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Studying at university is already pretty bloody hard, but with rising rents and high tuitions us students sometimes don’t have much choice but to pile on more work with a job (yay). It’s not all bad though. Having a job in university has quite a few advantages: more skills, better discipline, people management and money management. Working in college might be your very first encounter with a paycheck and with your own money, so you want to make sure you know what to do with it: pay off debt, start a side hustle, start investing, etc.
It’s great to have a job, but balancing it with your studies can be tedious. Hence this blog post on finding the harmony on both sides.
Choose a job that works round your schedule
Remember that the priority are your studies, not the work. Find a job that is flexible, that you don’t hate and that won’t completely exhaust you (it’s not that impossible). This is why working online is a really great job for college students (freelancing, virtual assistanting, teaching, etc). At the age of 16 I was teaching Spanish and English to grown adults and was writing short stories on the Minecraft world (very proud of those). On sites like Upwork and Fiverr you can really find anything.
If you’re doing a more traditional job, make sure your employer knows that you’re a student, and that you can’t always be doing extra shifts.
Plan the hours
How many hours are you willing to work? And how many hours do you think you need to study? Use a calendar like Google Calendar, aka my savior, and patch in all your lectures and work hours. See if the job doesn’t take up too much time and make sure you have free time for extra study, exercise, relaxing, etc.
I really love the method I’m using (thanks College Info Geek) where my timetable looks like this (from a few weeks ago):
The grey is for classes, the yellow is socialising/errands and the blue is work. I obviously don’t track everything to the minute and I don’t record every time I go out, do exercise and the rest. But it gives me a good view of what my week will look like and when I will have the extra time.
And remember to not be ashamed to turn down or resign from a job if you feel it won’t work with your studies. If not, you won’t enjoy the job, it’ll feel like too much work and will just add to the stress. I had the stressful job of being a waitress, and hated it so much that I just wouldn’t make an effort anymore. Result? Got fired. And ended up being very glad about it. We’re college students, it doesn’t matter if you get fired at a low-income job like waitressing, fast food service, etc. There’s always another job.
Improve your study skills
Easy to say, huh? Improving your study skills will allow you to study more efficiently and productively, since you will have less time to be lazy because of work. No more procrastinating, doing things the last minute and feeling stressed for exams. If you want to balance your life well, you need to learn how to discipline your studying and make the most of the spare time you have. It’s not easy, but it’s a skill! And that means that the more you do it the better you get at it.
Start with writing down all the things you wish you were better at within the realm of studying (time management, essay writing, etc). Then, find a solution for each one. Do you need to find a better essay structure? Do you want to be better at memorising? Are you lacking motivation? The internet has infinite resources on helping you achieve better grades.
Personally, Cal Newport’s book on ‘How to Become a Straight-A Student’ was what really boosted my grades. I also used to be very connected to the studyblr Tumblr community, where people post pretty pictures of them studying and also a ton of helpful advice for all kinds of study related topics. College Info Geek is my constant go-to as well as other college blogs such as Chloe Burroughs. And Pinterest has some cool College boards.
I believe that a ‘how to study and think’ should be a subject taught at school, simply because it’s something we really have to learn ourselves in order to succeed at school. But since there is none of that for the moment, all you can do is find as many resources as you can and keep improving your study skills. It also helps to choose a degree you enjoy, not only to make the whole process less tedious, but to increase your overall happiness (because why not?) Oh and be grateful you’re not in high school anymore.
Force yourself to socialise/have some down time
Between uni and work, it’s very easy to not make time to see friends or relax. Make a note to add in ‘fun time’ in your week, even during finals. Fun time is your time to recharge, to relax, to enjoy the company of other people and to disconnect for a while. Bonus points if it’s healthy. Forcing yourself to just chill for a bit will help you recharge your batteries and enjoy life a bit more.
I try to do some kind of traveling every 3 weeks (hopefully to be every 2 weeks). Traveling is my best way to disconnect and really enjoy myself. Flights are so cheap that a weekend trip to the next country over is just what I need before exams (yes I do this). And if not, I try to do some hiking in my own country, or explore the city. Write down a list of what you like to do to relax, and add it into your timetable. Those hours will give you the most motivation to get back to studying and work.
If you keep finishing your day exhausted and unmotivated, you know there’s something wrong. It could be your degree or it could be your job, but either way try to make a change. University is an experience you want to cherish and enjoy, where you get to meet people and explore crazy opportunities. You really don’t want to get stuck in the studying/working cycle, so it’s important to check in with yourself every so often. And as you get better at the balance, you’ll be even more prepared for when you graduate and are thrown into the real world. And that’s a skill that will get you ahead in the working environment.