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Five Tips to Successfully Be a Working Student

The back to school season is officially upon us! If you're like me, you know that sometimes being a full-time student while working can be difficult! Today, I'm sharing 5 tips for how to successfully manage being a full-time student and employee. Check them out below!

1. Understand the difference between the undergrad and graduate student experience

Through my undergrad career, I was a member of my college's gospel choir and served on the executive board for several semesters. During the first year of my first graduate program, I tried to hold on to that experience by remaining on the executive board and being an active choir member. It took me some time, but I finally realized that I should have left that part of my life in undergrad. With the difference in ages and collegiate journies within the members, on top of working my first full-time job while being a full-time student, it was time to move on and accept the change that was naturally occurring. 

I can't stress this enough. I've learned that undergrad is TOTALLY different from the graduate student experience. Meals and laughs in the dining hall are now replaced with eight-hour workdays followed by a 3+ hour class. As you grow, priorities change. You may not have time to participate in 4 different extracurricular clubs and attend every single event on campus, and that's totally okay.

2. Use a planner

Having a planner will save your life. You're able to write down special dates of important work meetings/events and the due dates of important class assignments. Having everything written down will help you see your whole week at a glance and prioritize what needs to be done and when to do it. I try to write every single thing down, all the way down to what chapter of the textbook I need to read on a particular day. Using a planner will help you stay ahead and balance your work, school, and personal life.

It is also important to find the best planner for you. For me to purchase a planner, I have to find the right design, the right amount of months, and an ample amount of space to write in any additional notes. I recently bought a planner that came with stickers and it has been a lifesaver! The stickers add another form of excitement and help me get motivated to actually use the planner on the consistent basis. 

3. Don't forget your personal life

I get it. After working 40+ hours a week and spending hours on school work, the first thing on your mind is going home and sleeping (I'm guilty of it too). It is important to do something for yourself every once in a while. Typically I plan my upcoming week out during the weekend so I'm able to see how hectic the week is going to be. If it's a slower week I try to plan at least one thing to do on the weekend that requires me to get out of the house. Whether is doing dinner with your best friend, going to the movies, or binge-watching your favorite show, find at least one thing a week to do that involves taking a break from work and school responsibilities. 

4. Go at your own pace

In my current graduate program, I am responsible for taking at least two classes each quarter in order to graduate on time. During the summer quarter, I had to remove one of my courses from my schedule. With a couple of trips planned, getting acquainted with my new job, on top of moving to my new apartment, I realized that the two classes I was registered for would have been too much to handle in this season of my life. Of course, I didn't like hearing that dropping one of the classes would probably push my graduation date back a quarter, but I figured working at a slower pace is much better than stressing myself out trying to keep up with a workload I already knew I couldn't handle and not giving my best.

If you find yourself biting more off than you can chew, understand that it's okay to take a step back and reevaluate your class schedule. No one will fault you for doing what's best for you. 


5. Befriend a classmate

It takes a village to graduate! (Especially on a graduate student level). With so many responsibilities that come with the adulting life, you're going to need a friend. In my last graduate program, since our graduating class was so small, we became a little family. We did everything from working together to find resources for projects, late-night study groups, looking out for one another, and becoming each other's venting partner. Find at least one person in each class to become your class buddy. It makes a world of a difference! 

Are you currently working and going to school full-time? What is one of your tips for managing both responsibilities? Let me know below!