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Make the Best of Both Worlds: 7 Tips for Balancing College and Work

Balancing College & Work

College students that work part time or full time are more common than you may think: today, 7 in 10 college students also work full time or part time! If you’re one of these 7 in 10 students, you probably know that balancing college and work can be tough.

Luckily, there are a lot of resources and tips out there to help working college students. We’ve researched and compiled 7 useful tips for balancing college and work, so that you can make the best of both worlds.

#1: Plan Your Schedule Ahead of Time

Break out your planner or calendar, because planning your schedule ahead of time is a huge help when it comes to balancing college and work. Not only will you stay organized, but you’ll stay accountable as well. And, as a bonus, it always feels great checking boxes off your to-do list!

You can get started by using a traditional paper planner like this one from Amazon, or, if you prefer to keep things technological, you can also download calendar and time tracking apps like Any.do and Google Calendar.

To plan your schedule ahead of time to help balance work and college, we recommend planning your schedule at the beginning of the week. If you don’t know your schedule that far in advance, plan your schedule for the next day the night before.

For example, sit down on Sunday night with your planner of choice and write down all your obligations for the week (or the next day if you are planning one day at a time). Your work schedule, your class schedule, classwork due dates, and any other obligations you may have should all be included for each day.

Make sure to pencil in designated time to study and do homework as needed (and stick to it!). Don’t forget to pencil in some time for yourself too. As they say, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Self care is important!

#2: Remember to Take Care of Yourself

What was that we just mentioned about self care? Oh yeah, it’s important! In order to get everything done that you need to get done when you’re working and attending college, you need to take good care of yourself. What do we mean when we say take care of yourself?

  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat as healthy as you can
  • Exercise
  • Take breaks
  • Try to maintain your personal life when not working or in school
  • Take time for yourself

Seems pretty easy, right? Actually, a lot of the time, if you aren’t conscious of taking care of yourself, it can get tough. Burnout is a real thing, especially for college students and even more so for college students who work part time or full time.

CollegeInfoGeek says burnout can be described as “An extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things, resulting in a decline in their job performance.” Signs of burnout can include being constantly frustrated and exhausted, feeling a lack of motivation, struggling to pay attention, and feeling disengaged from family, friends and social life.

Avoid burnout and balance your college schedule and work schedule by taking good care of yourself. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, adults and those who are of college age need seven to eight hours of sleep on average.

Additionally, it’s recommended that adults and those who are college students get at least 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise a week, although some may want or need more. Really, that’s about a half hour of exercise a day - you can do it!

Taking breaks is also important when balancing work and college. Taking breaks from things, whether it be a long study session, a full work day, or some time between class and work, helps reset your brain and leave you more refreshed and focused. Who couldn’t use that?

Remember to take time for yourself, and similarly, try to maintain your social life outside of college and work. Like taking breaks, this helps alleviate stress, leaves you more refreshed and focused, and allows you to step away from the busy college and work scenes.

#3: Take Advantage of Your Resources

As a college student (and likely as an employee, too) you have access to a lot of resources. Utilize them! They can help in a ton of different areas. Our blog post, “College Resources Every Student Should Utilize,” discusses six of the college resources in depth.

Most colleges give their students access to fitness and recreation centers, health centers, libraries, career services, and academic advisors. You don’t have to do everything on your own! Visit your college’s fitness and recreation center(s) for free or low cost access to exercise equipment and facilities. Take a trip to the health center for check-ups, counseling, and other health concerns; it’s often free or low-cost to students as well.

Depending on where you work, you likely have some resources to take advantage of there as well. Talk to your supervisors or managers about what resources may be available to you in your workplace and take advantage of them. They can likely save you money and time in a lot of your endeavors, and we all know most working college students could use more of both!

#4: Look for a Job Related to Your Major or Desired Field

If at all possible, look for a job that’s related to your major or desired field. This tip can help you balance college and work because both will be closely related, meaning you’ll likely learn more and earn real world, hands on experience.

This tip may not apply to everyone, and sometimes it may be difficult to find a job related to your major or desired field. You can also look for something somewhat related, though; for example, if you plan on going into radiology, you may not be able to find a job in radiology before getting out of college. However, you could likely find a position in a medical office or in another related medical field, which could be really beneficial.

#5: Look for On-Campus Work

Another great way to balance going to college and going to work is to simply combine the two! Most, if not all colleges have positions for student employment or work-study.

Often, these positions allow students to study and do schoolwork while they’re at work. Sounds awesome, right? Other benefits of finding on-campus work are being close to your classes and resources, getting to know other students and faculty, and working in an area you’re likely already familiar with.

Michelle, a former college student, recounted her experience of finding on-campus work and her advice for working college students: “Try to find on-campus work if possible. When I was in college, I worked at the on-campus print center three days a week. It was a huge bonus to be able to get back and forth to my dorm and classes quickly on a busy day which allowed me to balance more on my plate. I would say do what you can to try to work on campus if possible!”

#6: Communication is Key

When you work and go to college at the same time, it’s easy to think you’re alone in your endeavors. You aren’t, and there are those that support you! Communication is huge when it comes to balancing college and work.

Make sure to let your professors and your supervisors at work know that you’re a working student, and make them aware of your obligations. When those around you are aware of your obligations as a student and as an employee, they are more likely to help you if you need it. They just need to be made aware!

Students have been in situations where professors and work supervisors are sympathetic when it comes to little things like arriving a few minutes late or having to leave a little early due to college and work. However, if you don’t communicate to them that you’re a student and that you work, they won’t know.

#7: Remember Your Goals and Why You’re Doing It

When it all comes down to it, you’re working and going to college at the same time to accomplish a goal or goals that you’ve set for yourself. That’s amazing! When you’re on the journey of accomplishing your classwork and juggling school at the same time, it can get tiresome and even exhausting and frustrating. That’s normal!

Remember your goals and why you’re doing what you’re doing. You’ve got good reasons for working towards the goals you’ve set, and it’s important to keep that in mind. Rasmussen.edu quoted Candess Zona-Mendola on this same tip: “Power through the adversity now… so you can reap the numerous benefits that await.”

All in All

All in all, being a college student and working at the same time can get tough. Luckily, there are tips to make it easier! If you’re a college student who also works and you want to effectively balance the two, remember these 7 tips:

  1. Plan your schedule ahead of time
  2. Remember to take care of yourself
  3. Take advantage of the resources around you
  4. Look for a job related to your major or desired field
  5. Look for on-campus work
  6. Communicate
  7. Remember your goals and why you’re doing what you’re doing

You’ve got this!