College is hard work, as is work itself. And when you combine the two, it can be brutal. Often times, managers give little consideration to the fact that you have homework due tomorrow morning, or a test next week. They expect you to work the same hours, get the same amount of work done, and might even be reluctant to give you time off to sit your exam.
Not surprisingly, most people will warn you against trying to balance work and school at the same time. But for many college-goers, there’s simply no other option available. College might mean the difference between a job and a career later, but for right now, there are bills to pay.
So what can you do to make it easier?
1. Set Aside Time for Schoolwork
In college, I mostly freelanced or worked on pet-projects. However, while working full-time in payroll I enrolled in a course to become a Certified Payroll Professional. After pulling off 6 and 7 day work-weeks maxing up to 80 hours per week, it was difficult to find time to complete coursework and study for exams, but I managed.
How did I do it? I scheduled time every day to study and complete coursework. Usually I spent at least 2 to 4 hours per workday and about 6 hours on off-days, pushing through the course material. If I fell behind because of other obligations, then I made sure I tacked those hours on to other days during the week until I caught up again.
2. Know your Priorities
During college, especially when working, a lot of things will vie for your attention: schoolwork, work-work, extracurricular activities, a social life, your intimate partner, pets, and a host of other responsibilities. You must learn to prioritize these pressing demands on a daily basis, and to shift things around.
School should come first most times, and then work right afterwards, but not always. Don’t forget to pay attention to other important things in your life, or you may leave school with great qualifications, some savings, and not a social skill in sight. College is not just about learning in the classroom, but about maturing into a well-rounded adult by the time you leave.
3. Don’t Get a Job in the First Place
In college, the bills can definitely start to pile up and it might feel like you need that extra income. However, one thing you should try to remember is that it’s harder to make money than to save money, no matter how tempting purchases might seem at the time.
Double-check your budget for the month, and see if there are some frivolous expenses you can give up that would help you get by without needing a job.
4. Find a Job on Campus
No employer will better understand your needs as a student, than your college. Look for jobs around campus that could help make ends meet. This could involve helping out with janitorial work, assisting the IT team with general maintenance, or even working in the library. The possibilities are endless once you start looking.
However, you won’t be the only one with this idea so check early and keep checking back for vacancies. Student placement services on campus can also be pretty helpful with finding you a job within the school, or nearby.
5. Work as a Freelancer
Another employer guaranteed to understand the need for flexibility in your schedule is yourself. Freelancing isn’t as easy or glamorous as the media portrays it, but it’s a great way to make money on the side. If you have a special talent or skill, consider putting it to good use.
If you’re good with computers, cars, cooking, graphic design, writing, music, or any other talent people might pay you for – then freelancing is definitely an option. As a freelancer you can set your own hours, accept only as much work as you can complete, and can easily get rid of clients who have no respect for your time as a college student.
6. Work During the Summer Semester
Students often take classes during the summer semesters to finish school faster, but if you need extra money, consider working instead. Many colleges have programs that allow you to work abroad during the summer months, which provides the perfect opportunity to travel. Some colleges also provide opportunities for students to complete internships with well-known companies.
This allows you to focus on school during the rest of the year, and then work during the summer to save up enough money for the year ahead.
7. Talk to Your Manager
If you absolutely must work when school is in session, or already have a job you just can’t give up, then talk to your manager. You never know what concessions your company is willing to make on your behalf until you ask, but you shouldn’t wait until the last minute to do it.
Even if you think you don’t need any special allowances, let your manager know you’re currently in school, just in case. If you recognize a need for flexibility, let them know how much flexibility you need, and what you plan to do to ensure all their work is completed on time.
Try to make it as little of an inconvenience to them as possible, to increase the likelihood of a favorable response when you need time off.
Balancing work and school is no easy feat, and if it can be avoided, it’s better to do exactly that. For those who need that income to get by, we hope the tips above help to make the workload a little easier, while allowing you to make time for the more fun things in life.
Remember to find alternatives to everyday 9 to 5 jobs, communicate with your boss, set aside specific times to complete schoolwork on a regular basis, and know (and act on) your priorities to get the most out of your college experience.