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9 Powerful Tips To Master Studying While Working

06.16.2023 • 6 min read

Daisy Hill


Learn the best tips on studying while working because it’s hard to juggle both.

In This Article

  1. Focus on Your Goals

  2. Communicate With Your Employers

  3. Plan and Schedule

  4. Use Your Free Time Productively

  5. Be Realistic

  6. Take Advantage of Technology

  7. Look After Yourself

  8. Connect With Your Co-Workers and Other College Students

  9. Remember Your College Education

Only 24 hours are in a day and lots of “supposed to’s”.

You’re supposed to get at least 8 hours of sleep, and you’re supposed to work for 8 hours per day.

Leaving only 8 hours for everything else: pay the bills, clean, socialize, spend time with loved ones, exercise, and do something that brings joy to your life.

When you’re also going to school on top of everything else, you wonder, “Am I ever going to find time to study?”

Unfortunately, studying is one of the first tasks to slide when days become full. This is especially true for most students who have to work while in college.

For many college students, working means their student debt can be paid off earlier, groceries are more affordable, or the future is more secure financially.

Yet, this requires a real balancing act. You have real-life responsibilities and demands on your time, body, and mind. It’s overwhelming at times.

These tips will help you find ‌balance and make sure you’re making the most of your time at work and at college, both of which provide you with valuable experiences for your future.

1. Focus on Your Goals

It all comes down to your motivation for working while studying.

Maybe you’re looking to fully finance or subsidize your education. In that case, you may want to look into flexible or part-time work, where you can pick up shifts as much as you need them.

Or you might ‌be looking for ‌extra money on the side to help with expenses. In that case, look for a job on campus, like working in the library or being an RA. (Most universities offer work-study programs that form part of your federal financial aid package).

Maybe you’re in it all for the passion, skills, and experience. Then you’d want to look into a career-focused internship or a full-time summer job.

Whatever your motivation, consider the end goal and what you want to achieve before you dive into any work you can find. It’s not easy balancing the two, but focusing on the motivation behind it all helps alleviate the stress.

2. Communicate with Your Employers

Ensure your employers know you’re a student as well as an employee!

The more you can keep them in the loop with your study schedule, the better your work schedule can fit your needs (and the better experience everyone will have).

Negotiate and find ways to work around your schedules, assuring them you’re committed to your job. And even though there will be times you won’t be as flexible as others, don’t apologize for being a student.

You’re not alone, and you can do both.

3. Plan and Schedule

Get organized, and develop your time management skills.

Whether you use an app or a planner, make sure you write down every class deadline, every subject test, and every reading you’re required to do, as well as every shift or meeting you’re required to attend.

Spend a few days at the beginning of each semester getting your plans and schedules straight and finding a system of organization for your shifts and study time. Your future will thank you for it!

You may also want to try waking up an hour earlier a few days a week. Although it’s challenging, successful people like Richard Branson, Anna Wintour, and Tim Cook attribute their success to those early hours.

4. Use Your Free Time Productively

Procrastination is natural. You’re always going to fight against it. However, you can be productive in many ways, without even thinking about it.

Your commute to work/school is a great time to prepare for meetings or catch up on your reading. Setting aside 20 minutes during your lunch break to listen to your professor’s lectures or brainstorm for reports means you can reap the benefits of multitasking, without asking too much of yourself.

5. Be Realistic

You have to see what works and what doesn’t work for you.‌ Make sure to listen when you feel something isn’t working.

If that means dropping a shift so you can get enough sleep, or only taking 2 classes per semester instead of 3 so you have more study time, then seriously consider it.

You will have a busy schedule, full of pressure and commitments. Try not to let it overwhelm you. Be realistic with yourself, your goals, and your time, knowing that focusing on your health or saying no when experiencing burnout is never a wrong move.

6. Take Advantage of Technology

Tons of online articles, programs, and apps ‌support students through every aspect of the college experience. Taking the time to learn ‌more can save you lots of time and stress in the long run.

Many college students want to learn how to:

  • Save money in college

  • Create a college budget

  • Manage time while working

  • Choose a major

  • Apply for grants and scholarships

Look at making your flashcards digital so you have them wherever you go. Download a storage app like Google Docs or Dropbox so you can access your coursework on your commute. And put time limits on your social media accounts to limit your procrastination!

Many free apps can help you succeed in college. Use the technology that already exists to help you study and manage your time.

7. Look After Yourself

Make both your physical and mental health your priority:

  • Try to limit late nights studying or working.

  • Avoid eating sugary snacks when you really need some fruits and vegetables.

  • Find time to do something you really enjoy.

  • Meditate to reduce your stress.

  • Make sure you get enough sleep.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it now and then.

Colleges will have plenty of resources to help you—use them. Equally, if you’ve developed a good relationship with your employer, they will support you too. You just need to ask.

8. Connect with Your Co-Workers and Other College Students

Find people that can help you enjoy working and studying. Participate in study sessions, extracurricular activities, and events with other college students!

Make the most of your relationships with co-workers:meet them after work or grab coffee at a local coffee shop before your shift. Find that extra time to connect with them. Find out what work-life balance means for them and what having a social life outside of a full-time job means too.

The more people you can surround yourself with, the less challenging it will all be.

9. Remember Your College Education

Think about your degree and the amount of time you dedicate to it. If work is becoming more important than going to school, then perhaps you need to re-assess.

It might be that you need to pause your time at college, or you need to consider other avenues to pay for it. Financial aid such as grants and scholarships can help pay for a lot of your college expenses.

Working and studying are both possible, but don’t be afraid to focus on just one!

Staying Motivated

Let’s face it: college is a lot on your plate. Trying to continue working while going to school can sometimes feel like too much, like something’s got to give.

In these times, it’s important to keep the end in mind. Whether you’re going to school to pursue your dream job or a better quality of life, make sure you keep this goal in mind when times are tough.

It may be helpful to write down a list of advantages to going to school and keep it handy. Remember that the difficulties you face now will not be here forever.

If things get too hard to manage, don’t be afraid to let something go that allows for a little more ease in your life. Perhaps you could work part time or go to school part time?

There are lots of opportunities for part-time college work. There are also college programs like Golden Gate University’s Degrees+ powered by Outlier that allow you to earn an affordable degree online. So your education fits your life.

Get creative, and have an open mind. When you keep your motivation to go to school at the forefront of your decisions, you will be able to tailor your life to keep you moving forward toward your college degree.

About the Author

Bob Patterson is a former Director of Admissions at Stanford University, UNC Chapel Hill, and UC Berkeley; Daisy Hill is the co-author of Uni in the USA…and beyond published by the Good Schools Guide 2019. Together, they have established MyGuidED, a new educational tool for students looking to apply to university (launching 2023).

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