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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: How to juggle being a full-time student and part-time employee

Columnist Kailee Sullivan writes how to balance your life as a full-time student and part-time employee.

Many college students can sympathize with the struggle of wanting extra cash while also focusing on their classes. As a first-year student taking 16 credit hours this semester and working 20 hours a week, I can attest that it feels impossible to manage at times. 

While there are pros and cons to working a job while being a full-time student, I truly believe everyone can create a schedule that allows a balanced lifestyle. The key is to put your mental wellbeing first.

When I applied to work at Sup Dogs on Franklin Street last September, money was not the only thing on my mind. Aside from being able to shop and dine out more, I found a new environment that would help me escape the stress of everyday responsibilities. Even on my worst days when I don’t feel like working, the staff and friendly customers always cheer me up.

Obviously, the biggest downside to being employed is not having enough time in the day to get everything done. There are times I can’t attend sports games or other events because I am scheduled to work. It's not uncommon for me to come home exhausted from work and use caffeine to cope with all the homework on my plate.

Finding the balance between work, school, friends and your health is definitely not an easy task and takes practice to perfect. The most helpful thing I have found is the flexibility of my employer and the scheduling. 

As busy college students, we often have schedules that vary week-by-week. By being able to update my availability weekly and choosing how many shifts I want to work, my work schedule usually accommodates my other responsibilities quite well. 

Various companies may have various scheduling policies, so be aware of what you are getting into before you start working somewhere. However, since we are in a college town, many places on campus and on Franklin Street are generally understanding.

Another helpful habit is learning to stay organized by using an online calendar, planner or whatever works best for you. Be aware in advance of upcoming assignments, plans with friends and your shifts at work in order to avoid falling behind. 

For example, I try to plan which days I want to go to the gym each week and when I will study after receiving my work schedule. My days can get busy and overwhelming at times — going from classes to the gym to the library and then to work, often without a break.

That’s why I always want to emphasize the importance of taking care of your mental health. 

Amid the chaos of our lives, we must remember that we are still humans who need to sleep and relax. Communicate with professors for assignment extensions if needed and work with your employers to create a work experience that works best for you while allowing time for rest.

Getting all these parts of our busy lives to blend in perfect harmony can be difficult, and hopefully most of the people around you can understand that.

Scheduling problems will inevitably come up in all of our lives, so be creative and punctual about possible solutions. If making money and meeting new people interest you, challenge yourself by getting a job and practicing time management skills. 

It can be a juggling act at times, but it will teach you how to organize your life and show you exactly how much you can handle at once. You might just surprise yourself with how well you can balance a job with your other responsibilities and make a few bucks to treat yourself along the way.


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