Alone, being a college student is a daunting task. Many students, especially those in demanding majors such as engineering or nursing, have long days packed with labs, homework, studying, and reading. Despite this, some students still decide to pick up a job, whether it is an on-campus work-study job, or something separate from the university. I myself am a student and a member of the work force. I was curious to see other student’s feelings regarding how they balance school and work. The reactions were somewhat mixed and varied based upon the following criteria.
Depending on your major, you might have classes, or labs, that take up 3-4 hours of time one or two days a week. Sometimes, these classes can be late at night, or early in the morning. Other student’s schedules might require more time outside of class devoted to studying or doing work, while others may have free time to fill. It is important to evaluate your own personal schedule before deciding if a job fits into your current routine. If you have time in-between classes, an on-campus job may be suitable, or free blocks of time after your classes may permit you to work off campus. It is necessary to account for travel time from school to work and back again. Leave a time buffer as travel delays will inevitably occur and it is important you do not find yourself running late from one commitment to the next. Schedules also vary from semester to semester, so one semester you may have more free time due to lighter classes, but the next semester, harder, upper-level courses may take up this time.
Work-study/on-campus vs. off-campus
A lot of work-study jobs allow students to do homework while on the clock, especially if they’re working some sort of front desk job, or if they have finished their responsibilities early. On-campus employers usually understand that their employees are students that are already taking classes. These employers are often more compassionate toward the student’s want and need to study. Off-campus employers may not be as understanding. These jobs can include long or odd hours, especially because students normally cannot work during normal business hours. This could mean both less time for studying and less time for sleep, both of which are important. In my survey, it seemed the majority of on-campus/work-study students were happy with their jobs and reported that they were able to basically do homework and get paid for it, while students with jobs off-campus struggled more with time management and school-work-life balance. Some students said that they even enjoyed their job because it forced them to focus on schoolwork because they were allowed to study on the job. So, it really depends on the type of job as well.
There’s a big difference between working 5 hours a week and 30 hours a week. There’s also a difference between working only on weekdays and working on the weekends. Students that work on-campus, likely only work during the workweek, when classes are running and other normal weekday events are occurring. However, some students might work the bulk of their hours on the weekend (including Friday), which is when most social events, and a lot of make-up work, takes place. Most students work between 5-20 hours a week, and find it manageable. Anything above, say, 25-30 hours, and you’re getting into deep water.
Number of jobs
Even a single job can seem daunting, but some students are able to hold multiple jobs. Maybe it’s an on-campus job during the week and then an off-campus job on the weekends. Maybe it’s a normal part-time job, and then something like tutoring or babysitting on the side. Maybe it’s freelancing on top of something else. Whatever it is, one thing is obvious – with each job you have, the harder it becomes to balance everything. I know we all want to make as much money as possible, but it is important to be on realistic terms with yourself. How much can you actually handle?
Someone heavily involved in clubs or sports will have trouble adding in a job on top of these commitments. Student athletes especially may be unable to make a time commitment to a job. Take a look at what your priorities are—make a list. See if the priorities you have are just as important, or more important, than having a job. Maybe you can drop that underwater basket-weaving club that’s every day at 5 pm to start working at the campus sandwich shop, where you’ll also get a 95% discount on sandwiches. There you go: now you have a job, and almost-free food!
How to do it:
It makes sense, right? You need to manage your time well, or else everything is going to fall apart. You’ll be late to work, or you’ll miss essay deadlines and exams. If you spend all of your off time watching Netflix or fooling around on Facebook, then you’re not going to be successful at your job or at school.
If the job you have is relevant to your major, or you just really like it, then it’s important to spend time developing yourself professionally. But if you have two exams and an essay due one week, then maybe try to cut back on your hours working, or say no to seeing a movie with your friends. If you have a job, you are probably going to have to say no to a lot of social events. But while your friends spend cash, you will be making money and gaining work experience.
Make sure you have time to make yourself proper meals, sleep, and exercise. I know—three things that college students usually aren’t associated with. But it’s a lot easier to manage a busy schedule when you’re not running on two hours of sleep and five cups of coffee. Sleep is important, and if your job and schoolwork are impeding on your sleep time, then make some changes. If you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll end up wearing down your body and being unable to do anything. Don’t let yourself burn out.
Find time for yourself
Even if it’s just taking a half hour to go for a run outside in the fresh air, or watching your favorite TV show over your lunch break, make sure you’re including things that give you enjoyment during the day. If your schedule is filled only with obligations, and not with pleasurable activities, then you are going to end up sad and, again, burnt out.
When you have a job, you have less time for schoolwork, and time management becomes very important. There is also less time for sleep and other activities. It’s hard, if not impossible, to equally balance school, a job, and a social life.
It’s easier to just focus on studying and schoolwork, and it would be nice if most people could do just that. But those not being supported by parents or scholarships or some other external source of money need a job to support themselves through college. The reality is that a lot of students need to work (or even hold multiple jobs) to make it through college, and though it may not be fair or exactly conducive to being the perfect student, it can be done.
Most of the students who responded saying that they had jobs were at least sophomores, if not juniors or seniors. The minority was freshman. So, maybe if you’re thinking about getting a job, wait until after your freshman year. Give yourself time to acclimate to being away from home in new environment, and the workload of being a college student. Then, once you’ve mastered that, find a job that still allows you time to study (and hopefully have a life, too).
However, the final point to take is that working and going to school is difficult, no matter what job it is that you take. You will have less time for other things, but for some, it’s not a choice. It is something that is obligatory if they want to pay rent, bills and tuition. The difficult choice to work is made for them.