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It’s almost May, which means it’s almost graduation season! All of these school-related posts start popping up, so I get nostalgic about my time in school. Even though I graduated from college NINE years ago, I still feel like it was (almost) yesterday. I don’t feel like I’ve mentally changed all that much, but my goodness, I have NO idea how I had all the energy for all the things I did during college. I studied musical theatre, which is notorious for LONG hours of work inside and outside of the classroom. I also participated in a BUNCH of extracurriculars – event planning committees, student housing organizations, student & school theatre productions, and also a sorority. Did I mention that I also worked 35-40 hours per week while doing all that? I was BUSY.
I look back now and the fact that I was SO busy in college actually set me up with some great life skills. I’m an excellent time manager, attentive to details, and I’m not afraid to hustle to get the things I need. I’ll never say it was easy, but it came naturally to me. I went to a private school and I’m glad I did because I got the education that I wanted. Even though I balanced full-time work while going to school full-time, I still have student loans. Thankfully, the end is in sight on paying those down, but they were necessary for the education that I chose.
Sallie Krawcheck, CEO of digital investing platform Ellevest, shares that graduates in the United States owe “…more than $1.3 trillion. And we women, we women hold nearly two-thirds of it, averaging more than $20,000 each for a bachelor’s degree. And that’s $30,000 if you’re a woman of color.” Ohio State University released a survey of college students that discovered 70% of college students felt some street about their finances. With those sobering details, it’s critical that students and families find some way to lower the stress of those numbers. For many students, that means working while going to school.
If working through school is necessary for you or someone you know, there are a few ways to do it without going crazy or missing out on all the fun of college.
Here are some of my favorite tips for juggling two full-time schedules!
Getting a work-study job isn’t always an option for every student. However, if you’re eligible, you should definitely take advantage of a job on campus. If you’re only looking to work a few hours per week, you may be able to work in between classes or a few hours in the evening. Plus, it pays to be able to walk to work when you can! Also, a work-study job may give you an opportunity to expand skills that you are already working on. Example: I was a mentor to incoming freshmen for two years, so I had to host a weekly study hall. During the time I was hosting them, I was getting paid to work with my students, but also work on my own projects. Multi-tasking for the win! I was also able to get work within my field of study by working as an usher, house manager, and stage manager in one of my school’s biggest performance halls.
Get a Planner & Use It Often
Seriously. This may seem entirely basic, but it’s one of the most useful things that you will have. Once you have a syllabus for your classes, take note all of the anticipated due dates and test dates so you can be prepared. Same goes for any events or plans for your extracurricular activities. If you’re going to have school, jobs, and activities on your plate, you need to where you’re supposed to be and when you’re going to be there.
Like I said above, schedules are your friend. Try to build consistent time blocks into your schedule so you have some sort of standard routine to help you stay grounded. Example: Try to schedule your classes all on Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays so that those are your designated “school days.” Set your work availability to Tuesday/Thursday + weekends. Or vice versa. Build a structure that works for you. Setting certain times for certain tasks is helpful for all parts of your life. Blocking out time for class, work, activities, extra studying, working out, and for just plain having fun will make your life so much easier.
Look for jobs that allow you to work more or less depending on your needs. Retail and restaurants are GREAT for this sort of thing! If there’s a week where your study load is light, take on more shifts if you can. Or, if it’s finals week and you can’t work, it’s much easier to drop shifts in these types of job situations.
Know the Numbers
Take time to sit down and figure out EXACTLY what expenses that you must pay each semester. Nail down what is & isn’t covered in your financial aid packages and what gets paid for via loan or your cash flow. Do you have any scholarships or grants coming in? Any work-related tuition reimbursements to expect? Any suspected windfalls – tax refunds or birthday money? If you know what dollar amount you have to make each semester, you can build a work schedule based on the numbers you have to hit. You may not have to work as many hours as you think to make it happen!
Start a Business
Not kidding. Something you lay the groundwork for now during college can pay huge dividends in the future. Start that blog or YouTube channel. Learn about coding and make websites or apps for people on campus. You’ll have plenty of opportunities for free advertising around campus and plenty of opportunities to network with people from all kinds of backgrounds. Networking now can help you build a great support group for work opportunities in the future. Become a name/brand that people can trust now. Collect those LinkedIn recommendations ASAP.
Last, but not least, is this tidbit: At the end of your educational career, what do you want the most? A fancy diploma on the wall, to get a good job, to have the best connections in your field – doesn’t matter. If you know what you want the most, you’ll find the right path to make it happen.
Making the wise financial choice to work (in some form) while attending college is a great step towards long-term financial health. Whether it’s starting a business, building up a resume, or connecting with people who can help you find more work in the future, it’s putting you on better financial ground. Settling into financially healthy habits as a student doesn’t have to be scary! Overwhelming, yes, but you can do it!
Happy #FinHealthMatters Day 2018!
Tell me in the comments: Did you work through college? Why or why not? Did you have good financial habits as a student?