Factors to Consider When Balancing Work and School

Being a full-time university student is far from easy—in many respects, it’s like having a full-time job with a hefty task pile and regular deadlines. When not attending class, you’ll be reading tons of assigned materials, conducting research, writing papers, preparing for group presentations, organizing projects and studying for midterms. Here’s a common dilemma many students face: is it realistic to juggle a part-time job with a full course load? You should weigh the following factors before making this important decision.

How intensive is your course load?

University courses demand varying amounts of time and energy, depending on the program. While some courses only require you to attend class, pay attention and write the occasional test, other courses dole out new assignments week after week. Moreover, you may think you’ve got a good handle on how much free time you have in a given semester, only to see your course load increase dramatically in the next semester. When you start to feel overwhelmed by heavy course requirements, you may start to regret the 20 hours a week you promised your boss. University-level projects, tests and assignments often require your full attention if you want to receive decent grades.

How demanding is your job?

It’s really important to figure out precisely how much mental and physical energy your job will require. After a weekend of long, tiring shifts, will you have enough energy to tackle your course work without falling asleep on your textbook? It’s also important to pin down how flexible your employer can be when it comes to adjusting your weekly schedule and number of hours—in the week leading up to a midterm or final exam, for example, you may need to take a couple of days off to allow for extra study time. It’s absolutely essential that you discuss the possibility of rescheduling shifts with your boss well in advance. It also helps to have a friend at work who can cover for you if an unexpected time crunch at school requires you to drop everything else in order to meet a deadline or prep for a test.

What is your transportation situation?

If it takes you all morning to get to work via bus and just as long to get home, this will eat up valuable time that could be spent studying or completing assignments. Besides calculating the travel time between home and work, you must also take travel time between school and work into account, since this journey may also become part of your daily routine. If possible, bring your course materials with you so that you can be productive on the road.

Balancing work and school can pose serious physical and psychological challenges, so try to keep your stress level to a minimum. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, a healthy diet and scheduled intervals of downtime can all help combat stress and anxiety. Keep your priorities straight—school should always come first, but don’t quit your job unless you feel you absolutely have to. And whatever you do, don’t work yourself to death! Listen to your gut and take on only what you think you can handle, so that your pursuit of post-secondary education remains a positive and fulfilling experience.

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