So the time has come and you are considering going to college. Seems easy enough, right? Not necessarily. There’s more to it than that. You’re no longer your 18-year-old, carefree self who has no real responsibilities.
You’ve got a family to support and bills to pay, which is why you’ll need to work a full-time job while going to school. Going back to school is difficult enough, but when you throw a job into the mix it can be intimidating.
But rest easy because there are hundreds of others who have been in your shoes. We connected with some of them to gather their best tips and tricks for working full time and going to college.
1. Build a support system
“Have a strong support system both professionally and personally. That support system can make or break you,” says Amy Chen, public relations and communication manager for TINYpulse.
Whether it’s your manager, mentor or a family member, make sure those around you are on board with your decision to go to college – you can’t do it alone!
2. Find a flexible job
“Try to find a job that is flexible with your school schedule. An understanding employer can help you become successful at work and at school,” says Cynthia Murga, a senior account executive at Medley Inc. I'm a fulltime employee for Ruby Tuesday. I bartend four days a week and serve 3 shifts and I also Expo 1 day a week. So thats 8 shifts equalling about 45 hours. On top of that I go to school and I take 3 classes. I found a medium between work and school.
3. Schedule time off of work ASAP
Chen recommends scheduling time off of work as soon as you get the syllabus on the first day. Taking time off during high-stress times like midterms and finals will help you focus on school when it matters most.
4. Time management is everything
“I had every 30 minutes of my life (except Sundays) scheduled in 30 minutes increments,” says Gabe Lumby, CPA and founder of Gabe Lumby CPA. Lumby says the key to balancing classes, studying, work and your relationships is managing your time intentionally.
5. Make your manager aware
“Make sure your manager knows you are going to school and knows you have increased work capacity because of that,” says Scott Hammond, a business professor at Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University. He says bringing your boss into the conversation early on may even result in recognition or a promotion after graduation.
6. Stay focused on the finish line
Kim Adams of PPLCONNECT says pinning up pictures on her desk of people graduating helped her stay motivated to earn that cap and gown someday. It may be a photo, a quote or a handwritten letter to yourself, but find something to remind you of why you’re putting in the hard work.
7. Take time to breathe
Proactively plan down time as often as you can to do something meaningful to recharge your batteries, says Joseph Ritter, president of Zacchaeus Financial. He says this time is just as important for your family as it is for you.
8. Have clear objectives
Robert Dow, partner at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP, recommends researching the degree and program before committing to it. Establish realistic career goals, plans and expectations for what you’ll achieve after you graduate.
“Don't just go [to college] to pick up more certificates to hang on the wall,” Dow says.
9. Bring school to work & work to school
Wherever possible, use work examples of projects for your coursework and implement school projects in your work, Hammond says. He recalls one of his students earning a promotion after a school project was utilized by their local recreation department.
10. Consider online courses
“My number one tip is to take online classes. Depending on your job, you may be able to do homework at your work computer during your lunch break,” says Joshua Aaron of Boostability. The flexibility of online courses eliminates the stress of scheduling conflicts between work and classes.
11. Optimize your tuition money
“Find the college with the best value,” says Louis Ashner, founder of NoPass. “By best value, I don’t mean cheapest, but one where you can see the monetary return on investment.” This goes back to researching programs and outcomes prior to enrolling at a school.
12. Love your learning
If you’re truly passionate about your education and the career for which it’s preparing you, suddenly it stops feeling like work. Don’t just think of it as doing assignments and clocking in hours; think of it as enriching your mind and advancing your career.
“You have been given an opportunity that few people in this world have: a college education,” Hammond says. “Don’t just take a class, fulfill a dream. Love what you are doing!”
Find the balance
Now you know that working full time and going to college is manageable. It may not be easy, but our experts agree that it’s worth it!
The next step is to choose the school, program and learning style that best fits your schedule.