Many students maintain some sort of part-time job whilst balancing university studies. That’s all well and good—and often financially necessary. When you manage your time and energy appropriately, you can start building your graduate CV before you earn your degree. Even if you find yourself working a job completely unrelated to your eventual career, employers will appreciate your initiative and self-discipline.
Of course, it all only works according to plan if you manage your time well enough to excel at university and on the job. Here are some bits of advice we’ve gleaned over the years on how to balance part-time work and university studies.
1. Pace yourself
Most jobs offer a steady schedule; your university studies place different demands on your time each week. Plan on working no more than 15 hours a week, just to allow for variations in other parts of your schedule. And don’t forget to relax after long stretches of work or study.
2. Structure your time
Establish consistent patterns of work and study, and block time out completely for each purpose.
3. Organise your schedule
Study the syllabus of each course on your schedule and mark each deadline in a planner or calendar. If your job requires you to work variable hours, do your best to find out when you might be asked to put in extra time. Knowing in advance of potential conflicts or busy stretches can help you manage them.
4. Make exams and revision your top priorities
Your employer knows that you are a student. Don’t be afraid to ask for time off during exams, or even when you are revising. You should have a good sense of when those busy times will be, so be sure to give your employer plenty of advance notice.
5. Don’t skip lectures
If your academic and work schedules coincide, your university studies should take precedence every single time. You may be tempted to give your job and your university studies equal weighting, but you can recover much more quickly from a few lost hours—or even the loss of a part-time job—than you can from a poor assignment or exam. A good degree will pay you back many times over for the time you miss from work.
6. Keep your employer and course tutor informed
Both your employer and your course tutor can help you balance work and academics—but only if they know how you are splitting your time. Your course tutor can help you accommodate your work schedule and maybe, just maybe, grant you an extension for important assignments when circumstances warrant.
7. Revisit your presumptions
Midway through each term, and again toward exams, take a few moments to gauge your success in balancing work and academics. Are you performing well on the job and at university? Just as importantly, are you finding time to enjoy yourself? Getting enough sleep? If not, it’s time to fine-tune your schedule, check in with your employer and course tutor, and put yourself on sounder footing.
Students who can also hold down part-time jobs tend to perform better at graduate interviews, and the skills you’ll need to balance a busy schedule can also help you focus more intently and productively on your university studies. If you struggle with the balance of the two, you can always consult one of our mentors in your chosen sector. They’re there to guide you through the difficulties of your university studies, work-life, and give you valuable advice for your career!