Create Your Work Study Program and Balance Your Job and School Work

by Guest Blogger on 2009-07-1215

Based on the awesome response we received for Studenomics’ guest post entitled How To Work Full Time While You’re In College, we decided to follow up on this same topic. The Studenomist is our guest contributor for today; he runs Studenomics, a great personal finance blog aimed at the college crowd. Please consider subscribing to his RSS feed here.

Even if free college tuition isn’t in your cards, you may still afford going to college on your own. Want to know how to effectively balance your work and studies? It’s important to stay well-organized, and it also helps to develop a structured routine at school. Here are some suggestions based on my own experiences:

Create Your Own Work Study Program! How To Balance Your Job and School Work

1. Find a relatively easy job.

Are you too burned out after work that you can’t even keep your eyes open long enough to read a chapter out of your textbook? Well, you can try looking around for a job until you find one that’s relatively easy to handle. For example, my friend works as a teaching assistant at his school and on most hours, he just sits in the class with the students while a lecture is going on. When he has tutoring sessions after a class, he hands out tasks for the students to complete, then reviews the materials with them. Sometimes he works 40 hours a week and goes home without feeling any stress at all.

work study program, balance job and school
Image from ABC News.

There was also a comment on my post, How To Work Full Time While You’re In College, which was made by a reader who wrote that he worked as a bus driver and had the opportunity to turn off his brain so to speak.

When you find a job that is relatively physically or mentally “easy”, you’ll find that you’re able to work full time hours without feeling much stress. What are some relatively easy jobs that college students can find? Well I hope I don’t offend anyone, but here are a few jobs that won’t burn you out mentally/physically:

  • Library help. Nice and quiet while you stock books and work the desk.
  • Custodial work or janitorial services. Mop the floor while your mind rests.

I could go on but you catch my drift. If you find that 10 hours of work a week is killing you, then maybe it’s because you need to find something lighter on your mind and body. You could argue that this is the lazy way out but the way I see it, your main goal is to complete college with high grades. If you can pay off your student loans as you go through college then you’re ahead of the game.

2. Try part time work first and SLOWLY pick up more hours.

Start off at 5 hours a week and try adding an hour each week until you reach your maximum capacity. What is your maximum capacity, you might ask? Well I could give the obvious answer and say it all depends on your situation, but here’s how I see it:

  • If you find yourself with ample time in between lectures or with a light course load then add in some extra hours at work.
  • If you are always struggling to meet deadlines, sleeping 3 hours a night, running from one class to another, then you’re definitely not in a position to pick up any extra work.

You may find that 15 hours a week is all you can spare or you may find that working 40 hours a week after a gradual transition actually feels quite comfortable. At the end of the day, if you find yourself spending time on mindless activities (e.g. playing Facebook games) then you can probably accommodate some work hours in your schedule. Some trial and error will be necessary here as you adjust what feels right for you. If you’ve got a truly challenging course load, then try to remain at a minimum of 5 hours a week of work.

3. Cut out pointless activities.

You must be willing to drastically limit the time you spend on “fun activities” (or should I say “pointless activities”?). If you see value in hanging out with your closest friends then this isn’t a pointless activity; it’s something you need to maintain balance in your life, so by all means, don’t miss out on this (social activities are important too, but anything taken to the extreme may simply be a waste of time and energy). But if you find yourself being bored (e.g. watching reruns on television or flipping channels), then you could just be misusing your time. If you’re not spending this time on your studies then this is valuable time that you could spend earning an income. The goal here is to maintain a balanced life and an efficient schedule.

4. Set up a “sleep in” day.

We all love to sleep in, but honestly, do you really need to do this every single day? True, the thing about working full time while studying full time is that you may not get the full 8 hours of sleep every night. So my suggestion here is to set up one day during the week where you have the morning off and get to sleep in for as long as you please.

5. Sucks to say this but sacrifice is needed.

So you want to earn a college degree but don’t have a 529 college savings plan in your name? I really don’t know how else to put this, but you must be willing to make some sacrifices in college. There will always be time to get wasted or time for just lounging around; however, based on your goals and priorities, you’ll need to make tradeoffs. If you’re determined to make a work schedule fit into your college life, then be prepared to make a few sacrifices: you can still have fun… but you’ll need to place limits. During last year’s fall semester, I went for 6 weeks completely focused on work and study. My girlfriend wasn’t happy about it, but those are the sacrifices that have helped me accumulate a decent savings account while studying in college full time.

Copyright © 2009 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

fischer July 12, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Hi SVB! What say you about working in a totally detached field while in school? How does working as a coffee shop barista by day and pursuing Master of Laws studies at night sound? I figured that since no one will hire me for a legal job, actually, no one seems to be hiring, and I badly need the income, what the heck! Besides, I don’t want to be inundated or saturated with legal stuff if I have a job in the legal field by day and study law at night.

Studenomist July 12, 2009 at 1:34 pm

@fischer I hope you enjoyed the article. The way I see your current job is that you have a chance to network and meet many new people while you get to keep your mind off your studies. This may not be the most ideal advice but there’s nothing wrong with earning an income while you study.

fischer July 12, 2009 at 2:24 pm

I like what you said about “keeping mind off studies.” Our brains need breaks too. True, this advice may not be the most ideal, but it is still ideal nonetheless. The world ain’t perfect especially nowadays so aiming for the most ideal might often leave us feeling frustrated. Thanks for the article! SVB sure knows how to pick ’em good writers!

Squawkfox July 12, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Great post Studenomist! I completely agree with finding a “mentally easy” job. Back in my school days I did several jobs like proof reading at a local newspaper and I took weekend shifts at a hotel doing odd jobs. These positions brought in the cash without maxing out my brain and I found that while on the job I could think about my assignments with little stress.

Manshu July 12, 2009 at 3:02 pm

Sacrifice is needed in to get anything important. Its not only the money that you’ll make while studying, the discipline that you develop will be priceless.

Ninah July 13, 2009 at 2:39 am

I definitely agree with your first tip. I wanted to work while in college for some extra cash. Unfortunately all the job offers had something to do with writing. Talk about total burn out! I had to write stuff for classes, for the school organ and for work. If i didn’t stop, I swear I would’ve killed myself

Katie July 13, 2009 at 4:54 am


I agree with Manshu – anything worth doing, is hard work.

The skills you learn when working and continuing your studies, provide you with discipline you need if you ever consider starting your business.

Katie July 13, 2009 at 7:25 am

Great find for me…my daughter starts college this year. Do you think freshman year is too early to start this?

kosmo @ The Casual Observer July 13, 2009 at 8:14 am

One of the jobs I had in college was tutoring other accounting students. For the most part, these were general business students who were taking their first accounting class. The questions were relatively easy to anwers, although it could be difficult to get the point across at times.

Another job I had was working in a computer lab. The computers (Macs) were very low maintenance, so this job boiled down to help people with questions about MS Word and such.

The one thing I remember about this job is the day that a nearly teaful grad student came to me with a paper copy of their thesis. The disk containing the only copy had died, and they wanted to know if I could help.

Sure. I spend hours scanning with OCR software.

The very grateful student bought bought me a Coke, which I thought was cool. In hindsight, it cost them a dollar and I saved them countless hours of work – but it was the thought that counted.

Journey July 13, 2009 at 9:55 am

I was the queen of work study when I was in college. I think I worked in every department. Not really but when a position would fad out I would always be able to find a new one.

MoneyEnergy July 13, 2009 at 10:28 am

Be careful about “sacrifice”, though – it’s like coffee, up to a certain point it gives you advantages, but too much and you can burn out in more ways than one. This became much more apparent to me in grad school. No more all-nighters, for one! You need to choose your sacrifices carefully.

Silicon Valley Blogger July 13, 2009 at 10:45 am

Great dialogue here! I think it’s pretty honorable for people to try a mix of jobs and finding that they’re willing to try anything. I’ve never actually juggled work and school but instead, took time off from school to get my feet wet in the work world for a year. It actually took me 5 years to get out of college but I thought the 1 year break in between was worth it — for the experience and the money…. Needed something for that resume, especially since I came in as a foreigner.

Slinky August 5, 2009 at 1:05 pm

I think you’re definitely right about #1. I worked at a craft store for a while and then switched to a better paying job where I could make my own hours – stocking hallmark cards. Nice and mindless after all that hard thinking.

I also took one semester off to do a full time, 8 month internship. It’s got me some solid work experience with a really well known company (and later a job offer). It also paid substantially more than most part time work so I was able to save enough to not work my senior year. This helped a lot because I could fit in that one extra class I needed to graduate, get through the more difficult classes with sanity intact and conduct a job search BEFORE I graduated. It was really nice to have a job lined up by the end of the first senior semester!

Alhana August 8, 2009 at 10:01 am

Great post, Studenomist! These are really great tips here. I wonder if this could work for an MS or MBA student? For a future post, I hope you could give more tips on maintaining the work-life balance for working students earning their masters degrees.

Eddie July 25, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I really enjoyed the dialogue here.

I have taken it upon myself to begin part time study (2 subjects) at Uni (engineering) and I work fulltime in the field.

Does anyone have any suggestions or could point me in the right direction regarding a type of planner to schedule my life (work, study, gym and church) into a format that is visually direct and user friendly?

looking forward to your reply


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