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How to Handle Working During School

It is an unfortunate fact that most college students are obligated to work at least some during the school year. It’s not easy to do, either. A full course load is designed to be roughly equivalent to working a full-time job, in and of itself. Most schools recommend studying for a class at least three hours per credit. If I actually had the time and will-power to do that, I would be spending 19 hours in class a week, and then studying for an additional 57 hours. Each week. That’s TWO full-time jobs.

Now, I do not study that much, for various reasons. I do, however, volunteer and attempt to have a social life. So balancing the roughly 25 hours a week that I work is sometimes a little difficult. However, balance it I do. Working while being in school is totally doable, as long as you know your own limits and use time relatively wisely.

When applying, look for desk jobs. Desk jobs, especially on-campus jobs, are great, because you can usually do homework during them. For example, this post is being written while I work my reception job. Anything where you can work on other responsibilities is great. If you enjoy running, maybe think about becoming a dog-walker! If you’re an education major, think about nannying! It’s all about getting your job to hopefully mesh with your schedule at least a little better than a random McDonald’s gig.

Don’t take overnight shifts unless you don’t have class until after noon the next day. This is experience speaking. Don’t do it. Leave if at all possible at least 10 hours between the end of your shift at night and the start of your first class the next day. If you close at midnight and have an 8am the next day, you’re going to have a long day tomorrow.

There is no shame in working on-campus food jobs. Seriously, on-campus jobs are the best. And if you end up working in the cafeteria? Hey, you get free food out of it. That’s a bonus.

Be strict with your study schedule. If you have a job where you can’t study during your shift, then you need to be strict about your time when not in class or at work. Yes, free time is awesome! But get your homework done first, so your free time is really free. It’s way nicer to watch Netflix and relax when you don’t have a five page paper hanging over your head. When you have to factor in time lost to your job, you’re going to need to be more on top of everything else because you don’t have nearly as much time to procrastinate.

Be firm about when you’re available. If you don’t have an on-campus job, then you need to be prepared to stand up for yourself when it comes to scheduling. You are NEVER available to work a shift if you have class at that time. You physically CANNOT work more than about 35 hours a week if you also have a full course load – trust me, I tried. Be prepared to argue on your own behalf when it comes to this, because off-campus jobs tend not to care much about people’s school schedules.

If you keep this in mind, you’re going to be pretty well set up to work during the school year. Now go and make minimum-wage bank.

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