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The balancing act of managing both school and a job

Photo of a student on break at a cafe, doing her homework
Image Credit: Kemal Yildirim

Students today often find themselves needing an education to get high-paying jobs. However, those same students can’t pay their way through school without money earned from a job.

It’s a back and forth that has existed for years. Of course, there’s student loans and options available to lighten the financial load of attending college and university, but oftentimes a source of personal income is still needed to make it through a full program.

According to Statistics Canada, 72 per cent of students attending post-secondary have a part-time job.

While this can definitely ease the financial burden of attending school, it introduces its own set of issues on how to properly balance succeeding in classes while still having the time for a part-time job.

“Possibly, a challenge is that, ‘I’m disconnected from my class and peers as my main hours are when people would be eating lunch,’” said Robert Hutson, a current Voice Performance student at Western University, who admitted having a more flexible work schedule than most.

Hunter Bennett, a graduate of Fanshawe’s computer programmer analyst program, talked as well about the conflicting hours that arise between employers and schooling.

“Some classes were morning or afternoon and some went right into the evening, so it was hard to really plan around my scattered school schedule with my employer.”

When looking for ways to properly succeed at both school and work, often people turn to the Internet for answers. One thing people overlook through the whole process is exactly that, the technology is right in front of us.

Our phones in particular can do a lot in terms of helping us succeed in school and in work. Alarms, reminders, and calendars are all easy functions our current mobile phones can do. Then there are podcasts, music, and videos, all of which can either give us ways to focus and ease into studies or even give helpful tips on their own to manage the balance.

“No matter what, breaks are important not only for succeeding in your studies and staying motivated throughout, but also making it through life during and after post-secondary.”

But phones can be a double-edged sword. Always be sure to tread carefully between getting energized and getting distracted.

One of the more universal tips recommended by Canadian Colleges for Higher Studies, that works for other areas as well, is to work smarter not harder. While this often-used cliché doesn’t offer much at face value, bringing it into relation to studies can have some large benefit.

Recording lectures and listening to them during your commute to your job, testing yourself during work breaks, looking through notes during television ads; these are all great ways to make sure you’re making the most of your time.

Above all, take frequent breaks. According to DeskTime, a professional time-tracking and productivity app, the most productive 10 per cent of their users took breaks every 52 minutes.

No matter what, breaks are important not only for succeeding in your studies and staying motivated throughout, but also making it through life during and after post-secondary. Former Fanshawe Human Resources Management student Benjamin Booy offered some tips for stepping away from work.

“Definitely trying to find some time to hang out with friends,” Booy said. “Cut back on the shifts at work every few weeks to have a little down time.”

Some people are better with plans, setting routines, and targets to motivate them to progress forward. Others need the balance to be more about stop-and-start sprints, doing bursts of work at a time to allow for proper rests in the middle.

Both approaches work and that’s exactly why the first step in realistically planning out your way to succeed is to first figure out how you best learn and work yourself.

No one can ever say the perfect way to balance studies and work, but it’s something most students need to figure out. The key is figuring out your personal work styles, realizing your own capabilities, working with what you’ve got, and making sure to still enjoy it all.