Working and going to school at the same time is becoming more common. According to a study from Georgetown University's Center on Education, over the course of the last quarter century, more than 70 percent of college students have worked while studying.
While it can certainly be beneficial in the long run, the reality is that working while in school is not easy. The good news is with the right balance, you can do it. Here are three great ways to make sure you're juggling act doesn't fall flat:
- Prioritize your responsibilities and communicate with professors and employers
- Create an organized schedule
- Save some time for your social life
Why Some Students Are Choosing to Work While in School
The Georgetown study points out several reasons for their findings, including the rising cost of college, wanting to add work experience to their resume and increased living expenses.
"The reason I decided to work while in school is simply because textbooks, gas, toiletries, car payments and food really add up," says Rosa Elera, a 21-year-old full-time journalism student at Miami Dade College entering her junior year. She's also a part-time server for a local food truck company. "I learned the hard way that the only way I'd be able to sustain it all was by getting a job."
As if working part-time and going to school full-time weren't enough, Elera also chose to take a marketing internship for a local online magazine. "I wanted to learn about online publishing, photography and social media," she says. "I knew an internship would give me those necessary skills so I can get a job with a fashion magazine after I graduate."
Despite Elera's packed schedule, she manages it all by focusing on a few key factors.
1. Figure Out Your Priorities
Elera said that the only way she is able to manage a full course load, a part-time job, an internship and a social life is by getting clear about her priorities and communicating them effectively. It's key to her ability to balance everything.
"I once had to tell my boss I had to temporarily cut my hours so I could focus on school and my internship," she says. "I knew they had to take priority."
Elera had discussed her studies and their importance with her employer when she took the job and so, she says, "they were very flexible and understanding."
In addition, Elera makes sure to discuss her work situation with her professors at the beginning of each semester. She'll ask her professor if there are any days she can miss or if it's possible to send in assignments via e-mail in case she's needed at work.
2. Get Organized with Your Time
Once you've identified your priorities, you need to get organized with your time. Elera does this by making sure not to overload herself and adding time buffers to her schedule.
"I didn't manage my time correctly my first semester," says Elera. "I once arrived late to an exam because I'd overslept due to working late at a retail store the night before. My professor wouldn't let me take the exam so I failed."
Elera left that job and found something that would work better with her class schedule. Now she works in the afternoons (no more late nights and sleepy mornings) and makes sure to pick morning or evening classes, always scheduling enough time in between to get to and from different locations.
3. Put Social Events on the Calendar Too
So how can a busy student also manage their social life? After all, that's an important part of the college experience. Elera and her friends actually schedule social time together. Since most of them are working and going to school simultaneously, they try to plan ahead. And because she and many of her friends live off campus, socializing can be more challenging than it is for other students living on campus.
"It's not as easy to get together when everyone lives at home in different parts of the city," Elera says. "If we were living on or near campus it would be easier to go out on a whim every once in a while or at least see each other more."
Despite the added logistical difficulty, Elera and her friends get together about once a week, and they'll make an extra effort for birthdays and special occasions. Nevertheless, sometimes social outings get put on the back-burner while Elera focuses on her studies.
"I'm okay with making some sacrifices now so that I can see results later on," she says.