Balancing Work and School
More than half of UIC's students work full or part time in addition to attending school. Consider these tips to help strike the right balance and lessen stress.
- Look for a good fit.
Start by looking for a job on campus. After all, campus employers understand your need for flexibility, and you won't spend a lot of extra time commuting. You'll also meet fellow students and be more in touch with campus resources. If an on-campus job isn't an option, seek an internship within your desired major or industry to add value to what you learn in class. Finally, consider a position off-campus. Do your best to limit work to 15 or 20 hours a week, so you'll have time to apply yourself to your studies.
- Invite your employer on board.
Talk to your supervisor and the company's human resources department. Discuss your goals and how going to school will help you gain new skills that will also help you at work. You may be surprised by how supportive your employer might be.
- Find out about tuition assistance.
Many companies provide assistance with tuition-if yours does, be sure to take advantage of it. Also, talk to the UIC Office of Student Financial Aid to make sure you're getting all of the financial aid for which you're eligible. Relieving some of the financial pressure may help you focus more on your day-to-day responsibilities.
- Get organized.
Use one calendar or planner to schedule all of your work, school and personal commitments, including exams, deadlines and even study time. Avoid procrastinating or spending too much time on one task. If you let yourself fall behind, catching up can seem overwhelming.
- Address stress.
With so many obligations, pressure is bound to build. Here's how to keep stress at bay:
- Take active breaks. Get up and take a walk or climb the stairs. Whether at work or school, it's important to get moving and change your perspective from time to time.
- Reach out. Don't underestimate your need for social interaction. Spending time with co-workers, other students, friends and family helps you blow off steam and stay connected.
- Have fun. You can't work 24/7 without getting burned out. You'll be much more productive if you find time for the things you enjoy.
- Communicate with friends and family.
You may require quiet time or privacy for studying. Perhaps you need some emotional support. Talk about it. People won't know what you need until you tell them—don't make them try to figure it out for themselves.
- Make the most of student resources
UIC offers a wide variety of student services and learning resources to help make your life a little easier. For example, the CTA U-PASS program and campus child care may save you money. Student counseling, legal, IT, tutoring and other services can help you over any hurdles you encounter.
- Be kind to yourself.
Set realistic goals and try not to take on more than you can handle. Sure, there will be some bumps along the way-but go easy on yourself. If you aim for perfection, you're likely to be disappointed. Instead, why not focus on just how much you accomplish every day?
For additional perspectives, read:
- Balancing Work and School at the ISAC College Zone site
- Getting a Job in College: Second Thoughts in The Wall Street Journal
- How to Balance Work and School as a Working College Student by Sam Zolin, a molecular biology major at University of Pittsburgh
- Working While in College from CampusGrotto
- Even Cliffs Notes has some good tips.
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