There are many situations in life where you will need to work full time while going to college. You may have a family to support, bills to pay, and can’t give up work to go to school. Even without these responsibilities, working full time while going to school is a good way to avoid too much student loan debt.
Regardless of your reason to work full time while going to school, you’ll need to plan carefully to balance work and college time, and still have room for free time to recharge.
Make a Solid Plan
Get a planner app for your phone so your busy schedule is always with you. Set realistic goals for work, study time, and rest. Planning your down time is an absolute must, in order to recharge your mind and body.
If you have an hour for lunch, try doing some homework in the lunch room. Use travel time to read on buses or trains, or listen to recorded lectures while driving.
Communicate With Your Boss
Speak with your manager and explain that you attend college after working hours. Share your college schedule with your manager or supervisor to be sure you won’t have to stay late on those evenings when your class load is heaviest. In most cases, your boss will appreciate that you are committed to improving yourself through higher education. This could even lead to a promotion in the future.
Avoid Taking Too Many Classes
It’s not a race. If you work 40 hours a week, you will not be able to take eight classes per week and still keep your sanity at the end of the semester. Opt for 3-hour night courses which meet one evening per week. You don’t have time to attend three 1-hour sessions of the same class every week. Weekend courses are an excellent option.
Spread your course load over evenings, weekends, and summer sessions, to avoid burnout. If possible, look for a job with flexible hours, to better accommodate your class load. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many heavy classes at once. Take at least one light course, such as an elective or a physical education class, to blow off steam.
Take Online Classes
Take as many online courses as you can. Avoid wasting time and money commuting several times per week to your college campus. It’s much easier finding an online course to fit your work schedule than the other way around.
Use Your Support Network
Family and friends will help you if you ask. If you have children, divide childcare time with your partner or your parents. Even getting a ride to work or school eases the stress of driving, and you gain more down time to study. If you have a mentor*, ask for advice on how to juggle your busy life. Seeking an outside opinion is a great way to avoid burning out.
You can balance work and study if you stick to a solid plan, don’t over-extend yourself, and look to others for help carrying the burden. Take days off from work around mid-term and final exams. And most importantly, don’t forget to take time to relax. You earned it!