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A College Student’s Guide to Balancing Work and School

As tuition costs continue to increase, more and more college students are forced to take on part-time jobs to stay afloat financially. Add a social life and time for professional development into the mix and things can get pretty overwhelming.

“Not only are students balancing studies with a part-time job, but they’re also balancing all of that with their personal lives (family, friends, social and/or extracurricular activities, sports, etc.). Students are also at a developmental point where they are creating social identities and exploring career possibilities and interests,” explains career coach Sally Anne Giedrys. “Today’s students are often living a 24-7 lifestyle, and with technology, they’re always “on.” To be successful in that kind of a pressured environment, it’s less about managing their time and more about managing their energy so that they are able to perform at the level that their activity balance demands.”

With that in mind, we asked our career experts to share their tips on how college students can manage their time and find the right balance between work, school and life.

Find a job that’s flexible

It’s important to remember that while having financial stability it important, your studies should always come first. If you can, find an employer that is able to adjust your schedule to work around your classes. There are a few different ways to go about this:

Campus jobs

“The best part-time jobs for a college student in the first few years is actually securing a campus job as they are the most flexible with changing schedules and they will work with the students,” says career coach Marla Williams.

“Colleges and universities tend to be generous with student employment. Seeking on-campus work is a good strategy usually because, as an employee student, your employer understands you have classes, homework, tests and project deadlines. All helpful when juggling work while in school,” career coach Lynden Kidd adds.

Evening/weekend jobs

There are plenty of jobs, mainly in the service industry, that offer part-time positions for evenings and weekends only, which are ideal for students.

“In my coaching, we call them SURVIVAL jobs–those jobs that we don’t want to do forever–but those that allow us to keep the lights on and the bills paid for now,” Lynden explains. “This type of work may match your ‘student’ schedule. Examples include hospitality and/or food industry jobs, pizza delivery, Uber driving, Lyft driving, tour guiding (on weekends) or stocking jobs at the grocery, warehouse or big box stores.”

“Be intentional about your job search,” career coach Reginald Jackson Sr. advises. “Although sometimes the work can be challenging, service-related industries may provide a bit more flexibility with your schedule. With any job where you are serving the public, such as and a restaurant or retail, the possibility of meeting someone that could connect you with a full-time job after school is very likely. Remember, you never know who your next employer will be!”


Depending on your field of study, there could be great opportunity to gain valuable work experience and earn some extra case through paid internships and apprenticeships.

“Seek out paying internships in your area of expertise. In the USA, O-Net ( ) has information about internships,” Lynden says.

“Whenever possible, choose part-time jobs that give more than a paycheck. Many part-time jobs can do double duty, such as helping to make potential career connections or developing an area of interest, hobby or skill,” Sally adds.

“From a career coach standpoint, I think it’s very valuable to find work that is related to your educational niche. It can provide greater insight into the field that you will be able to scale in a resume and leverage for marketable value,” says Wendi Weiner, attorney, Forbes Career Coach and owner of The Writing Guru.

Seasonal jobs

If you’re course load makes it hard to work during the school year, working during your winter and summer breaks is a great alternative option for earning some extra money for the semester.

“Find summer-based jobs that you can return to each year, things like camp counselors, lifeguards, carpenters, landscaping, mowing jobs, painting, summer resorts, etc,” Marla suggests. “Once an employer see’s the value you add, they are more likely to ask you back the next year so you don’t have to spend a lot of time looking for jobs.”

Odd jobs

“Odd jobs are great and flexible,” Marla says, as she recalls how her sons earned extra cash while studying. “Both my boys helped a lot of friends and family move because they were strong and capable and we had a truck and trailer they could use. My youngest son was known for his skills and good work ethic. He became popular in the neighborhood and with family and would be in demand when he came home on weekends. He would do anything and everything from mowing to painting to building fences or decks to dump runs to pressure washing.”

Prepare a master schedule

“My final advice for the juggling, job seeking college student – prepare a master calendar,” Lynden says. “That means that the student prepares a calendar in which he/she obligates almost every sleeping and waking hour to a category.”

Categories to block time can include:

  • Classes
  • Travel to/from events
  • Personal time – time for bathing, dressing, working out, making dinner and eating it, or putting the baby to bed, date times, cleaning the house time, etc…..
  • Recreation – besides the working out schedule this is time to ‘play’ to recreate.  It could be a block of four hours on Saturday morning for a hike on your favorite trail; Jimmy Fallon time or simply time to relax.
  • Flex time – can be used for anything
  • Family time – seriously time to be with family, significant others, best friends chillin’ time
  • Work – time you are engage in activities for another
  • Study – the time to study
  • Sleep time – the time for lights out
  • Planning time – time to work on your work

“I find that the master calendar keeps me in charge of my time – rather than having my time run me ragged, I manage it based on MY priorities.”

Establish priorities

If mapping out every minute in your calendar doesn’t seem feasible, you should, at the very least establish priorities and understand how much you can and can’t do. Knowing when to say “No” can be difficult, so put down in writing what is important to achieve right now, later and what isn’t important at all.

“Establish priorities so they can be really clear about what is a YES and what is a NO when looking at demands on their time,” sally says. “Balance isn’t about trying to juggle everything humanly possible, it’s about deciding what’s important this semester and focusing on the things that matter most.”

Manage your time

While this one seems like a no-brainer, we are all victims of time-wasting activities and more often than not, we end up taking longer-than-expected to complete tasks. Once you have established what is important, it’s a good idea to get a grasp on how long different tasks should take and how much time you have to give to them. That 12-page essay with citations won’t seem overwhelming if you began working on it when it was assigned instead of leaving it to the last minute and you won’t feel the need to call in sick to your evening shift so you can cram for your morning exam if you created flash cards and began studying weeks ago.

“Have a good handle on time management and prioritize your tasks,” Wendi says. “Remember that being a full-time student is a huge commitment with a high rate of responsibility. Your schooling should be your first priority and you should be forthright with your manager/supervisor about matriculating full-time. You should also be mindful of due dates for big projects and exam dates.”

Keep healthy habits

“College students aren’t always poster children for a healthy lifestyle, but increasingly, they are using the wellness resources on campus. When you’re eating well, exercising regularly, carving out a little downtime, and not isolating because you’ve over-packed your schedule, your natural energy levels are higher. That means you can accomplish a lot more in the time you have,” says Sally Anne.

Ask for support

There are a ton of resources out there to assist you while you find a balance between working part-time, studying and maintaining a social life, you’ve just got to reach out. You can ask for advice from friends and family, college faculty, managers or even seek professional support by hiring a career coach.

“Ask for support when they need it, from friends, faculty, managers, family. The Lone Ranger approach does not help to create real-life, sustainable balance for anyone, yet many, many people try that approach,” Sally adds.

Need some support in balancing your schedule? A career coach can help! Browse our directory of career coaches and get a FREE consultation or request a personalized coach recommendation!

About the Author Kristen Moran

Kristen is the editor and community manager at and the Noomii Career Blog. Kristen's desire to ask questions and share information with others led her to pursue journalism. While she has worked at various publications, covering everything from municipal politics to local restaurants, it was her love of self-improvement and sharing inspiration with others that made Noomii the perfect fit. Connect with Kristen on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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