How to Balance College & Work

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Striking a balance will become a major part of your life in college, especially if you choose to work while you take classes. Taking college classes requires time for both getting to school and studying, but if you have a part-time or full-time job in addition to your studies, you may feel overwhelmed at times.

You are not alone if you choose to work while going to college. The most recent Census report on the subject showed that of undergraduate students, 72% worked. Graduate students had an even higher percentage of employment with 82% working either full or part-time. Having a strategy and a little help will go a long way toward ensuring your success both at work and school. Try these tips for how to balance work and college without giving up either.

1. Schedule Time Wisely

When you have to juggle the responsibilities of work and school, you need to go into the semester with a clear plan in your mind on how you will use your time. Use the calendar function on your phone to set alarms for when you need to study, work and take classes. Known as time-blocking, this method of planning helps you to see how much of your day you need to devote to specific tasks.

While making your schedule, do not forget to also include eating and preparing meals, leisure time, commuting and chores. When you have a clear schedule set up by time blocks, you will see that you do have enough hours in the day to get through everything.

Remember, when scheduling study time, do not underestimate how much time you will need. The general rule of thumb requires you to study for two hours a week per credit hour. For example, if you have a three-credit-hour course, you need six hours of studying per week. Add this study time to in-class time to get nine hours a week to devote to attending and studying for that class. Some classes may require more or less study time depending on how quickly you learn the material.

2. Eliminate Distractions

If you struggle to find enough time to study for your college classes while working, make sure you maximize the efficiency of your time studying. You may have too many distractions that keep you from using your time well. Silence your phone so that messages and calls don’t interrupt you while you study. If you have to power your phone off or put it in another room to remove it as a distraction, do it.

To help you to focus better, you might also use an app that blocks social media on your phone for a scheduled time each day. You may need to do the same for your computer if you use one for your coursework.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

When you are working full time in college, you may feel that you can do anything on your own. However, if you find yourself unable to fully understand the material from your college courses, you should reach out for help as soon as possible.

Most college classes build on the information you learn throughout the semester. If you don’t understand concepts from early in the course, the rest of the class will get harder since usually, concepts build upon each other. 

While getting help seems obvious, it's not always easy to ask for it — or to schedule it. If your work schedule makes creating study groups or going to office hours difficult, find an online resource for help. Internet sites, like 24HourAnswers.com, give you access to homework help from credentialed tutors, not peers. You don’t need to wait until a reasonable hour to call someone, either, because this service provides homework help and more at all hours of the day and night.

4. Consider Online Classes

While you don’t need to make your entire schedule online, choosing one or two online courses can help your schedule be more flexible. You will not have to be in class at a given time each week with online options.

The downside of taking online classes is that they require a high degree of self-motivation. If you don’t need an instructor physically in the room to encourage you to pay attention and go through the material, you could benefit from online classes.

While taking online classes allows for more flexibility with your schedule, you still need to allow yourself time to go over the online material in addition to your study time. You will eliminate commuting time for those online classes, however. Also, if you have to work late one day, you can still go through your online coursework whenever you have a free moment.

Make sure you read the syllabus carefully because some online courses may require you to visit a campus to take exams or to complete certain portions of the class by given dates.

5. Know Yourself

Are you more of a night owl or a morning person? The answer can help you when planning your study and work schedule. If you feel exhausted when you get home from work or classes, you may not do well studying late into the night. Some people feel most productive in the morning, while others feel awake in the early evening.

Identify when you feel most mentally awake to schedule your study time. When your mind is in prime condition to read through material and process it, your study sessions become more productive.

For times when you feel less mentally agile, schedule leisure time or household chores. These tasks do not require as much brainpower as studying.

6. Keep Balance in Other Parts of Your Life

When balancing work and college, you need to look at other parts of your life. If you devote your entire existence to school and work, you will burn out. Make sure you seek ways to take care of your physical, mental and spiritual health.

While attending to these areas looks different for everyone, find ways that work best for you. Your schedule might include time at the gym, dinner out with friends, therapist appointments or volunteer work. You don’t have to be religious to be spiritual. Instead, find things that bring you personal peace to prevent burnout.

Part of balance means not giving up these personal activities to get more study or work time. Don’t stay up all night to cram for an exam. If you have made your study sessions as effective as possible, you should not need an all-nighter. Getting enough sleep is critical to keeping your mental and physical health at their best. Do not sacrifice sleep when you are working and taking classes. You will end up hurting yourself by becoming too tired to be productive for either.

7. Love What You Study

Another way to avoid burnout is by enjoying what you do. Choose classes that interest you. When you have a love for what you learn, studying becomes more enjoyable and less of a chore.

While some degrees may require you to take less interesting classes, keep your goals in mind. When you see how even less-fun courses fit into your overall education plan, you can approach them with a more open mind and willingness to study.

8. Work With Your Boss

Let your boss know about your education. If you have a work schedule that changes, your boss needs to know that you cannot work while you should be in class. Give your supervisor your class schedule at the beginning of the semester. The more notice your workplace has about your scheduling needs, the more accommodating those in charge of making the schedule are likely to be.

Even as you ask for understanding about scheduling around your college classes, you should also let your work supervisor know that you will not sacrifice work for school. Try not to take days off from work to study, and do not arrive late or leave early for the same reason. You should have your study time scheduled with enough time around it to allow you to get to work.

9. Break up Large Projects

In both work and school life, you will encounter large projects. In either instance, break up the task into smaller, more manageable chunks. With each step you complete, you will move closer to finishing the larger project.

For example, instead of just putting on your calendar to complete your term paper, set deadlines for smaller parts of the task. Set aside deadlines for a paper for researching, outlining the paper, identifying the thesis, writing the introduction, finishing paragraphs or sections of the paper and proofreading your work. Marking off each of these tasks will help you to see how much closer you are getting to your paper’s completion.

For projects at work, see if your boss will allow you to collaborate with your coworkers and assign tasks to each person that best suits their skills. As with school projects, you will also want to set smaller goals for your work projects.

At the end of the day, whether you're working on a project for work or school, try not to stay late if it's going to mean you have to sacrifice time from another commitment. Use your time more wisely while you work. Reduce distractions to keep yourself from working overtime and cutting into your time for other things.

10. Don’t Procrastinate

Many college courses require self-pacing for projects or homework. You may have a single paper due during the term, and how you spend your time on it is up to you. Alternatively, many online courses let you work at your own pace as long as you finish the material by the end of the semester.

In these types of situations, do not procrastinate. Just as you do for projects, do a little work toward your studies daily. Do not leave reading or schoolwork until the last minute. You will take too much time finishing the assignments before the deadline and cut into your work or leisure time.

11. Create Connections at Work, School and Home

Another tip for how to balance school and work is building a network of people who can help you. Create connections with both your coworkers and fellow students. Having good relationships at work makes it easier for you to ask for professional help on a project or other tasks.

You should also build connections with your fellow students. When you know those taking your classes, you can help each other with assignments or missed notes in case of an absence. Also, you might form study groups to keep each other motivated to study.

If you have people at home who can help you, do not be afraid to ask for assistance. For example, if you come home late and need to study and do the dishes, ask your roommate or spouse to lend a hand while you study.

As with all relationships, prepare yourself to reciprocate the aid. Help your coworkers, classmates or roommates if they ask.

12. Learn to Say No

When working in college, you will have many obligations and several optional tasks. Learn to not take on too much work. For some people, this tip is easier to do than for others.

If someone asks you to take on additional tasks at work or school that you do not need to do, just say no. You do not need to give a reason for your refusal. Trying to do everything will lead to burnout and a loss of productivity both at work and school.

You may need some time to learn how much work is too much for you. If you have a part-time job, consider starting with as few hours as possible when you go back to school. Over time, as you learn to balance college and work, you can increase your hours.

If you have a full-time job, consider starting with the minimum number of credit hours and working up to more classes in subsequent semesters. While this option may not work for everyone, starting slow and saying no to extra work can help you to ease into the transition of balancing college and work.

Know Where to Turn for a Little Extra Help

You have resources to help you with juggling work and college. Among these is 24HourAnswers. We offer practice through a homework libraryonline tutoring with professionals and online homework help. You don't have to subscribe to get these services. You only pay through a secure server for what you use.

When your schedule is uncertain from college studies and working, we’re here to help you improve your academic work. Start now by uploading a homework problem or contacting a tutor. Whether you need last-minute assistance before an exam or need help throughout the semester, we're here to give you the extra help you need for success in college — whether or not you work, too.

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