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Finding Balance When Working While In College

Posted by Molly Atherton, Dean of Students Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015

A chalkboard with the word "Burnout" crossed out and instead a hand is gesturing the another word "balance"There’s only so much time in a day. So how do you maintain a comfortable balance between your work obligations and school obligations? Throw family into the mix and things get even more complicated.

We’re here to tell you that working while in college is possible. You just need to be willing to rely on the resources that are out there and put into practice a few tricks that will help you manage your time.

The following secrets were created with busy bees like you in mind. Follow these techniques and you may even think about adding a few more credit hours to your workload next semester. Maybe.

1. Enlist School Resources

Most schools have resources available for students who are having trouble balancing work with class.

At Nebraska Methodist College, for example, academic assistance like tutoring, test prep and supplemental instruction are only the tip of the iceberg. We also offer advising sessions that cover a wide range of topics, plus counseling from professionals who are willing to help you with whatever is troubling you.

No matter where you attend college, know that there should be helping hands there when you need them. It’s just up to you to reach out.

2. Get Creative With Your Blocks of Time…

You probably have periods of time in your day that you’ve yet to optimize. Why not put them to good use?

Do you have a commute to work or school? Record your classes and play back the notes while you’re on your drive. 15-minute break from your regular job? Bring your notes with you to study during your downtime. You can carve out little niches during the day that will help you get back the time you need to excel in class.

If you have time between classes, stay on campus and study.  You can get so much done when you bring a lunch and buckle down rather than drive home to eat. 

3. …But Not Overly Creative

On the other hand, don’t become so consumed by studying that you lose track of the rest of your life. The previous advice works both ways. If you’ve been studying for three hours, give yourself a break and DON’T turn your commute or your break from work into just another study session.

“You” time can be just as important as study time, and there are moments when you must be willing to step away from both work and school to take the opportunity to do something only for you, free of other obligations. Your sanity will thank you.

4. Get a Calendar. Fill In The Calendar

Creating a schedule can go a long way toward helping you stick to a schedule. The work-school balance doesn’t seem so daunting when you’re able to block out those moments where you’re in class, studying or working.

What’s great is this allows you to see those opportunities where you’re free from all of those things. It becomes easier to do things you love when you put them down on paper. We all tend to put off things we like to do when things we need to do get in the way.

If you want to exercise for an hour, find blocks of time in your week where you can do so and then write them down. If you want to binge-watch that new television series you’ve been putting off, SCHEDULE it. You won’t feel guilty about the things you love because you know you’ve allotted a specific time and place for those activities.

5. Reward Yourself

This is similar to a previous point, but it bears repeating that you should be willing to give yourself a proverbial pat on the back. If you studied your heart out and passed a test with flying colors, take the whole next day to unwind. Go out with friends, eat a giant slab of cake, do whatever it is that makes you feel good.

You don’t always have to be looking to the next obstacle. When you’ve summited a hill, find the time to take in the scenery. There’s no reason not to enjoy yourself.

6. Don’t Take An Unbearable Schedule

Some people become so intensely focused on graduating as quickly as possible that they take too many classes and end up burning out. Don’t become one of those people.

When you’ve created a schedule, this becomes easier to manage. Figure out exactly how much time you have in a week for class and set your course load accordingly. There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, but you have to be realistic too. Really, what’s one more semester in the grand scheme of things?

7. Speak With Your Employer

You might be surprised by the flexibility of your current job. Many businesses in and around colleges are clearly going to be staffed by college students, and as such, management at those places should understand that their workers have school obligations. Just be upfront about it.

There may also be instances where your employer will figure that you attaining your degree is in their best interest as well. Some companies are even willing to help you pay for school. Look into the types of education benefits offered at your job.

And that does it! Hopefully you’ve found these points useful. If you’re still on the fence about returning to school, then be sure to download our 11-Step Guide to Going Back to College, which talks about the specific process you’ll need once you’ve made your decision. Enjoy!

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Topics: student life, campus life, transfer students