You’re most likely reading this because you have found yourself in a situation where you have to figure out how to manage to go to school while having a job at the same time. You’re probably stressed about it. Don’t worry. I’ve been doing this for years now.
As a freshman in college, you have a lot on your plate. You just made a huge transition in your life; you’ve made an entirely new group of friends, become more independent, and most importantly, began the process of earning your degree. You may have to start working while you’re at school, and you’re reasonably stressed about it. I’m also having to deal with this. The key is to figure out the best way to balance your education and your job.
Keep track of your schedule
This is what keeps your life in balance and in check. Scheduling, while a bit meticulous at times, seriously helps plan your day, week, month, or even year, out.
Download a scheduling app, write down assignments and due dates on your notes app, buy a planner or calendar from your local Walmart or Target, or even write important things on your arm. Figure out which way works best for you and run with it.
Some great scheduling apps include:
- Pocket Schedule Planner (one I personally use)
- Google Calendar (likely already installed on your phone)
- To Do List
- Shift Days – Work Tracker
Set a (healthy) routine
After a few weeks, you’re bound to have some sort of routine set. Despite this, this routine may not be healthy for your physical or mental being. The routine you naturally become accustomed to may not set enough time aside for meals, social interactions, or sleep. Not taking time out of your day to eat a healthy, filling meal or time to converse with your friends could take a toll on your mental well-being. School/work balance calls for the inclusion of your well-being.
While scheduling your week, try to include at least 30 minutes of time to eat every few hours in order to keep your body fed, or at least keep a note that reminds you to eat when you’re hungry — you’re going to feel more exhausted if your body doesn’t have nutrients in it. I’m not a dietitian, but please just eat something if you’re feeling hungry! Having a small supply of snacks in your backpack is extremely convenient — pack a bag of chips or Pop-Tarts and eat them during or in-between classes, or whenever you have a few minutes available.
Plan your schedule ahead of time
School/work balance requires an actual, physical balance between the two — an equilibrium, per se. If you’re able to, schedule your classes in a way that doesn’t interfere with your work or social schedule. For example, if you know that you’re most likely going to work during the evening, schedule morning classes — the earliest classes you can find that you are able to attend. This way, you’re going to attend class in the morning and work at night, also providing a slot that can be used for whatever you need.
If you know you’re most likely going to work in the morning, plan your class schedule so that it doesn’t interfere with your job, and if you can, try to make space in between work and school. While this means that you’re going to get out of class a bit later than you’d like, it’s nice to have time in between so that you don’t have to rush to get to class. This time can be used to do homework, hang out with a friend, eat, or even just take your time to get to class.
The Reminders app is your best friend
We tend to use our phones an unhealthy amount of time throughout the day. The Reminders app stops us in our tracks and reminds us that we have an essay or article due in a few hours. You set the time the assignment is due and input the time you would prefer to be reminded, and the rest is done by the app.
There are times when I’ll be casually scrolling through Twitter and be reminded of a research assignment I have due in a week or so– this prompts me to begin working on the assignment. The thing that makes the Reminders app so helpful is that it’s implemented into a device that we use all of the time — a device that is a key component to our distraction or procrastination. It basically hijacks your distraction and reminds you that, “Hey! You have an assignment due! Please work on it!”
Use any spare time to your advantage
If you find yourself with a few free minutes, use this time to look at your planner/schedule and figure out what you’re going to do next, or fix some things if you need to. You can also use this time to check in on your health; eat a snack, FaceTime your friend, drink some water, check Canvas, or maybe even take a nap if you feel like it.
This is another thing — I personally like taking little naps throughout the day. It’s not for everyone, but I feel especially refreshed after taking a 20-minute nap right before work. If you’re able to fit one into your schedule, try taking a nap.
Remember that you’re doing your best
It’s going to take some time to get used to your school/work schedule, but it’ll be worth it once you do get used to it. Scheduling and planning will become second nature after doing it for a while.
We all need to be reminded that what we’re doing is difficult: trying to balance school and work is an incredibly challenging and exhausting thing to do. No matter what you decide to do and no matter how you do it, you’re doing great. You’re an extremely hard worker, and the fact that you’ve decided to work while attending school at the same time is something to look up to.
No matter what happens, just remember that you’re putting the work in and you will get rewarded for it. It may not happen today or tomorrow, but it’ll happen.