Balancing School and Work: A Few Tricks of the Trade

Christopher Wojick in Wilton, CT preparing for a day of work (September 2016)
Christopher Wojick in Wilton, CT preparing for a day of work (September 2016)

Every full-time college student is challenged with managing a busy schedule, but those who also have jobs frequently find maintaining just-the-right balance between work and studies downright stress provoking. As one of those students who’s always worked while going to school, I thought I’d share with you a few tricks of the trade that I developed after a fair amount of trail and error, and a botched assignment or two along the way.

First . . . Keep a calendar and update it constantly. Forgetting something as seemingly insignificant as a homework assignment can make or break a class grade. I’ve found that noting everything in my Apple calendar has kept my school and work life from colliding—and imploding—on more than one occasion.

I start the scheduling process on Day One of classes by inputting each major assignment listed on the syllabus into my calendar. That gives me a framework for what lies ahead and allows me to better plot out my semester.

Because the Apple calendar program automatically updates to your mobile devices, staying caught up is a breeze. Rather than digging through notebooks trying to remember when various assignments are due, I can just take out my phone or computer and click on the calendar app for a quick review of what’s in store. It’s as easy as that!

Second . . . Spend time mapping out your schedule for both work and school. Setting up a balanced schedule makes working while attending college a great experience. Now in my junior year here at UConn, I have worked while in school for the past two-plus years. I’m not going to say it was a snap. I had to work hard at building a realistic and doable schedule. My formula for success was to build in enough time to complete my academic work first; then with whatever time was left over, I would schedule work shifts. When job schedules are fixed, this may not work quite the same way, but then something else may have to give. Perhaps your workout or social time will have to be abbreviated for a day or two so that schoolwork can be given the attention it needs. When you take time to schedule carefully, you’ll find ways to make time for all that you have to do, as well as the things you enjoy.

Last . . . Beware of too much stress. It is very easy to fall into a stressful routine. As I already hinted at, make sure to schedule time—actually build time into your calendar—to see friends, to exercise regularly, and to practice stress-relieving activities, such as meditation. Although initially it may seem unnecessary or not worthy of your time, stress can surface when you are least expecting it. Lingering stress is proven to weaken the immune system, raise blood pressure, and even put undue stress on your heart. Take time for quality R&R.

Final Word to the Wise . . . If you find you cannot craft a comfortable work and school schedule through organization, planning, and stress-relief, think long and hard about whether hanging on to your school-year job is worth the price!  As nice as it is to have some extra walk-around money, your health and welfare are far more valuable.