How to Balance a Job with College

collegeIf you’re trying to get your college education while taking on as little debt as possible, one of the best ways to do this is by working your way through. This can not only help in paying for school related expenses, like tuition, books and fees, but it can also cover immediate living expenses, like housing, transportation, food and entertainment.

But as good as that sounds, attending college full time and holding a job is a difficult mix. This is especially true if you’re taking a heavy course load or working toward one of the more challenging majors.

How do you balance a job with college?

Live at home where family runs the household

If you’re going to school and holding a job you probably won’t have time for doing much else. That will include running a household (cleaning, shopping, doing laundry, etc). By living at home, you’ll have family members to do most of the chores. After all, if you aren’t home much then no one can expect you to do chores!  Also, living at home will help you save money so you won’t have to take any quick loans out to cover your rent payments.

One other benefit hereâ”college campuses aren’t the most conducive environments for study and work. You can easily be distracted by other students who maybe don’t have to work their way through school or who prefer to rely more heavily on student loans.

Attend school at a local or in-state college

You’ll have to do this anyway if you live at home, but attending a school close to home has a major benefit when it comes to jobs. Where you’ve lived the longest is also the place where you know the largest amount of people. It’s also where you know the lay of the landâ. Simply put, you’ll probably find it much easier to land a job on your home turf than you will be in a remote college town.

Also, college towns tend to have high competition when it comes to the jobs you’ll be looking for. Thousands of kids in a college town will be competing with you for the jobs you want, and that raises the chance that you won’t find one. At home, you’ll have a better chance of finding a job, and a replacement job if you lose that one. Unless of course your home town also happens to be a college town.

Take courses in summer to even out the course load during the school year

During my college years I usually took a couple of courses over each summer. By doing this, I was able to take four courses instead of five during the fall and spring semesters, which made it easier to hold a job. One summer I even took four courses so that I could catch up from a very light fall semester the year before.

If you take summer courses, it’s best to take easier ones. Because they’re shorter, summer courses tend to by concentrated and that can be a problem with meatier subjects. A philosophy sequence would work well, but a physics sequence could defeat the purpose.

Get a job that blends well with college

The last thing you need when you’re a full time student is a job that requires a lot of hours and leaves you drained. That could lead to burnout in short order. The better course is to find a job that will blend better with school. That will mean a) considerable flexibility when it comes to scheduling, and b) one that isn’t physically, mentally or emotionally draining.

One job I found to fit the bill perfectly was being a security guard. I worked a lot of hoursâ”which meant a larger paycheckâ”but it was always on the weekends and in the evenings and never during school hours. There’s virtually no stress in that kind of job so it didn’t take away from my school efforts.

The job had another benefit that any college student can appreciate. Because of the low stress and long hours, I had plenty of time to do my homework! As a security guard, I was mainly being paid to be on site just in case something happenedâ”a mechanical breakdown or a fire for example. None of that ever happened, so most of my time was spent doing my homework. In fact, it was like getting paid to do my homework! I never did my homework at home while I was attending schoolâ”I did it all at work.

There was plenty of company at that job too. Most of them were other college students like me!

You don’t have to work as a security guard (though I highly recommend it for students) but if you can find a job that’s similar, it can really help you in paying for school. And it can do it without pulling you away from your studies.

How are youâ”or how did youâ”balance a job with college?

photo by jimmyharris