Working full-time and going to school can be done well, even though it's difficult. The average college tuition for in-state public and private universities falls between $9,000 and $32,000 per year. This doesn't include additional expenses like books, housing, and food. When you do the math, this means one of two options for students (assuming they are attending college shortly after high school): either somebody else pays (parents, grants, scholarships), or the student in question needs a job (and probably some loans too). There aren't many ways around this equation, but holding down a full-time job and a full roster of courses can feel close to impossible. At some point, compromises may be necessary. If you're facing this difficult challenge and you're determined to graduate with a minimal debt load in under five years, keep these tips in mind.
Start with your course plan
In order to get through college on time, you must prioritize your class schedule. Each term, choose your courses first and build your work schedule around them. Place your classes back-to-back so you can finish early in the day, or work a full day and then head to class at night. Avoid running back and forth multiple times between campus and your workplace. Even if you think you can do it, remember that complications will arise. Is it worth losing your job or your spot in class?
Take scheduling seriously
Remember that working full-time and going to school is not to be taken lightly. With a packed schedule of work, class, and independent assignments, you won't get far unless your obligations are clearly visible every time you look at your calendar. As soon as you commit to a task, write it down. If a project comes up, schedule time to work on it too.
Don't stop moving
When you shift gears between one thing and another, refocus quickly. Don't let a shift turn into a stall. Staring at screens and gazing out of windows can be vital to your mental health — just make sure you're doing it only during appropriate times. If necessary, use your phone to set a timer for a space-out session.
When you mess up, apologize and move on
If you show up late for a shift, forget an appointment, or drop the ball on a group homework project, don't let one mistake turn into a cascade. Fix the problem and then put it behind you. One or two such mistakes are almost guaranteed between the first and last days of a 24-hour term. It's okay to explain that you're working full-time and going to school, but don't play the victim.
Keep your perspective
Remember that this exhausting hustle won't last forever, and your whole life won't look like this. But if you can burn your candle at both ends for just a few more months, you'll have a reason to be proud when this is over.
Working full-time and going to school isn't some frivolous venture. You are working extremely hard. So it's important to spend time practicing self care. Give yourself a foot rub after a long day. When you have a free night, go out and party with your friends to let off some steam (you're in college, after all). Splurge on a special treat for yourself every once and awhile. Do whatever it takes to be kind to yourself in the midst of all of this stress.
Know when enough is enough
If you're putting in eight hours of work each day, plus four hours of class, plus three hours of study (plus at least one hour to shower and eat), that's 16 hours total. This leaves only eight left for sleep. If you can bring in your paycheck and keep your grades up while maintaining this pace, great. But if your grades start to slip, it's time for a change. There's little value in paying for time spent in class while you're half asleep. If you have to let something go, scale back on the job first. Use your judgement, and get ready to make some difficult adult decisions. Check out the resources at your school to get some advice on this situation.
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