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Balancing Work and College

Female student working in a college library

In an ideal world, balancing work and school wouldn’t be a necessity for any college student. But the fact is, the average student needs money to afford food, rent, cell phone bills, fun and other financial responsibilities. Working students are the norm now, and juggling it all—studying for exams, writing papers and being alert and energetic at a job—can wear you down if you let it. Here are some tips to help you with balancing work and school:

  • Keep it real. Early on, take a realistic look at all the tasks you have in your school life, and then choose a job that is a good fit. Remember that your education is more important, even though working offers you invaluable experience. Are all your classes in the morning? Choose an evening job. Are some in the morning, and some in the evening? Look for a job with a flexible schedule.
  • Be organized. On the first day of each of your classes, you should receive a schedule of assignments and exams. Mark those dates on your calendar so you know in advance when you’ll need time to do research, when to study, etc. If you have a phone with a calendar, set it to alert you a week or two ahead of tests and papers.
  • Work on your own time. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, think of ways to earn money with your talent and skills. Are you a whiz with a set of clippers? Charge students for haircuts. You could also tutor, give music lessons or give manicures. As long as it’s legal, go for it!
  • Find a gig on campus. It’s a convenient way to make money. More than likely, you will be able to walk to work from class or the dorm (if you live on campus). Talk to your financial aid office about work-study jobs offered to students in financial need.
  • Communicate. Share your school workload with your employer so they aren’t left hanging when you need to study for a mid-term. Bosses tend to be lenient with working students. If necessary, tell your instructors and classmates about your work responsibilities, but don't expect to get out of school assignments or miss school because you are working.
  • Manage your stress. Working and going to school is challenging, but don’t let your life be all about work. Find healthy ways to relieve your stress each week, such as running, walking or playing sports. Pop in a yoga DVD or go to the on-campus gym when you have a free hour. Spend time with friends and laugh away the stress.
  • Be flexible. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments if it gets to be too much. That may mean quitting a job and finding another, working a different shift or taking a class at another time if it’s offered.

Balancing work and college can be done. Just remember to plan well and stay focused.

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