Balancing School and Work IS a Full-time Job

In general, being a college student is hard. But being a college student with a job? That’s even harder. How about, being a college student with a job, a family to take care of, and bills to pay? Talk about overload. The truth is, many college students don’t just work to work. We work because we need the money to support ourselves, and we go to school for the same reason as everyone else: for a better chance in the job industry, to follow our dreams, to get a higher pay. Whatever the reason, balancing everything at once is harder than most people think.

Let’s start off with this question: Why do we work and go to school at the same time? Why do we do it in the first place?

As mentioned before, money doesn’t just fall from trees. People want to achieve their dreams by going to college, and we need money to survive in the meantime. Money is not always handed to us. Many students live paycheck-to-paycheck because we sometimes have no choice. We work to pay for books, which can add up to hundreds of dollars every semester! We work to pay for our bills, whether it be our rent/mortgage, loans, transportation (car registration and maintenance, gas expenses, insurance). Some of us need to work to support any dependents of ours (whether it be kids or pets). And of course, we work for food! Some of us buy groceries to make home-cooked meals, others buy lunch at school, and let's be real some of us absolutely need coffee in our lives just to get through the day!

Next question: How many hours a week do we put in all together with work and school combined?

The answer is again, more than you think! Let’s say a student has a part-time job and is also a full-time student. He/she works 20 hours a week plus spends 12 hours a week in class for four classes. That’s already 32 hours a week! Not including any time spent studying in school or at home, homework/assignments, and extra-curricular activities. If we were to add all of that in, that’s 40 hours or more per week! The hours eventually become never-ending.

Okay, so let’s say it’s the other way around, and a student has a full-time job and is also a part-time student. Let’s say he/she works 30-40 hours per week, plus spends a total of 5 hours per week in school for two classes. That’s already 35-45 hours a week! Again, that’s not including everything else like studying or extracurriculars.

Now here’s the real question: What can we do to cope with balancing school and work?

All I have to say is if you are one of the many students balancing work and school at this very moment, then you deserve huge props! Balancing work or school itself with other parts of our lives is one thing, but doing both is another. With that being said, here are some useful tips for balancing work and school.

Create a schedule on your calendar of things you need to accomplish

Whether it be a physical calendar, a planner, or reminders on your phone or laptop, try to write everything down. Write what needs to get done for each day of the month, or try to take note of your deadlines at least two weeks in advance. To add on, I find that setting reminders on my phone is actually really useful. If you have an iPhone, you can set reminders that will notify you about your deadlines. You can set specific times and dates, and you can even set daily reminders if you have something that you need to do every day! Make it a habit. According to the Huffington Post, it is proven that writing things down makes you 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams. So write those goals down girl. 

Try to create a regular sleep schedule for yourself

This may sound impossible for those of you who have loads of homework or for those who don’t have a set work schedule, but try your best! Having a regular sleep schedule is proven to boost your energy, intelligence, and overall health! So, if you do have tons of homework, get it done before your set sleep time. Try to work on bits and pieces of your assignments every day before it’s due date so that you are not overwhelmed with stress! Taking little naps on your free time is also beneficial for you. The National Sleep Foundation states that naps that last around 20-30 minutes are proven to boost your mood, alertness, and performance. If you nap any longer than that, its no longer really a nap and it is said that you’ll only become sleepier. If you have insomnia or have a hard time sleeping in general, try listening to sleep music before bed.

As for creating a set sleeping schedule, create a set waking schedule

Your sleep schedule should directly correlate with the time you wake up. So maybe you go to sleep at 9 pm every night, and wake up at 6 am every morning. Maybe you need to sleep at 8 pm some nights and wake up at 4 am sometimes. That’s totally fine. Try to sleep at least 8 hours every night. Also, it’s okay to sleep in every once in a while because let’s admit it—sometimes we need it.

Budget, budget, budget

As hard as it is, we need to create a budget for ourselves. As I mentioned earlier, unfortunately, we don’t get money handed to us and some of us live paycheck-to-paycheck. In this case, we need to create a strict budget for ourselves. Calculate how much you make per paycheck, and calculate how much money you need for daily necessities. For example, a student may need $40 a week for food and $10 a week for gas expenses. Write it down somewhere. Set aside a total amount of how much you would like to save or deposit into your savings account for every paycheck. Of course, there will often be things that will set you back financially like: you get a flat tire, your due for an oil change, your kid needs diapers, or your dog ends up having a large vet bill. Now, these are things that we have no real control over, and that is why it is important to at least put a little money aside for every paycheck you get.

As grown college women, we have more necessities than meets the eye. Sometimes we need to buy a refill of our daily lipstick, foundation, or moisturizer. Maybe we need a new dress for a special occasion. Maybe we have to pay for our monthly Netflix, Apple Music, or Spotify subscription. If this is the case, make sure you have enough money set aside for this! There are times when we do have to give up some of these things because it may not fit into our budget financially. It’s up to you to decide what you need and what you don’t need for the time being.

If your problem ends up being something like: you go out for drinks with friends and turns out, you spent more than you intended to—I’m sorry girl, that’s all on you. Before you go anywhere, think about how much money you have and how much you want to spend on leisurely things. Think about things like: how much money will I spend on gas? How much does it cost for dinner? How much will it cost for drinks?

So, always be prepared and think before you act.

Maintain healthy friendships and relationships

Now I know you may be thinking, how does this even relate to balancing work and school? Well, having a good support system can always help give you that extra push that we sometimes need to motivate ourselves. Balancing work and school is hard enough, and we become so busy trying to get through the day at work and complete all of our assignments, that we sometimes forget about our relationships. Go out sometimes and let loose, because girl, you need it and you deserve it. It may seem hard to find time for this, but take whatever chance you can, as long as you take care of whatever you need to do beforehand. We need to remember that although we have goals, life is more than just work and school.

Lastly, remember why you’re doing this—keep your eye on the prize

Never forget why you decided to go to school and attend college in the first place. Keep in mind that, you've been through a lot. We've all put in work to get into college and to maintain our grades. We’ve all struggled through late nights studying, waking up early enough to attend our first class of the day, creating connections for academic references, trying to maintain our GPA, attending all of our extra-curricular meetings and more. Please, please, please—do not let all of your hard work go down the drain.

It’s okay to realize that you took on more than you can handle. In fact, it happens more often than you think. Realize that it’s okay to take some weight off of your shoulders by making sacrifices. You can become a part-time student instead of a full-time student, just to take a break from the stress for a while. Who cares if it takes you a little longer to graduate than your peers! Try not to focus on what others are doing, and focus on yourself. We all work towards our goals at different paces, especially because of our diverse circumstances! Remember, Slow progress is still progress!