For many students, college is only a reality if working simultaneously, and going to school and working at the same time can be pretty tough. My experience being a full-time student while also having a job taught me valuable skills that have helped me succeed in both work and school. Here are the most important skills I’ve picked up:
You’ve probably been told over and over again—time management is super important in school and life. If you have a job or other non-academic responsibility, properly managing time can be your best friend because it enables you to accomplish what you need to get done in the time you have available without cramming last minute. In order to do this, you need to fight really hard against the powerful forces of Procrastination, every college student’s arch nemesis. Grab yourself a daily planner, or whatever works for you, and map out everything you do as well as everything you need to do. Highlight your available time and take advantage of this time to complete your to-do tasks. If the allure of Netflix or Hulu is too strong, try to use them as rewards for getting everything done. Shameless and Stranger Things will always be there, but that A in your physics class is a one-time thing.
With this in mind, when scheduling and choosing classes, be smart. If you usually work nights, try scheduling morning classes early in the day. Or if you’re never motivated to study during that quick hour in between classes, then schedule classes right next to each other and give yourself a larger break when you can actually get homework done.
Something else that I’ve found really helpful is communicating with your boss and your professors when necessary. No matter where you work or how much, it can’t hurt to mention to your boss that you’re also a student so sometimes you won’t be able to cover shifts or might need some of your shifts covered. Who knows, maybe later in the semester, like right before finals week, your boss will remember this and be more accommodating when scheduling you. Also, possibly mention to a professor of one of your harder classes that you’re working. Later in the semester if you need an extra day for a deadline, or whatever it may be, your professor might remember and be more lenient. It’s always worth a shot to be upfront.
Finding a Routine
Another helpful move for me was finding a job that has a permanent schedule—a schedule that stays the same every week. This is how my job functions and I personally love it. Every week, no matter how my school load is, I know exactly what days and hours I’m working. I find it much easier to plan out everything especially when planning in advance. But perhaps you know you’d prefer a job with a changing schedule—it’s all up to you, but keep this idea in mind when looking for a job or switching jobs.
If you’ve taken an online class before, consider doing that again if you’re balancing school with work or other obligations. If you’ve never taken an online class, or a partial online class, this can be a great idea. Online classes allow you to work when you have free time or to split up the online seminar depending on when you’re free during the day. Online classes allow much more flexibility and this is super beneficial to people with tight schedules.
The last thing I have to say is that staying motivated can and will push you through it! Find whatever motivates you to help you along, whether it be the hefty paychecks or the excellent grades. Liking your classes and your job definitely will help, but if you dread going to work or one of your classes, find something to enjoy—trust me, it will help. It’s going to be hard to balance both perfectly, so it’s okay if you mess up every now and then. Keep in mind that lots of other students are also balancing work so feel free to talk to others about how they handle it. Good luck!