Is it humanly possible to balance a full-time job and college? It’s not uncommon for many students to work a part-time job while pursuing an education. However, working full-time and juggling a full load at school can be challenging, even for the strongest multitasker. It takes a lot of hard work and self-discipline to combine a full-time job and college coursework, but the majority of college students do work and study simultaneously, according to Inside Higher Ed, proving it can be done.
What if that job is suddenly happening in your living room?
As of March 21, 2020, the number of Americans under virtual lockdown grew to over 80 million, as reported by NBC News. Governors of New Jersey, New York, California, Connecticut, and Illinois have issued stay-at-home orders to fight the spread of the new coronavirus. Just a day later, nearly one in three Americans was ordered to stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic as Ohio, Louisiana and Delaware became the latest states to enact broad restrictions. With these restrictions in place, remote working and transitioning to 100% online college courses have never been as popular or more necessary.
Many professions and industries lend themselves to remote work, and many employees love the option. But with so many people suddenly thrown into this position involuntarily, the adjustment curve can be steep. Plentiful online resources are popping up, helping Americans navigate the new terrain of turning their homes into offices and study halls. In The Ultimate Working From Home Guide, Investopedia advises the following steps:
- Designate a functional work (and study) space: If you’ve got a spare bedroom, this can be more doable than for a studio-apartment dweller. But even in small spaces, setting up a desk and chair in an unused corner can help you delineate between your professional and personal life.
- Ensure you’ve got the right internet plan: With others at home too seeking entertainment and diversion online, you want to be sure your ISP provides the speed you need. FaceTiming kids can slow your connection and download speeds.
- Use phone apps: Investopedia suggests using reasonably priced internet calling options if you make long-distance or international calls. Check out Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, and Skype.
- Minimize distractions: Noise-canceling headphones can save your sanity if the neighbor’s barking dog or kitchen remodel have you pulling your hair out.
Going to college and working full-time in a post-COVID-19 world
Eventually, society will stabilize, although it’s impossible to know exactly what that will look like from this vantage point. To ensure you have the tools and resources to both excel in your college courses and meet your financial needs, consider the following 10 tips for working full-time in college. You may find a few that help you succeed once the medical crisis is over and the economy starts to bounce back.
Choose a job that won’t wear you down.
Working the night shift in a restaurant can be physically and emotionally draining. Find a job that offers the flexibility you need, perhaps allowing you to work late afternoons and weekends when you’re not in school. You also want to choose a job that you like doing. That way it seems less like work.
Work on or close to campus.
Driving to and from work can be a big time-waster for many people. Instead, consider finding a job on campus to meet your goals. Does a professor need a research assistant? Don’t forget to check out your college’s career center for possible opportunities in technology support, retail services, events management, and lab assistance. Even working close to the campus helps. Check out local establishments near your school. Again, your college career center is a great resource for this.
Find a company with a work-from-anywhere policy.
If you prefer the flexibility a work-from-home job provides, plenty of employers hire remotely. Investopedia cites Harvard Business School research that found working from home can:
- Boost employee productivity
- Reduce turnover
- Lower organizational costs
Get the boss on your side.
If you already have a job, talk to your employer early on. Communicate that your job is important to you and that you want to be a good employee. However, you may want to ask for a more flexible schedule or reduce your hours if possible. Many employers are willing to support you once they realize your educational efforts can benefit them. You might even receive some tuition-reimbursement or book-assistance benefits.
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Be discerning when choosing a school and a program.
The best way to save money is not to spend it on the wrong college program. Compare schools. Find one that offers what you need at a competitive price. Explore all scholarships, grants, tuition reduction opportunities and military benefits available to you. That can help to reduce your costs significantly, so you can spend less time working and more time studying.
Work in what you’re working toward.
Sometimes the best way to further your education while earning an income is to work within the area of your long-term career goal. For example, if you’re aiming for a career in finance, try to find a job in banking. If you plan to work in a hospital, see about a position at your local doctor’s office. The key here is to ensure your education and job link up. This gives you real-world career experiences you can draw on later.
Don’t be too proud to ask for help.
For those who are working, going to school, and raising a family, it’s not possible to do it all without help. Let your family and friends pitch in. Look for ways to save by not having to pay for daycare costs. You may also want to consider help with meals. Those who want to support you will be there.
Create a daily schedule you can live with.
Time management is a big part of your success in balancing a full-time job and college. Plan out most of your week in advance. Block off time to work, and create areas in your schedule solely for study. It takes a lot of self-discipline to create a plan and stick with it, but keep the end goal in mind. If you’ve got a family, make your time with them sacrosanct.
Take a mandatory mental-health break every day.
Block off a slot in your daily schedule for “me time.” College commitments coupled with a busy work life can be frustrating and hard to manage. Taking an hour during your day just to relax and unwind can benefit your work and study life. It’ll help your mind stay on track. The key here is just to give yourself a few minutes to not think—share a meal with friends, stream Netflix, take a hike, play with the pets.
Consider online degree programs.
Another time-saver (and money-saver) is enrolling in online college courses. Study on your schedule. Access your class notes when you have the time, like on a break at work. Earn a degree at your pace, taking one or two classes at a time. You don’t have to waste time traveling to and from classes on campus, and it can alleviate a lot of the stress associated with going to college and working full-time.
If furthering your education is the next step in finding a fulfilling career, check out Post University’s large variety of flexible undergraduate and graduate-level programs, delivered either online or on campus.