Working your way through college comes with a slew of perks, like paying off your student debt faster, gaining valuable work experience, and learning how to become a master at time management. Not to mention, you can potentially earn a higher paycheck when you graduate. According to research from Rutgers University , students who work their way through school are more likely to earn a higher paycheck than their non-working peers.
But let’s be real, holding down a job (whether part-time or full-time) while juggling your school coursework isn’t easy. If you’re not highly organized and motivated, you could find your grades taking a downward turn.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help you strike the right balance. From easing your financial burden with college scholarships to overcoming procrastination, here are a few expert tips to help you crush your work and college goals.
1. Figure Out When You’re Most Productive
As a college freshman, you will learn a lot about yourself in the first semester. One important lesson in particular involves finding out when you’re most and least productive.
If you’re not a morning person, do not schedule your most difficult class for 7:30 in the morning . Seriously, don’t do it! You’ll be constantly fighting the temptation to sleep through your alarm and skip class, especially if you had a late night at work. Instead, create a class schedule that allows you to knock out your toughest classes when your motivation and productivity are at an all-time high.
2. Get Organized
Whether you’re working through school or not, staying organized is vital to your success in college. When your schedule is a disordered mess, things will inevitably fall through the cracks. You’ll be forced to sacrifice your precious sleep and sanity to get everything done on time.
Living in a constant state of anxiety and sleep-deprivation isn’t fun. To stay on top of your schoolwork, get a daily planner and download a calendar app. Jot down your to-dos in both and set multiple reminders for projects. This way, nothing will sneak up on you at the last minute.
3. Apply for Grants and Scholarships
Wish you didn’t have to work through school to pay for your education? You may not need to — at least, maybe not full-time. Financial aid, such as grants and scholarships, can help pay for some or even all of your education, which could make your decision to work through school entirely optional.
And, in case you’re wondering, the answer is no: You don’t need to be an all-star athlete or the next Marie Curie to earn scholarship money. Scholarships are given out for many different attributes, including interests and passions. There are also need-based scholarships , which are given out based on your family’s financial need. Don’t hesitate to talk with your academic advisor about financial aid to see what’s available to you.
4. Talk with Your Boss
At some point in your college career, your work schedule and your class schedule will almost certainly conflict with one another. When this happens, talk with your boss about it as early as possible. If you have a big project coming up that you need to study extra hard for, they’ll appreciate you giving them a heads up.
In fact, your boss may be more supportive of your college studies than you might think. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement programs that can help you pay for your education as you work through school. Ask your boss if they have such a program to see what they can do for you.
5. Use Your Breaks Wisely
Even though it may not seem like it, you probably have more time in the day to get things done than you think. For instance, that 10-minute break you have before your next class? You can use it to download a flashcard app and create flashcards for studying. The next three minutes you spend waiting for your coffee order can be used to study the flashcards you recently made. By not letting any small block of time go to waste, you can get more accomplished throughout the day.
6. Take Care of Yourself
When you’re balancing work, school, and a million other responsibilities, it’s easy to let your own personal needs fall by the wayside. While sacrificing your sleep or your workout routine may be fine on occasion, it’s not a sustainable strategy in the long-term. If you don’t take good care of your mind and body, you will eventually burn out — and the fallout won’t be pretty.
Remind yourself to eat healthy, exercise, and practice meditation. If your school has a rec center, mental health counseling, and other stress reduction resources, be sure to take full advantage of them. After all, you’re paying for these resources with your student fees. You might as well get your money’s worth!
Small achievements add up to big wins, so don’t forget to celebrate the small things along the way. Did you and your friends ace a tough exam that you studied like crazy for? Go for a round of drinks at your favorite watering hole. Did you crush your first day at your internship? Treat yourself to a new pair of shoes that you’ve been wanting for months. Better yet, write down all your wins in a journal. When you’re feeling down or the going gets rough, you can look back at your past successes and get a much-needed boost of motivation.
Believe in Yourself
When it comes to balancing school, work, and other responsibilities, your mindset and attitude are everything. If you don’t trust in your abilities to juggle multiple things at once, you’re more likely to crash and burn out. Remember that this is temporary. You’ve got this!