Balancing work and school is a hassle, but for many students, it’s not a choice. 26,408 students were enrolled at Mesa Community College in Fall 2015, and a majority of those students work either part or full time. “It’s very difficult, especially if you’re trying to accomplish a lot in a small amount of time,” said Lanae Jackson, part of the honors support staff on campus. “We have students who are more traditional, who live at home and have their parents financially provide for them, and they say they’re having a hard time,” Jackson said.
“But when you have to provide for yourself and go to school, it’s entirely different and extremely difficult, especially if you’re a returning student or have children. You’re going to have a lot of commitments and you have to decide what is No. 1.” Hattie Hayes, a senior at Arizona State University, understands this. “I prioritize work over school because I rely on my job for an income,” she explained. Hayes works 30 hours a week, and has been working at least 20 hours a week since starting college.
“I do have trouble with making my class schedule coordinate with my work schedule, since my job isn’t on campus.” Finding an on-campus job is a valuable opportunity, even for community college students who don’t live on campus. While filling out FAFSA, make sure to ask for work study. Most campus jobs have relatively light hours, and can be a great fit for students looking for some academically compatible extra money. Another important part of finding a healthy balance is having a support system in place.
“Make friends in your classes who are willing to give you notes if you have to be absent, or help with a concept you are struggling with,” said Stephanie Yamamoto, another Arizona State student and member of the Barrett Honors college. “Get a good support system if you can from classes, work, and family.” She also stresses finding a job that is compatible with your lifestyle. “Find a job you enjoy doing, is related to your major, or one that isn’t too stressful. School is stressful enough,” she said.
It might seem impossible, but a balance can be found and maintained, and the key to that balance is planning. Keeping a planner and calendar are great ways to avoid conflicting events and double booking, and have a flexible work schedule is helpful as well. “I’ve found the best way to manage working while at school is to designate specific times for each–when they overlap or you’re not focused on on activity at a time, you get stressed and make more mistakes,” says Hayes.
“Also, being upfront with your professors and employers is important. If you’re going to need time off school for work training, or change your work schedule for exams, be clear about it in advance.”Jackson suggests settling small goals along the way to self-motivate.“You need to make sure you gave your end goal in mind, and you need to encourage yourself. Your education is just as important as work.”
Before working in the Honors office at MCC, it personally took her seven years to complete her Associate degree while working full time and putting three children through school. “It may take you longer than the person next to you, but you will get it done,” she promises. “Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”