Balancing school and work is a treacherous task. I want to do my best in school, but also need to save money for rent, bills, and school supplies, among many other things. Nearly 73% of Canadian students are working and attending school. Typically, they are working because of their schooling. It can be hard to find a balance between these things without getting burnt out. But by strategically planning my schedule I am able to successfully complete my classes without taking time off work and losing money in the process. Here’s how I do it:
Online classes are your friend
Of course, this may depend on your program or school, but most universities offer online classes or blended classes that are partially in class and online. These classes are the same price as any other, but often there are less materials to buy. I try to pick free choice credits to take online, that way I don’t miss out on valuable class time for courses in my own program.
Online classes are still classes. Of course, not having to attend them is helpful when it comes to scheduling, but time still needs to be set aside to work on them. They definitely aren’t just an easy A or an opportunity to be academically lenient with yourself.
2 out of my 5 courses for this upcoming semester are online. On my lighter in-class days, I work on my online course at home or at a study space at my school when I get out of the classroom! I love this because I’m still being productive and working towards my degree, but I have the benefit of choosing my own workspace. Learning/ working environments are such an important part of the process!
Essentially online classes= less days of the week spent in a classroom. And less days of the week spent in a classroom= more time to work and save money!
Taking courses online has changed the way I balance school and work drastically. In my first year of university I was in class 5 days a week. I did assignments when class was over, and headed straight to my shifts at work during evenings and on weekends. It might seem like a small thing, but it truly does make a difference financially and has positive effects on my mental health.
Plan your week wisely
I try my best to keep work and school days separate. Separating school and work tasks is ideal. It lets me have a break from either, so I can quiet the endless to do list that runs through my mind.
I would recommend seeking out the schedules of your necessary courses and doing a couple on the same day of the week if you can. Taking a moment to evaluate every option for your schedule is entirely worth it and will help you set the best possible timetable for you. Next semester, I will be in the classroom just two days of the week, and I’m a full-time student! This allows full availability for work every other day of the week! This way, on a work day I don’t have to think about rushing to class when I’m done. And if I’m not working a scheduled shift it leaves me available for call-ins when I need some extra cash.
Scheduling a bit of wiggle room is essential. You never know when you’re going to need a sick day or some extra time for a big assignment! It can be tricky, but I try to keep some free time available for these situations.
Also consider what course load is right for you. You don’t need to be taking the maximum number of courses to be a real student! Think about your budget and mental health when you’re enrolling in classes.
Keep your weekends as free as possible!
Being a student is exhausting. Being a student and working 35 hours a week is even more exhausting. Unfortunately, it is a necessity for me and many others to be constantly working to fund our tuition and livelihood.
Schedule free time!
This cycle of school and work can become unhealthy quite easily. Personally, when I’m caught up in all I have to do, self care moves to the bottom of the list. It’s important to remember you’re a human who needs rest and fun! This is why I like to do a bulk of my self care in advance by ensuring there is free time in my schedule. Think of it as a giving your future self a break!
I understand that scheduling “free” time may be a bit of a contradiction. However, by doing so you have a guaranteed opportunity to do what you need and want to do just for yourself.
It is rare to have class on the weekend, but I used to work an open-close shift on Saturdays. Now I do my best to set aside weekends for sleeping, chores, and my favourite fun things! Depending on my school workload I sometimes end up doing a few hours of homework at least one day of the weekend. But aside from that I try to stay out of that headspace and focus on taking care of myself.
If you don’t have energy, you won’t be able to do anything that you need to throughout the week. And in the end, at least for me, results in missed classes and deadlines approaching without anything to show for it.
Let yourself do nothing
Some of my most fulfilling days off are where I’m able to catch up on TV shows or even do laundry and hang out with a friend! Having days off that are all about my needs are the perfect way to recharge before beginning a new week and remind myself of the positive things waiting for me at the end of the school and work tunnel.
Inevitably, there will be restraints when it comes to planning your timetable. But by keeping these things in mind I’ve been able to create a schedule that is best for my mental health, productivity, and financial needs and it has made a huge difference!