to balance work, studying, family and her illness and shares some of her tips on staying motivated when learning on your own.

Hi Julie, could you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into accountancy?

Sure! About 17-18 years ago I was doing a general admin role and got the feeling there was more to the accountancy career than creating pretty graphs, so I did a bookkeeping course at home and got a real taste for wanting to pursue it further.

When I joined my current company, I had the opportunity to get some funding for training. So it was a perfect opportunity for me to finish the qualification that I really wanted to do all those years ago.

What made you decide on distance learning over other study methods?

Flexibility is the biggest factor, because I need to spend intermittent time in hospital for my Cystic Fibrosis.

Also being able to study at home gives me so much more flexibility around my job. When it's really busy at work I generally don't get time to study during the week, so I make it up at the weekend.

My husband works away, so whilst he's away I will study and when he's at home I don't. If he was only home on the nights I had to go to college, we'd probably have 7 nights a week when we wouldn't see each other!

Are there any drawbacks to studying at home?

I think everyone has days where you really just don't want to do it, but I think you've got to force yourself to look at the end goal – what is it that you started this for? The reason that I started studying was to progress my career, so if I start losing motivation I get my three-year plan out which shows my path to becoming a financial director.

Why is the tutor support so important, especially for distance learning?

When you're on a distance learning course you can feel like you're on your own, because you're not in the classroom so you can't bounce ideas off people It's important to know that you are able to pick up the phone, if you need to speak to somebody, even on an evening or on a Saturday morning.

It's not like you are just given the textbook and told to go away and learn it, there is a really big network of support there if you need it.

Have you got any tips for people about how to maximise revision time?

Every Sunday I sit down and plan my week to see where my easy days are and spend those nights studying. I think fitting your studies around your work timetable is really important because if you're tired, then there is little point in studying because it just doesn't sink in.

Also, I make sure I give myself at least one weekend a month completely off from work and study, because it helps keep me motivated.

When studying gets stressful what helps you to relax?

I think spending time with my dog is the best de-stress ever, because it doesn't matter how hard things get, he's always there! I have a very lazy Labrador - last night I was sat on the floor studying, he was sat on the sofa asleep on my shoulder.

The days when I'm at home, he comes and sits in his basket next to the desk and at about 1 o'clock he'll give me a nudge to go for a walk. Just walking with the dog and getting out in the fresh air for half an hour is a great way to relax.

I always have to go to the gym and workout because it's a good de-stress. I'm also very good at taking myself off to a health spa for the weekend.

Do you have any other words of wisdom for distance learners on staying motivated?

Stay focussed and get yourself a vision board! Think about what you want to achieve from completing the qualification - is it an amazing car or a holiday in the Maldives? I have my goals on a board at home, showing what I'm going to get when I get to the end of the qualification.

If you give in when it gets tough, there is only one person who is going to regret that later in life and that is yourself. I set out saying that I was going to be qualified by the time I got to 40, and that falls later this year so I am going to keep going! It doesn't matter how long it takes you - just don't give in and you'll get there.

If you would like to try a new approach to learning away from the classroom, why not try a free demo of Kaplan's new OnDemand study method. OnDemand combines the structure of a tutor-led course with the flexibility to start studying anytime, anywhere.