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What is life like balancing work and expenses while going to college?


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Deijana’s Answer

During my junior and senior year in college, I lived in a school renting a house with friends, took classes full time, and work full time commuting an hour to work and an hour home. What made it work was, I took all of my classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the rest of the week I was able to work and come home to do homework. I was able to land a promotion too and was a key holder making more money than most students were on campus. It can be done you just have to find what will work best for you.

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Deijana’s Answer

It can be hard but the drive is all about go, go go. Most colleges will have student employment jobs with shifts under the standard 4 hours. This is to ensure students can utilize small 1 - 3 hour breaks in between classes to work a brief shift. It is all about planning ahead and leaving for travel and transportation and also time to yourself. you still need to sleep and eat. but figure out a way to maximize your time on your schedule.

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Sylvia’s Answer

Hello,

It's definitely an adjustment to have to balance all the new responsibilities that come with college, especially when you have to work. However, it's doable - myself and all my closest friends/roommates had jobs during college and while I was fortunate to have had additional support from my family, two of my roommates didn't. Some pieces of advice I'd give you -

1) If you can afford it, I'd recommend taking at least a semester to adjust to college without a job (or with reduced hours). It can be a tough transition, so it'd be good if you can focus on your wellbeing and just meeting people and finding your place there without the added stress of a job.

2) An on-campus job is definitely your best bet - some jobs, like at the library or a computer lab, even offer opportunities to get some homework done while working a front desk.

3) Make sure you know your priorities and hold yourself to them - between school, social life, your job, etc.

4) While obviously college is a huge financial commitment, it offers a lot beyond just an education and is a really important opportunity to learn about yourself. As such, while work is a necessity, I also urge you to try and make time for things you enjoy doing and exploring, as possible.

5) One of the toughest positions I've seen people in is the struggle of trying to keep up with people who have different financial situations than themselves. One of my friend's brothers became close friends and roommates with people who came from significantly wealthier families than he did, and because of it, he often found himself spending more money on rent and social events than he could really afford to. While obviously you shouldn't write people off just because of their financial situations, I'd recommend at least trying to live with people who are in the same general financial situation as you.

Hope this helps - good luck!

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Don’s Answer

Balancing work and school isn't easy, but for many students like yourself, it's a necessity to afford the rising costs of college. But the truth is, it's also a peek into balancing work and daily life after you graduate, too. You'll constantly fight shifting priorities in your life, from family to friends to paying the bills and that all-important project at work.

For me, it helps to make lists -- of things I need to do and things I want to do, and prioritize them accordingly. Keeping your necessary tasks in front of you can help take the stress out of balancing work and school, and also gives you the satisfaction of completing interim daily deadlines.

The other bit of advice I'd offer is to try to find a job somehow related to your field of study, whether it's working as a TA in your department, or working part-time in a local business in your field. That's a great way to double-down on your college jobs -- you'll learn while you earn.

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Celeste’s Answer

I recently graduated from a 4 year University and held between 1-3 jobs at different points of my academic journey. It can be tricky to balance work, expenses, and school but budgeting and finding a job that works with your schedule is what helped me to succeed. I would recommend looking for a job on campus. It is a great way to network within your University and can help you uncover some rare opportunities. On-campus jobs also tend to be more understanding with a heavy academic workload. In my experience, on-campus jobs were very flexible if I needed to leave work an hour early once in a while to study for a big exam. Many on-campus jobs also allow you to work on homework when you have downtime. You also save time and gas money from working so close to where you live.

The second big piece of advice is to budget. I personally made an excel spreadsheet to track my expenses for the semester and made sure to budget in "fun" money and give myself a cushion for any unexpected expenses (like parking tickets). I would try to rent or buy used textbooks as they are significantly cheaper than new ones. Many college clubs offer free food at their events to increase student engagement. Take advantage of all those freebees! Lastly, I would make an appointment with your financial aid office and inquire about any grant or scholarship opportunities available to you. Inquiring about lesser known scholarships saved me a good chunk of money.

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Chayla’s Answer

Hi Shanell -

Balancing work and school can be very tricky and stressful at times, but it can also be very rewarding. Rewarding because it gives you experience and sets expectations of what it will be like in the workforce but also because it allows you to make great connections with people that you may be able to leverage later on in the future once you graduate.

That said, while I was in college, I did not have a choice. I had to work to cover my regular expenses as I did not have family help, so I had to figure out how to do both. I found it easier to take online classes and evening classes when available. I also created a relationship with my leader so that in times when I had finals or needed flexibility such as days off or to leave early, I could ask for that. Now getting that flexibility with my boss at the time required me to go above and beyond which meant being a team player, perform at desired levels, accommodate when they needed extra help, and even things like share my syllabus as proof. However, it was all worth it for the added flexibility that I gained. When I needed time off or to come in late, it was never a problem.

In the end, I wouldn’t do it any different. I feel like working while in school gave me a bit of a head start in how to balance things in my overall life and provided realistic expectations of what I can expect in the future. After all, everything in life is about balance.

Take care,
Chayla

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Celeste’s Answer

Life balance regardless of being in college or not can be stressful at times. I am currently a college student and I always worked part time throughout my academic career. The most difficult part about work and expenses is that some bills go up depending on the time of year. I think the best way to handle this is to budget. Especially while being college the textbooks are usually the most expensive. I would recommend making a priority list and then a self spurge list. This can help you visually see the most important things but not make you feel like you don't have any finaces for yourself.

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Daniel’s Answer

Hi Shanelle!

I did both my undergrad and graduate programs while working. I worked 20-30 hours a week during my undergrad program, and a full-time job (and family) during my grad program. It's a lot of work, but it helped to find work that related in some way to my program. I learned that I liked software engineering as a career before finishing my degree. I was able to get four internships that all related to my degree and paid for my tuition!

If you're able, taking online classes while staying at home can be a great way to save money and time. Making a budget and setting aside savings from what you earn is also a good idea to cushion any gap between graduating and finding a job. I didn't do either of these things during my undergrad program, and while I graduated without debt, I ended up spending a lot of money on stuff I didn't really have the time to properly enjoy.

For my grad program, I was further into my career and working full time with a family, so time management became a much larger concern. I don't think I would have completed the program if I hadn't been able to work and take classes remotely, since that saved me 8+ hours per week in commuting. Pacing was another really important strategy I employed. Instead of spending 20 hours doing homework the entire weekend and staying up late, I made sure to do a couple hours of homework every evening, which left me with more time to relax during the weekend and recharge for the following week.

In short, I highly recommend working while you're in school. It's important to pace yourself and make sure you're spending your time and money deliberately. Bonus points if your work relates to school, or vice versa!

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Haylee’s Answer

Being a recent graduate of college, I can tell you that going to school full time while trying to work is going to be stressful. That being said, you will still be able to balance a social life as well. The most important thing that I learned while in college was how to time manage. I lined up my priorities, which went as follows; school (grades), work, social (friends). I know that your priority list may be different than mine was, which is completely okay! However, it is important to follow your priorities and make sure that you are putting in the time needed in order to be successful in your life. It is important to dedicate X amount of hours per week to school, which you will figure out how many that will be soon after you start. It is also important to figure out how many hours you want to work a week based on your finances. Thinking about this time management in advance, such as writing down a "To-Do" list in a planner or calendar will help you time manage as well as create time for yourself, whether that be napping, hanging out with friends, or watching TV. Overall, it is important to stay on top of your goals just as much as it is important to take time to yourself! College should be just as fun as it is stressful, so just remember to work hard so you can play harder.

Haylee recommends the following next steps:

Write down a priority list
Write down a weekly budget

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