overhead shot of student on computer working full time and going to school full time

College Success

10 Tips to Manage Your Time While Working in College

02.08.2022 • 9 min read

Jennifer Rivera

Subject Matter Expert

This article goes over how to work full time and go to school full time, the benefits of working, and tips on managing your time.


In This Article

  1. Why Work and Go to College?

  2. How Can I Work Full Time and Go to College Full Time?

  3. 10 Tips to Managing Going Full Time

  4. Frequently Asked Questions About Working Full Time While Going to School

College is changing. Fewer college students live on campus, more and more are taking online classes, and many college students are trying to go to school and work full time. Then some working adults are going back to college. But is it possible to work full time and do well in college? Absolutely.

Why Work and Go to College?

Higher education is expensive. Since 1980, college tuition has increased 169% and since 2007, student loan debt has increased significantly as well. If you work and can put more money towards tuition, you will have less debt. A solid win for your future. Even if you can only work part time, it can help.

How Can I Work Full Time and Go to College Full Time?

Going to school full time and working a full-time job is absolutely possible.

A few big things need to happen first.

Set Yourself Up for Success

Pick the right program.

Are you looking to do a certificate, a two-year degree or a four-year degree? Are you hoping to study online, at night or face to face? Make sure you choose a program that fits your goals, your schedule, and your finances. (If you’re looking at certificate options, Outlier offers certificates that can be a great way to explore majors, earn college credit, and build your skillset.)

Communicate with your employer.

Let your employer know your plans. Many employers are willing to be flexible. If yours isn’t, be sure both you and your employers are very clear about your work hours and stick to them. While you’re at it, check and see if your employer offers a tuition reimbursement program. They may be able to cover some or all of your tuition as part of your benefits package. One example is Amazon’s Career Choice program in which Outlier provides Amazon employees access to for-credit college courses.

Communicate with your family.

Be clear about the time you will need to have time for both your coursework and your job. Keep chores to a minimum wherever possible.

Be willing to sacrifice in the short term.

There will be times you will be frustrated and feel like you can’t do all the things you want to do. It’s true – you can’t do it all. But remember, this is short term. Plan ahead what you are willing to give up (and what you aren’t) to be successful.

10 Tips to Managing Going Full Time

Now it’s time to create the best college experience you can have. Here are 10 tips to make full-time work and being a full-time college student a reality:

1. Develop Routines

Routines have a bad rap of being…routine. But routines are a super power to save time and mental energy. Develop routines for morning or evening chores, and you eliminate having to put thought into them. Develop routines for studying to reduce the mental agony of deciding what to focus on.

Here are a few tips to try:

  • Do chores in the same order every day. This eliminates the need to spend mental energy on them.

  • Have a specific kind of drink you have only when sitting down to study. If you drink the same thing – like coffee – all day, try having a specific mug you use only when you study. It’s a mental trigger telling your brain it’s time to do some hard work.

  • As much as possible, study at the same place, at the same time. If you don’t have a dedicated study space only used by you, try a candle, or a particular seat at the table you only use during study time. You can even try your local coffee shop!

2. Schedule What You Will Study

What subject are you going to study? What assignments are you going to work on? Scheduling these things ahead of time helps you better prepare for the day ahead - and reminds you to bring the right materials.

3. Use Technology to Eliminate Distractions

Time management is even more difficult when distractions like social media apps and notifications from your phone get in the way.

Here are some tips to help reduce these distractions:

  • Use the Focus feature on your smartphone to eliminate notifications when you are studying. You can set these up so you can still get a text message or call from important numbers, but not notifications from your apps.

  • Set up website blockers for social media, web games, and other distracting sites on your computer during study time.

  • When taking online classes, put your computer on full-screen mode so you aren’t distracted by other things on your computer.

4. Sit in the Front Row in Your Hardest Face-to-Face Course

If you sit in the front row, you are less likely to let your mind wander and are more likely to take notes because the professor is right there. Use social pressure to help you pay closer attention.

5. Plan Out Your Semester

Go through your syllabi and write down in a calendar (electronic or on paper) all your assignments and then look through them. Pay attention to where you have up and downtimes in your course load.

Do you have three exams in one week? Four big final projects? Now is the time to break them into little chunks and schedule out when to work on them, so you can avoid the panic other college students will be feeling during those times.

6. Improve Your Focus

Many people find it very difficult to sit down and read even a page or two without getting distracted. Train yourself to get better at this. Use a study timer to have short focus sessions and then take a short break.

If you need to, start with studying for 10 minutes then getting up and just stretching for one minute before you get back to studying (use the timer). After completing four rounds of this, take a slightly longer break. Every week, increase your study time between breaks by a few minutes until you are able to concentrate for much longer periods of time.

7. Look at the Long Game

There are going to be some classes you are going to struggle in, and that’s ok. If you are struggling in a particular class, pay attention to these things:

  • Is this a course central to what you want to do in the future? If so, buckle down on it.

  • If you do poorly on an assignment, take it as a learning opportunity. What did you miss? What can you improve on for next time? Make those adjustments in your routine.

  • Talk to your professor! Ask her what areas she sees you struggling in, and some ideas for how you can improve.

8. Schedule Workouts and Meals

As much as possible, eat and exercise at the same time each day. Schedule a lunch break, and don’t skip meals or physical activity. In the long run, eating healthy food and moving your body will help you in your quest to go to school while working full-time, even if they seem to be a distraction at the moment. This kind of self-care is important for your physical and mental health.

9. Consider Online and Hybrid Courses

Online and hybrid courses are a great way to put some flexibility into your schedule. Outlier is a great place to find some common prerequisite courses to take at your own pace.

Some things to remember when taking online courses:

Schedule time for lectures like any other course.

If the course is synchronous you’ll need to carve out time to attend the weekly class meetings. However, if your course is asynchronous, you will need to schedule time to watch the pre-recorded lectures. You usually can view the time length of each lecture ahead of time in your course module. If this is not available, you can still estimate the watch hours. The number of credits is roughly equivalent to how many hours you would spend in class. So if it’s a 3-credit class, schedule 3 hours per week to watch any online lectures.

Schedule homework time too.

You will probably need more time beyond the lectures to get everything done. Consider time for various homework tasks such as readings, discussions, research, assignments, etc. Overall, your total engagement with the course – for lectures, homework, and studying – should be a minimum of 3 hours per credit hour. Better to plan too much time and get everything done than too little and be stressed.

Read all the announcements and emails.

During online classes, you don’t have those moments of time before and after classes to stop the instructor and ask questions. But your instructor will communicate much more through email and announcements. Make sure you have notifications set up on your phone to alert you when these come and make sure you read them!

10. Plan for Mishaps

Things will go wrong. Your kids will get sick. You will get sick. Cars will break down. At the most important point in the semester, your computer will die. Plan for these things in advance!

  • Know your attendance policies ahead of time and use absences only for really important things.

  • If your car breaks down, is there public transportation? Or someone you can get a ride from?

  • Is there someone who can watch the kids during a teacher in-service day? (Schedule that now.)

  • Are you using backups or a cloud system on your computer so you can still work on a campus computer if something happens to yours?

Planning for these things in advance can help alleviate stress when the mishap actually occurs.

Frequently Asked Questions About Working Full Time While Going to School

Can I do this?

Being a full-time employee and a full-time college student is very possible with good planning. It’s important to adhere to the work schedules, class schedules, study schedules, and other routines you’ve set up for yourself.

Will I still have a life if I try to do both work and school?

Yes - but it will look different. You may not have the same free time or freedom of choices you have now. But make deliberate choices to do only the things that are most important to you – and be willing to put the others on hiatus while you are in school. Being a full-time student and working full time means some other things might have to be more part time.

What is the most important thing to have while going to school full time while working full time?

We all need a positive attitude and a good support person. Things will get tough now and then – and when that happens it’s important to have the “long view.” Having a person close to you who can help you keep that perspective will be helpful.

Don’t forget to keep your eyes on the prize: investing in your future now is going to pay off in spades in the long run in terms of your career, job satisfaction, future salary, and overall confidence levels.

You can do this. Best of luck in your academic journey!

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