4 Tips to Successfully Juggle School and Full-Time Work

Being able to devote your time solely to school was so twentieth century.

These days, with ever-rising tuition costs, more people are working to put themselves through school.

Also, it’s becoming increasingly common to continue one’s education to take careers to the next level.

Whatever takes you to higher learning, the idea isn’t just to get a degree but to learn as much as possible.

The demands of studying while working full time might tempt you to take shortcuts or concede that you’re only sort of doing college. Here are some tips to get the most out of earning a degree while still on the job.

1. Use Gaps in Time

Even though sitting quietly with a book for a good chunk of time is how you’ll do a lot of your learning, you should learn to fill little gaps of down time with snippets of learning.

There are certain things you can do anywhere, like:

  • Looking at flashcards
  • Learning vocab terms
  • Reviewing your notes
  • Writing ideas for papers
  • Reading assignments

And by anywhere, I’m not just talking about the library or the coffee shop. You can do these things while:

  • Waiting in line
  • Sitting in a subway train
  • Waiting for the spin cycle to end
  • Waiting at the dentist’s office
  • Waiting for class to start

These days, with our technology, there’s an ever-shrinking roster of excuses for not having work with you everywhere you go.

2. Communicate With the Instructor

It may seem that taking a moment to visit office hours for a chat or to e-mail a professor is going the extra mile, spending extra time. However, it can actually save time.

As an experienced instructor, I can tell you that professors have thought about just about any concept covered in the class. This means they just might have a ready way of explaining it that may be clearer than your textbook.

So, a quick discussion can save you time puzzling over something that’s hard to grasp. Further, it can shorten time for research you may be doing by pointing you in the right directions and may stop you from having to re-do assignments you may botch if you don’t get on the right track.

3. Prioritize

I can’t speak for other instructors, but in the writing classes I teach, not all work is equal. For example, brainstorming, topic selection and pre-writing are very important, but they should be done with efficiency and time-management in mind.

As a quick example, hashing out some ideas on a sheet of paper will probably use your time a lot better than staring at pages of sample topics for an hour. Again here communication can help, since an instructor can set you on the right path in five minutes, whereas if you’re on the wrong track in terms of what topics will work, no amount of time spent on brainstorming will help.

My point is some students make the mistake of feeling that being a good student is all about being conscientious, which they interpret to mean spending a lot of time. That can mean spending time just to feel conscientious.

Save your time and energy for the meaty projects. Don’t go crazy over a routine homework assignment, taking the time to mount it in a nice folder with a cover page, and then rush around to get a major project half-heartedly done.

4. Refresh

There’s no question that you’ll feel overwhelmed at some point. You can fight this by taking a day every so often to get out into the country or do some meditation or to somehow renew yourself. Get away from the books and recharge.

Going to school while working full time is definitely doable, particularly when you recognize it takes special consideration and strategic planning.

What about you? Did you juggle school and a full-time job? What tips do you have?

(Photo by CollegeDegrees360 / CC BY)

Jeff Maehre is a fiction writer and freelance copywriter. His fiction has appeared in Story, The Northwest Review, Cutbank, and Phoebe; he often blogs and writes other copy about social media.


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