Working while you study

How to strike a balance between work and study.

Written by Kent Schietinger


For many young people, attending school is a full-time job. For others, financial or other commitments may require part-time work along with study. Research shows that students who work are more confident and have better time-management skills than those who are not employed. Experts say that work teaches students to be responsible and sometimes even reinforces what they are learning in their courses at school.
The challenge, however, is managing the commitments of both employment and academics. Students who work more than 15 to 20 hours a week may experience less success in school. Working long hours can also mean that friendships suffer, as well as opportunities for interests and recreation.

If you are thinking about combining work and study, there are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Am I flexible and willing to cut back on some things I like to do outside of work or study?
  • Do I manage my time well? Do I use time waiting in a doctor’s office or on line to complete tasks?
  • Can I fit in work, maintain good grades, get enough sleep and be happy?
  • Is the job I am considering flexible and willing to accommodate study and exam schedules? How irreplaceable will I be to my employer?

The most important issue for you to think about is how you will be able to balance your responsibilities and still make time for the things and the people you enjoy. Your first consideration, even before you pursue employment, should be how much time you are able to work. You need to ensure that you are able to balance the dual commitment of study and work. Once you have made your decision to work and attend classes, there are some key tips to ensure success. First, the best way to achieve balance is to be focused about organising your time so that you can meet all of your obligations and still have some opportunities to enjoy yourself.

Toward that end, try these tips:

Schedule your free time as a reward for accomplishing other things you have to do and stick to that system. If you allow yourself to meet friends after you have read 20 pages for homework, you will be more motivated to finish the task.

Carry a diary or use your phone/email calendar to make a note of important dates that are coming up for school, as well as your work schedule. You should also enter the dates of important social events you don’t want to miss.

Create a structured schedule so you get used to doing the same tasks each day and devote that time scheduled to each task, whether work or study. A routine will make it easier to keep up with your responsibilities. Do not agree to work at a time when you have classes or tutorials scheduled.

Consider working more during holidays and school breaks, so you can devote more time to study during term time.

Give your employer as much notice as possible of upcoming school commitments such as exams. At the same time, many lecturers recognise that many students need to have jobs. If you have a real conflict caused by work, be open to discussing that with someone at school and try to negotiate a solution.

Be realistic about what you can and cannot do and do not promise what you cannot deliver.

Finally, many people who are juggling work and study place their own needs last in line. Remember to take care of yourself! You need to get enough sleep in order to function well and keeping up your health, mental and physical, is most important.

Being an employee and a student provides a lot of benefits. There is not only the economic aspect; taking on dual obligations can teach responsibility and provide valuable skills and experience that will benefit you throughout life. Once you have mastered the balance that is necessary to succeed in both tasks, you will be proud of yourself for taking on the challenge and realising how you can grow from it.


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