I had the opportunity to focus on being a full-time student during my freshman and sophomore year. This gave me an opportunity to focus on classwork, take heavier loads and become ingrained in the campus culture.
Unfortunately, this is a luxury that not all students can afford. Sometimes working part or full time while attending school is a necessity. I had my first part-time job my junior year. This was also before I started Achievement Consulting. It was the first time I had to balance a full-time school schedule as well as a part-time work schedule.
Although it can be difficult, it is possible to balance the two without sacrificing the full university experience.
Prioritize what is important to you (AND FOLLOW THROUGH)
In reality, your first job is school. If you are a full-time student, you are taking at least 12 credit hours a semester. This is not including the (at least) 6 hours you spend preparing for those classes. College is a huge time and financial investment. Try not to let your part-time job erode that investment.
Once you prioritize what is important to you, make sure your actions reflect those priorities. For example, your priorities might be 1. School 2. Soccer 3. Work 4. Student organization. Once you determine your priorities (no more than 5) make sure your actions reflect those priorities.
For example, if you know you have a big test next week, you might not be able to attend the social your student organization is having the night before or if you know you have a soccer game in a month then make sure you are not scheduled to work that weekend.
Students can get in trouble because they have their priorities but they do not follow through with them. For instance, they might decide to work an extra shift and attend a social when they know they have a test coming up soon and need to study. When your actions are contrary to your priorities, it is a recipe for disaster.
Realize that work will be one of your priorities
It may not be your first priority, but it is on the shortlist. This sounds pretty obvious but some people take it for granted. This means that there will be sacrifices you have to make because of work. If you are working 15-20 hours a week, you might not be able to spend 2 hours on the phone with your best friend or stay at a party all night or binge on Netflix as much as you used to. You need to be ready and willing to make the sacrifices necessary to make sure you can balance your school/work life successfully.
This does not mean that you cannot have fun anymore. You can still have friends and watch Netflix and go to parties. You just have to be disciplined with how you spend your time and with whom.
Communicate your priorities to your employer
If you have an on-campus job, this process is much easier. The university you work for wants you to be academically successful so they will cap the hours you work and are more willing to compromise on scheduling.
However, if you work off-campus you have to take the initiative to talk to your employer ahead of time about certain time conflicts you might have. For instance, if you know if you have a midterm coming in a month, then ask now for time off so you can study. If you know you have to travel for a soccer game then make sure your employer knows that you will not be available on that date.
You do not have to tell them all your personal information, just make sure you give them a clear picture of the times and dates you will be available. Communication is key!
Don’t get stuck
Learning is done in and out of the classroom. Make sure that you are developing yourself in some way wherever you work. If your job does not provide opportunities for advancement or professional development, try to find one that does. Look into finding a paid internship (which I would be happy to help with) or another part-time position that is more challenging but still works with your school schedule. This is not necessarily easy but it is definitely worth it.
If you have any more questions about balancing a school/work life successfully, please feel free to reach out!