The Ultimate Guide to Managing College and Work
Life can be a little hectic for students that also have jobs.
Not only do I attend college full time, but I also work about 30 hours per week in a very busy office.
At the time of writing this last year (Oct. 2015), I was working two jobs. My office job gave me a raise that allowed me to leave my night job.
Every day I go to work for a few hours, then drive across town for class, and then return back to work.
Life for me is a little overwhelming, but I manage to stay somewhat sane.
This guide offers tips on how to stay mentally and physically healthy while managing college and work.
Use A Planner!
I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a planner! Whether you choose to carry an actual agenda or use an app, it will become your best friend!
With so much going on, it’s very easy to lose track of what you’re supposed to be preparing for next. Use your planner to record your assignment due dates, test dates, appointments, bill deadlines, events, work schedule, and whatever else you need to remember.
This is my planner, and without it my life would be a total mess!
In my opinion, an actual planner is better than an app because what will you do if something happens to your phone?! However, your planner and app can co-exist. I like to keep major events (exams, bills, events) in my phone as well as my planner because it’s easier to glance at rather than pulling out my planner.
When buying a planner, consider how much space you will need. There are some that are tiny and can fit into a purse, and there are ones that are the size of a notebook (like mine). If you write big or just like to write a lot like, a tiny one will not work for you!
As for the price, there’s no need to splurge on one! I’ve seen them at dollar stores ranging from $1-5.
I use a color coding method to organize my planner, which I wrote about in this post. (The post is also contained in the free ebook.)
Take Off at Least One Day a Week
Since I work in an office, I’m blessed to have the weekends off. It’s the only way I stay sane!
It’s so important to take a break at least once per week to avoid burnout!
During my sophomore year when I had two jobs, my night job almost always entailed working nights. I never had an entire day off, and eventually it just got to me. My mood was horrible. I was tired all the time. And my grades began to slip because I was so focused on work and neglected my studies. Thankfully, I was promoted at my main job, so I was able to leave the second one, and everything was back to normal.
What should I do with my off time?
Set aside “Me Time” & Time for Family & Friends
Hopefully, you have at least one day off from work. Use this day for YOU. (And no, that doesn’t mean neglect your studies!) Take this day to do things that make you happy! Treat yourself to something, whether it’s your fav restaurant or an item you’ve been wanting to go shopping for. And don’t neglect any other duties as well. Use this day to do laundry, run errands, etc.
If you want to stay at home and binge watch tv all day, that is perfectly fine as well! No one will judge you. When I’m off, I love curling up in bed with a big bowl of popcorn and catching up on missed episodes!
Time for Family and Friends
I won’t sugarcoat it, you will sacrifice your social life for work and school. But think of the payoff you’ll get when you graduate! It’ll be so sweet. Remind yourself of this when you get a little sad about missing a party or event because you were at work.
Let your friends and family know when you’re available, and trust me, they will call you with things to do! Just because you couldn’t go to an event with them doesn’t mean y’all can’t make your own event! People understand that many students do have to work their way through college, so they’ll be happy to see you when they can. Just inform them of your schedule, so they don’t feel neglected.
Take Care of Your Body
Exercise Combats Stress
If you have some downtime between classes or you have extra time in the morning, you could take that time to work out. Whether it’s jogging around your neighborhood or campus, or exercising in your room, get active!
Exercise has been proven to combat stress because it releases endorphins (“happy hormones”), and those hormones increase your mood and stimulate your appetite.
As students, you know we love our junk food. But don’t make that all you eat! Since you have a long day of work and classes, you should be eating healthy to stay energized. It is recommended that you eat every 3-4 hours, even if it’s just a snack.
I found an excellent article titled “College Health: Eating and Fitness 101.” It offers advice on how to opt for healthier food options, especially if you eat in the dining hall, and a list of healthy snacks you should include in your dorm room. Or your pantry, if you’re a commuter like me!
Here’s a summary of their recommended food group rules you should follow:
- Dairy or Dairy subs: One serving 3x/day. Ex: yogurt, milk, pudding.
- Carbs: Include at every meal. Ex: Rice, pasta, bread. You should especially choose whole grain options.
- Fats: Include some with every meal. Ex: nuts, seeds, olive oil.
- Fruits/Veggies: You should know this one already! Have 5+ servings every day. The article recommends focusing on different colors. Ex: Switching from carrots to a banana.
- Proteins: Include at every meal. Ex: eggs, fish, chicken, peanut butter.
Sleep = Essential to your Health!
A good night of sleep leads to feeling energized, being able to think clearly and remember more, and having just an overall great mood.
Professionals recommend college students get between 7-8 hours of sleep. While some of us may function the next day on less, it honestly depends on the person and how that amount of sleep makes you feel. A good night of sleep leads to feeling energized, being able to think clearly and remember more, and having just an overall great mood.
For example, I get up at 6:30 am on weekdays. If I go to bed between 11 pm & 12 am, I wake up feeling great because that’s what I’m used to. But if fall sleep before 11 pm, I wake up feeling groggy from too much sleep. And then I actually don’t want to get out of bed!
Professionals also think that lack of sleep leads to mental health problems as well.
If you’re having a hard time falling asleep, consider not looking at any electronic devices for 30 minutes to an hour before your projected bed time. And don’t consume any caffeinated beverages directly before bed either. Experts haven’t agreed on an exact window on when to not consume caffeine before bed, but many say between four and six hours.
Have a Support System in Place
Speak with your family and friends, and let them know how you’re doing. Chances are, they’re worried you’re over-working yourself, and would like to know you’re doing fine.
If you’re feeling really stressed, don’t keep your feelings to yourself. When I feel overwhelmed, I find my mom’s words of encouragement and reading the Bible very comforting.
Most schools offer counseling services. Take advantage of them! It feels great when you get your feelings and worries out of your head and into the air. Some students think they will feel judged if they go, but that’s not what counselors do. They are there to help you overcome any issues and stress you are going through. And if they notice that you may need to seek out further help, such as if they think you have anxiety disorder, they can refer you to a doctor.
Also, it’s great to establish a good relationship with your teachers. Take advantage of their office hours. The hours are there for you to use. When you speak with them, let them know that you’re balancing school and work. So if you’ve missed any assignments, they may let you turn them in for partial or full credit.
I had a teacher like this when I went to community college. I explained my situation to her, and I was able to turn in things I missed throughout the semester. My grade went up an entire letter!
Have a great relationship with your boss! He or she is the one who can make or break your school goals because they arrange your work schedule. Always be respectful, and don’t slack off!
Use Your Downtime Wisely. Have an hour between classes? Be productive, and don’t use it goofing off! Take this time to do homework, meet with your advisor or teacher, write in your planner, visit a counselor, etc.
Your time is valuable. Don’t waste it doing unnecessary things. For example, ask for your paycheck to be direct deposited in your bank account to avoid having to go to a bank. If you don’t have a bank account, sign up for one at a local credit union or small bank. Many offer free student accounts. Or you can sign up for a prepaid account at most major retailers.
Set goals for yourself. They can be daily, weekly, or monthly goals and semester goals. They are great motivation! And being able to actually check something off a list is just a great feeling!
Consider adjusting your budget. If you’re overworking yourself because you’re trying to keep up a certain lifestyle or you like buying things that really aren’t necessities, consider adjusting your budget, then see if you can opt for lesser work hours.
Thank you so much for reading!
I really hope you find these tips helpful, as these are the rules I’ve set for myself to succeed in college. I was able to graduate from community college with a 3.5 GPA, and am now pursuing my bachelor’s in journalism at a private college on scholarships.
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