How to balance part time work with studying 

Student with glasses sitting on a bed with notepad and a laptop balancing part time work with studying

If you’re strapped for cash or want to gain a bit more experience before you enter the world of work, getting a part-time job while you’re still at university can be a great idea. But, how do you balance part time work with studying?

It’s just important to remember that both work and study are big commitments on your time and focus. That’s why you’ve got to think carefully before taking on a new workload. More importantly, you’ll need to carefully manage your work and study schedules to make sure you don’t fall behind at uni. 

To help you get an idea of what it takes to develop a healthy work-study balance, we’ve created this quick guide on how to balance part time work with studying for you! 

Plan your workload 

First thing’s first: if you want to start a new job (or maintain an old one) while you’re studying full-time for a degree, you absolutely must plan ahead to maintain

At the start of each term, build your timetable so that you understand when you’re expected to be on campus, when your major assignments are due and when your exams are going to sit on the academic calendar. 

From there, you’ll get an idea of where your free time is – which you can then communicate to your employer so that you can slot work shifts in when it suits you.  

We’ll talk more about communication and why it’s important in just a minute. 

Build a routine 

After you’ve mapped out your workloads for the semester, it’s crucial that you set some time aside every week to plot out when you’re going to study in between lectures or seminars. 

Press pause and look at what your tutors are expecting you to read during a given week in terms of textbooks or case studies, and estimate how long that reading or any project might take you to complete. 

You’ll then need to slot that work in between your class and work schedules – and the easiest way to do that is to sculpt out a recurring spot on your daily (or weekly) calendar that’s specifically reserved for uni work. 

If you’re lucky enough to have a week where you don’t need to use that time, then lucky you! But having that in-built study slot will help keep you focused on your routine. 

Communicate with your employer 

Keeping a part-time job while studying relies a lot on communication and support. When you accept a job offer, make sure you communicate to your employer right off the bat that your priority is your studies. 

As a result, let them know that you might require a bit more flexibility at certain times of year like exam season. Ask if your employer would be open to last-minute shift changes, occasional remote work (depending on your job) and other ways they might be able to help you avoid schedule clashes. 

After all, those who don’t ask don’t get – and you’ll be really surprised to find out how supportive a lot of employers are when it comes to helping you get through uni. 

Use holidays wisely 

If you’re doing a job that gives you paid time off, use that time wisely to support your studies. 

For example, if you’ve got a deadline for a big project coming up, you may want to consider using a couple days of annual leave from work to spend more time finishing up that project. If you’re super organised, you can even combine paid leave with public holidays to give you loads of time off work to focus on coursework. 

Set goals 

Have you ever heard of SMART goals? SMART is a mnemonic acronym that stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. 

Experts say you should aim to make all of your goals SMART goals because they’re more likely to keep you on-track and focused on the bigger picture – and when it comes to figuring out the right work-study balance, understanding your goals and how they fit into the bigger picture is absolutely vital. 

Figure out what you can realistically achieve in any given week while both working and studying, and then set realistic SMART goals based on those achievements.  

For example, you might set a goal of finishing all of your assigned reading within two weeks – or creating an outline for your mid-term essay within one week of finishing that assigned reading.  

Look after yourself 

You might not know this yet, but burnout is real (trust us).  

If you overbook yourself because you’re trying to please everyone, you’re just going to end up wearing yourself out really quickly. When you do that, both your work relationships and your studies will suffer. 

The best way to avoid burnout is to make sure you’re planning in a bit of time for yourself. Just because you’ve got a free afternoon on Friday doesn’t mean you should automatically call your work manager and ask for an extra shift. It’s important to keep slots in your diary empty to just chill out and enjoy a bit of down time. 

Looking after your relationships is equally important. You’ve got to make some time to spend with the friends and family that love and support you. After all, balancing work and study can be difficult – and you’ll need people you trust that you can talk to, hang out with and blow off some steam. 

If you ever feel like you’ve taken on too much and need someone to talk to, you can always get in touch with the Student Services Hub here at Stirling. Our team can offer you all sorts of advice, resources or just be there to listen when you need to chat. 

Let’s get to work 

It’s important to remember that this list is by no means exhaustive. No two students are 100% alike, and so your work-study balance might not resemble what your flatmates are doing. 

That’s ok. This is all about establishing a routine, goals and relationships that work for you. If you’re ready to start job hunting, you should get in touch with our Careers and Employability service. They can help give you CV advice, connect you with internships or part-time jobs and more.  

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