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How to Get Through School While Holding Down a Job

Four Tips to Get You Through School While Working
Rob Marmion/123RF.com

Working while getting an education is becoming more mainstream in recent years, given the ever-increasing cost of tuition. Industries (especially healthcare) are pushing their employees and providing them with incentives to further their education. Because of this, healthcare workers are taking the jump to advance their careers. Going to school while working challenges individuals in many ways that traditional school doesn’t. On top of classes, you are working a significant portion of the week, might have a family with young kids, and could be busy with other commitments, not to mention you need to get rest and some personal time for yourself. Going back to school is demanding but doesn’t have to control you. Getting through school doesn’t have to be like walking a tightrope. Follow these tips to help pave the way to graduation.

Determine what gets priority: Work or School

What gives? Depending on your situation, it will be best to prioritize which will get the ultimate say if push comes to shove. If you are in your career, then likely your job is going to get priority. But if you are working an entry level job and getting your four-year degree, then school might get the edge. You will have to take a lot of things into consideration when making this important decision, such as finances, future opportunities, consequences, etc. Determining this will help you when work and school start to oppose one another. Give thought to this so when it gets difficult, you can move forward with confidence.

Plan, Plan, Plan: Be Intentional

If you want to be successful at balancing the demands of school and work, you will need to be as organized as possible. If you aren’t the most Type A (organizational nerd) person, don’t worry. You can grow in this. Be sure to plan out your whole day. Planning includes not only work and school related activities, but also rest, fun, and time with friends and family. Time management is key. Managing your time has many benefits. Most notably it helps you to prioritize your time as best as possible. When you have to pick and choose how you spend your time, it forces you to leave the less important things behind. If you decide these things on the fly, you’re more likely to choose the less valuable of the options and pay the consequence later. Plan your most important activities around the times you function at your best.

Sometimes Less Is More

If you are any bit like me, you tend to just put your head down and work till it gets done. Problem is, that isn’t always the most effective way to accomplish things, especially with the quality we want. I’ve learned that 30 minutes of quality, focused time can be more valuable than two hours of distracted and exhausted time. This is why self-care is so important. Healthcare employees know this. If you are constantly operating with no sleep or rest, your time will become less and less effective. Taking care of yourself will help your time be as productive as possible. During this season of working while going to school, productive time is gold.

Remember The Big Picture

Getting a 4.0 isn’t the end-all-be-all. Yes, grades are important and should be taken seriously. As I found myself getting in a pinch for time, I’d think to myself “if I only had one more day I could finish this project no problem.” After consulting the syllabus, it sometimes turned out that if I turn my assignment in a day late, I’d lose 5 points out of 100 possible points. Say what you will, but I turned in the assignment a day late. Why? Well, I got an extra 24 hours to work on the assignment, I was less stressed, got more sleep, and probably made up the five points with a better paper anyway. Plus, you always run the chance that the teacher won’t deduct points. Most teachers (I said most, not all) understand the difficulty of working while going to school. If you inform them of the situation, they might extend you some grace and not deduct points. Learning and graduating are the main goals here. Don’t get legalistic over grades. Leverage your grades, time, and energy well and remember the big picture!

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About Tyler Faust, RN

Tyler Faust is a full-time registered nurse and part-time freelance healthcare writer. He has his BSN and master’s degree from Winona State University and has worked at Mayo Clinic for over 5 years. Tyler is a creative thinker, strategist, and passionate about leadership.