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Tips on How to Survive Being a Working Student

Posted on 1/26/2018 12:42:11 PM by Caitlyn Huebner

If you’re like me, or any of the other 70+ percent of college students, you know the struggle of working and being a college student. This is a secondary struggle on top of the mutual struggle we all feel about college. As someone who’s continually worked for all four years of college, I’ve experienced the class that runs late, which makes you late for work, the professor that assigns—on a night you work closing shift—a last-minute research paper due the next class, and I’ve experienced classmates and friends who don’t understand why you’re not available to hang out or work on a project during the weekend.

During these four years of being a working student, I’ve learned a few tricks to help with the schooling-working blues.

Plan ahead

This goes for making your class schedule and when it comes time to working and going to school. When making your schedule keep your job in mind. Don’t let your job dictate which classes you take, but pay attention.

Mini-tip number one: If you work shifts pay attention to which shift you’re typically scheduled to work. If you work more at night, try to take mostly morning and afternoon classes. If you work the opening shift, keep an eye out for late-afternoon and evening classes.

When the semester starts back up and you need to manage class and work, mentally and physically prep yourself for each upcoming day. If you know on Tuesday you have classes all morning and work from three to eight, think about the food you’re going to need, pack a bag with your uniform if there’s no time to run home and change, and get lots of sleep to help you survive the upcoming day.

Mini-tip number two: Make sure you eat meals throughout the day. Eating throughout the day will help keep your energy levels high and avoid that mid-day slump.  Not eating can make you weak, unfocused, and unmotivated. Not eating on a daily basis can also affect long-term health and lead to serious illness or disease. Trust me, I’ve been there. It’s not pretty. 

Likewise, if you know you are busy all day Tuesday but don’t work Monday or Wednesday, try to get a little extra school work done those days so you don’t fall behind. In my experience, professors understand up to a fine line, some more so than others. Some of my professors understood if I went to them and explained my situation as to why I need 12 more hours on an assignment whereas others didn’t hear it at all. 

Don’t spread yourself too thin

One mistake I made my first two years of college was allowing myself to work any shift I wasn’t in school. This meant that Monday thru Friday I’d be at school and go right to work, not to get home until 10 o’clock at night. Saturdays and Sundays I would work eight-hour shifts each day. BIG MISTAKE! I didn’t factor in time spent doing homework, time spent with friends, family, or even myself. I was miserable.

Mini-tip number three: It’s OK not to work every day of the week. Working this much won’t get you a raise any faster . . .

It sounds stupid but set an hour aside for yourself each day. Recently I’ve been doing this as a debrief after school/work days. You’d be surprised how much it helps re-energize after these days.

Don’t be a pushover

Maybe that’s a bit harsh of a statement, but if you’re like me and don’t want to upset anyone, you need to hear it. My first two years of college I would pick up a shift whenever someone asked me. Whether it was my boss saying someone called out and asking me if I could stay an extra shift or a co-worker asking me to pick up one of their weekend shifts, I would do it no-questions-asked. It’s OK to do this every once and a while. By always doing this you’ll be the go-to person every time someone calls out and be expected to pick up that shift regardless of prior plans or, worse yet, what your class schedule is like.

Mini-tip number four: Know your limit. Don’t overwork yourself just to make your boss and co-workers happy.

Think of the benefits

Just think, once you graduate from college you’ll already have a strong grip on financial responsibility and the transition to a full-time job will seem like a piece of cake. As someone who is currently working the gray area between part-time and full-time at a company that I hope to be hired at after graduation, the days really go by much faster. Instead of having to switch off and on different parts of your brain every few hours going from class to class or class to work, you can just have it switched on one function all day. It’s far less exhausting. Also, going from having sometimes 12-14 hour days to eight-hour days is amazing.

You’ll have money saved up for your financial responsibilities such as tuition, rent, groceries, and bills before you even enter the workforce. You’ll also be able to go on vacation, go to concerts, day-trips, and pretty much anything else without having to mooch money from your friends or parents. 

Mini-tip number five: When you’re feeling stressed out or overwhelmed between work and school, think about all of the things you can do now or in the future by already having an established checking account with paychecks getting added weekly or bi-weekly.

I haven’t yet figured out a way to not look like a zombie most days. If I figure that out before I graduate I’ll let you know. If you’ve already cracked the code, please share!