When Student and Employee Are Your Main Nouns: Balancing Work with School

By Kristina Patrice

This is my first time taking college courses in a quarter format. Sixteen weeks’ worth of material, in a 7.5-week time span, seemed like it would be easy to handle and only a slight adjustment from the standard semester schedule. It can be handled, but coupled with a full-time job, it can be overwhelming unless you have a strategic plan.

In most cases, the college professor could care less about any other class you’re taking or if you have a job. Their only concern is their course requirements and your ability to adhere to their syllabus. Your employer may encourage education enhancement and may even offer an incentive, such as tuition reimbursement or career advancement, once specific courses are achieved. Though these perks are quite enticing, you should not dare reduce your work performance and your attendance should remain exceptional no matter how many hours you’ve spent working on a paper or preparing for an upcoming exam.

I have compiled some tips that will help any employed college student elevate their organizational skills whether the enrollment status is full- or part-time over the standard 16-week semester or broken into quarters or terms. These suggestions help me remain a top performer at work while also achieving high merit in college.

Plan Ahead: Prior to classes starting, become familiar with your syllabus. Note due dates for classes in your planner or calendar whether it is electronic or paperback. Schedule time during the week that is only allotted to studying. Stick to your schedule to ensure course deadlines are met and your quality of work is consistent. If something on the syllabus is unclear, reach out to your professor immediately. This allows your concerns to be addressed well before the assignment is due. This also shows your professor you are organized and concerned about the success in said class. If you have several items due around the same date, schedule half or a full day off from work so that you are not overwhelmed. Scheduling time off in advance shows your employer that you understand the importance of good attendance and positive planning.

Respect Balance: It is essential that you understand the importance of balance. I get it. You’re focused on earning a 4.0 GPA and being Employee of the Month. However, it is apparent that you are a student during allotted study times and a diligent employee while on the work clock. When you are sticking to your study schedule, it allows you to fully commit to your coursework without interruption, which will yield better comprehension of the subject(s) at hand. When you are focused on employment during work hours, your work performance is commendable, lacking disruption. It is important to acknowledge that while you are one individual with two important tasks, you must give undivided focus to each separately.

Form an Accountability Partnership: We hear so many times that “birds of a feather flock together” and “great minds think alike.” These wise sayings couldn’t be more accurate. Find a person who not only understands that your struggle is real, but they also can relate. Show each other your schedules and decide how you can help one another stay on task and provide dual encouragement. This may sound juvenile but it works and this partnership helps you excel by providing and receiving healthy feedback around coursework or a job assignment. These conversations could eventually lead to things like creating a business plan together or co-creating a support group. This person knows your dedication level, understands your work ethic and respects your hustle. This is also a good person to vent to, if needed. Venting is healthy when being done with someone who can remind you of why you started this journey and how it will all pay off in the end.

Create Breaks: There should be at least one day a week that you do nothing. Yes, nothing. You shouldn’t open a school book, read an email from work or even converse about anything on your to do list. Giving yourself this break allows your mind time to process how productive you are while providing some space from your hectic schedule. When we perform at our best levels, it can be overwhelming to remain consistent when significant breaks are not enforced. Who better to determine the day of the week to catch up on Olivia Pope’s drama in Scandal or read another chapter of Brendon Burchard’s Motivation Manifesto? You!

Celebrate Your Success: When you score an A on your exam or are informed that you have the best production numbers at your job, celebrate good times! Come on! This is essential to staying on task and continuously performing at high levels. I understand you’re on a budget, but you have to make time to appreciate yourself. If you don’t, who will? Here’s some free ways to acknowledge yourself when dinner at The Cheesecake Factory, a new pair of shoes from ALDO or a trip to the MAC store just aren’t aligned with your checkbook balance:
  1. Send yourself an email praising your success and make it read how you would want it to sound from a peer or family member. Really, layer the compliments and open it when you’ve had a stressful day.
  2. Write a list of all the challenges you had to achieve your A or get those successful production numbers. Then, at the very bottom, write “None of that stopped you because you’re awesome.” Fold this letter and read it when you think about quitting school or never returning from your lunch break.
  3. Call yourself and leave a voicemail stating how beautiful you are and how fly your fashion is and how your hair should be the prototype for epic beauty. Truly, dig deep and compliment yourself as you would have Idris Elba do if he had your number on speed dial.
This list may sound cheesy and not worth your time, but you have to carve space to praise yourself at this level. Think about it. Once you achieve your educational goals, you’re going to get promoted, start your own business or maybe consult someone on how to balance work and school. No matter your choice beyond post high school education, you will need to be able to positively influence yourself through life.

In conclusion, you are amazing. You’re working and attending school and you make it look easy. I hope this article will help you continue to finesse your multi-talented self while giving you peace through the journey.

Photo: Shutterstock

Kristina "KP" Patrice is a Memphis, TN, native with a passion for content creation via books, film and documentaries. Her goal is for presented knowledge, through entertainment, to elevate the thought process of her viewers and readers.

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