15 Tips for Balancing College and Part-Time Work
BY RON SPINABELLA
Unless you’re fortunate enough to have a very generous family, it’s likely that you will hold a part-time job during at least part of your college career. The extra money can help you stay on top of your loan and car payments. It can also make your weekends a lot more fun! If your studies already leave you feeling strapped for time, though, adding a part-time job may make you feel as though you don’t have any time left for yourself. With careful scheduling, it is possible to balance college and part-time work while still leaving some time for fun and relaxation. These 15 tips can help.
- Visualize Your Schedule
When you have a full course load and a part-time work schedule that may change from one week to the next, you shouldn’t count on memory alone to keep your schedule in order. Use an app to create a visual schedule, and keep the schedule updated as things change at school and work. Some of the most popular scheduling apps include:
- Office 365
- Google Calendar
Your smartphone may also have a built-in calendar app. Creating a visual schedule isn’t just a great way to ensure that you won’t miss something important; it also enhances your ability to live in the moment. You’ll study, work and play more effectively if you aren’t preoccupied with remembering the other things that you need to do that day.
- Tell Your Employer You’re a Student
Business owners in college towns expect to employ plenty of students. They get low-cost help, and their employees enjoy plenty of schedule flexibility. If you work off campus, though, you may be one of the only employees at your place of work who is also a full-time student. When interviewing for a prospective job, be forthright with your potential employer about the fact that your studies will take precedence over your work. You need to know before taking the job that your employer will give you the flexibility you need. If you remain with the company after graduating, you may even receive a promotion.
- Find a Job With Flexibility
When you’re hunting for a part-time college job, try to find an employer willing to offer some schedule flexibility. If you need to attend an extra evening lab session — or you need a little extra time to complete a paper before its due date — you have to prioritize your school obligations. It’s ideal if you can find an employer willing to shuffle your schedule when necessary. Some employers may even give you the option of working from home. If you can work on campus, that’s even better. Working on campus means that you’ll spend less time driving, and employers in college towns understand the challenges that working students face.
- Build a Support Network
Despite your best efforts, you may occasionally encounter scheduling conflicts that you can’t resolve. Find buddies who can share their notes if you need to miss a class or cover for you when you miss work. Remember that an important part of maintaining those relationships is that your buddies will expect you to help them when they have schedule conflicts.
- Remove Clutter From Your Life
If you’ve been a student for a while, it’s likely that you’ve accumulated a lot of extra stuff — especially if you’ve moved out of the dorms and now live in your own apartment. A clean environment leads to clearer thought and improved concentration. The more cluttered your environment becomes, though, the harder it becomes to keep things clean and orderly. A rummage sale is a great way to get rid of old things that you no longer use. If you aren’t ready to part with your items permanently, though, an expert from moveON moving suggests placing your unused possessions in short-term storage instead. A managed storage facility tends to cost less than a self-storage facility. A good moving company will even pick up your items and store them for you.
- Don’t Challenge Yourself Too Much
Landing a part-time job that relates to your long-term career aspirations is a great opportunity that can help you earn some valuable experience. If working as an intern in a medical lab or as a programmer for a software developer would prevent you from concentrating on your studies, though, you may want to choose a part-time job that’s a little less challenging. There’s nothing wrong with working at a local pizza joint while you earn your degree. Having a less challenging job means that you’ll find it easier to get through the work day if you stayed up late studying or working on a paper the night before.
- Try Online Classes
Enrolling in one or two online classes is a great way to maintain a full course load while leaving yourself a bit of schedule flexibility. When you take a class online, you can often watch or listen to pre-recorded lectures rather than logging in to live class sessions. If you choose a job that allows you to watch or listen to recordings while you work, you may even get a chance to study and work simultaneously.
- Spend Your Money Wisely
Exercising care with how you spend your money is good advice at any stage of your life. Right now, though, you’re probably wondering how you will manage the long-term debt of your student loan. Your time as a student is the perfect opportunity to learn about the power of compound interest, and every dollar that you use now to pay down your loan will save you many dollars later. Reducing your student loan debt as much as possible now will reduce the stress that you’ll have to endure later in adulthood. It also gives you a goal — a reason for working — that will help you tackle your scheduling challenges with a positive mindset.
- Schedule Your Off Days Early
At the beginning of the semester, you’ll receive a syllabus for each of your classes. You’ll know well in advance when papers will be due and when you’ll need to study for exams. As early in the semester as possible, coordinate with your employer to ensure that you won’t need to work on the days when you’ll need extra time to focus on your studies. If you work with other students, your coworkers may need some of those same days off — get your requests in first to avoid scheduling headaches later.
- Plan Your Down Time
The fact that you could be doing something productive at any given moment doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. Without periodic downtime, you’ll experience stress and burnout. You’ll become less effective in your studies and in your work. The stress may even inflict harm on your personal relationships. Set aside some time for relaxation every week.
- Find Ways to Combine Work and School
Working and studying simultaneously is a great way to make the most of your time, and finding an employer that allows you to listen to lectures at your desk isn’t the only way to do that. If you choose a job that relates to your major, your time spent on the job can double as research for a term paper. If your employer can use your research as the basis for a proposal or other project, writing the paper may even earn you a bonus.
- Track Your Achievements
Although it’s important to prioritize your studies while you’re in school, your part-time job is also important because it provides experience that will eventually enhance your resume. Regardless of the job that you choose while you’re in school, work hard and be the best employee that you can be. Look for opportunities to advance and showcase your skills. Track all of your achievements so you can list them on your resume later. Your hard work may also earn you a positive reference that’ll help you land a good job when you enter the workforce.
- Know Your Limits
When you’re a student, you have limitless opportunities for working, learning, experimenting, exploring and playing. If you also have a job, though, you may sometimes feel as though you’re missing out on some of those opportunities — especially if you have friends who don’t have part-time jobs. Don’t overcompensate by trying to take part in every extracurricular activity and attend every party. There isn’t enough time to do everything, so you’ll have to prioritize. Working a part-time job while attending college helps you learn how to balance work and life — something that only becomes more difficult as you get older. You’ll also be happy about the extra money in your pocket when you do find the time to indulge in social pursuits.
- Don’t Procrastinate
It’s unbelievable how interesting Netflix, Hearthstone and Facebook can become when you have reading, writing or studying to do — especially when you’re tired after several hours of work. One of the most important skills you’ll develop as you learn to balance college and work is the skill to recognize the fact that you’re procrastinating. When you feel like you need a break, set a timer. Return to your work immediately when the timer expires. The sooner you complete your work, the sooner you can relax — and when you relax mindfully, you’ll enjoy your down time more.
- Get Enough Sleep
As a student, it’s likely that you’ll sometimes find it necessary to stay up late. Pulling the occasional all-nighter can give you a bit of extra time to put the finishing touches on an important paper or study for an exam — but you shouldn’t make a habit of it. Staying up late disrupts the body’s circadian rhythms. Inadequate sleep harms your ability to concentrate. It also increases stress and irritability. Do whatever you can to ensure that you get enough sleep.
Ron Spinabella is the Digital Marketing Manager for moveON moving . Ron loves computers, the internet and how it has revolutionized business. Ron attended Eastern Illinois University and studied Business Administration and Corporate Communication. During College, Ron was an active member of the Stock Market Club and a volunteer in the Computer Lab.