How To Balance Working And Going To College

More and more are choosing to attend college and work at the same time. Whether you are working a part-time or a full-time job, it can be tough to balance both. There are many working students in college who are able to manage both, but there are also many who aren’t able to. If you…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 31, 2023

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5 Tips For Working Students In CollegeMore and more are choosing to attend college and work at the same time.

Whether you are working a part-time or a full-time job, it can be tough to balance both. There are many working students in college who are able to manage both, but there are also many who aren’t able to.

If you don’t balance them both correctly, it may lead to stress, lower grades, low-quality work being produced, and more.

No one wants that and I’m sure you don’t either.

Related: 21 Ways You Can Learn How To Save Money In College

This is supposed to be the time of your life where you are growing and changing, not feeling like you are drowning in everything that is going on around you.

There are ways to get around it and manage both successfully at the same time, though.

I took a full course load each and every semester, worked full-time, and took part in extracurricular activities. It was definitely hard and I won’t lie about that. However, sometimes a person doesn’t have a choice and has to do everything at once or maybe you are choosing to multi-task and you are wanting to better manage your time.

Related post: How I Graduated From College In 2.5 Years With 2 Degrees AND Saved $37,500

Whatever your reason may be, below are my tips for working college students. The tips below are what helped save me!


Carefully plan your class and work schedule.

My first tip for working college students is to carefully plan your class and work schedule.

Some students just choose whatever classes are offered. However, it is much wiser to carefully craft your school and work schedule so that everything flows together efficiently with minimal time wasted.

You can do this by researching into what classes are offered when and trying to eliminate any gap that may be in-between each class. Having an hour or two break between each class can quickly add up. Also, if you happen to have time off between classes, then using this time to do your homework and/or study can be a great use of time as well.

Related post: How I’m a Work-Life Balancing Master


Eliminate any time that may be wasted.

There are many time sucks that you may encounter each day. A minute here and a minute there may add up to a few hours wasted each day.

The time you save could be used towards earning more money at your job, studying, socializing, or whatever else it is that you need or want to do. For working college students, every minute is important.

There are many ways to eliminate any time wasters including:

  • Cut down on your commute time. If you can find a job near your college campus then you can eliminate a lot of traveling time.
  • Prep your meals ahead of time. If you can bulk make your meals instead of individually making each one, you will be able to save a lot of time.
  • Be aware of how much time you spend on social media and TV. The average person wastes many, many hours on social media and watching TV. Cutting back on this may save you hours each day without you even realizing it.

Related post: 75 Ways To Make Extra Money


Separate yourself from distractions.

Working college students experience a lot of distractions.

Noise in the background, such as with a TV that is on or a party your roommate may be throwing, can distract you from what you need to be doing. If you are trying to study or do homework then you should try to find a quiet place to get work done.

You may want to close your bedroom door, hide the remote from yourself (trust me, this works!), go to the library, or something else.

Related: 16 Best Online Jobs For College Students


Have a to-do list and a set schedule.

Having a to-do list is extremely helpful for working students in college because you will know exactly what has to be done and by when. You will then have your responsibilities sitting there right in your face so that you will have to face reality.

Plus, I know that when I am stressed it can be easy to forget things, so having a to-do list eliminates any valuable minutes I may waste debating about whether I forgot to do something.


Working students in college need to be realistic.

While one person may be able to work like crazy and attend college at the same time, not everyone can do that.

If your grades are dropping, then you may want to analyze whether you should drop your hours at work or school. What is more important to you at this time and for your future?

With the tips above for working students in college, you’ll be able to rock both your job and your college classes at the same time. Don’t forget to fit in time for fun as well. Good luck!

Related: How To Work And Go To College

Are you one of the many working college students out there? Why or why not?

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Mark@BareBudgetGuy

    Such a tricky balance. On one hand, you want the full college experience, but on the other…it costs money!! I worked full time during the summers and luckily made enough to fund the the school years. That was for undergrad though. The MBA put me $50K under, but that’s another story…

  2. Michael

    I always worked all through school, I didn’t have any other option. Since it was all I knew I didn’t struggle with it the way some people do. In fact, one semester I worked a FT job, a PT job, had a very active social life, and was taking FT classes. I made Honor Roll that semester. I think for me it was a matter of being so busy that I didn’t have the time to slack off or procrastinate. Something needed to be done all the time. Now that I’m done I wonder how I did it all. It’s not an easy act to balance.

    1. I know exactly what you mean. I didn’t have a choice either so it was all I knew.

  3. So true! I worked full time in college and still managed to graduate in 3 years. I am naturally a very focused person, but to-do lists and cutting myself off from my distractions was absolutely essential!

  4. I’m 35, so I’m not a working student! I do have kids though, and that really makes planning and scheduling hard.

    1. Valerie

      Hi Holly,

      So are you attending school ? And if you are not working while attending school, could you give some tips on how you manage a family budget ? I’m thinking HARD on going back to school but I have 2 kids (3 and 5 yrs old) and I graduated 7 years ago. I work 2 PT jobs (to make up for once good one). I couldn’t imagine taking off to go back to school FT because we have renos on the house coming soon and living is just expensive altogether. I’m trying to see beyond consolidating work and school, how can I also add in kids and husband into the mix without compromising too much on anyone or money … I live in Canada by the way…

      Thanks!!! 🙂

  5. I must to admit that I’ve found now a good work-social life balance, but tips you shared are very helpful for several areas!!!

  6. I love Parkinson’s law, which states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” — which is so very true. The converse is also true, when you don’t have time, you need to rely on creativity and resourcefulness to finish the work in the limited amount of time you have. Removing distractions and being intentional with your available time is crucial.

  7. Kate @ Cashville Skyline

    I’m seriously impressed you managed to work full-time, take a full course load, and still had time for other activities! I’ve found that I’m more productive when I’m busiest, though. It’s easier to eliminate the unnecessary distractions.

  8. Heather aka HoJo

    These are great ideas! My senior year of college I was taking 18 credits while working 40 hours a week between three different jobs. I HAD to be organized and on top of things. While I implemented the strategies you mentioned above, two other things also worked for me. 1. I looked for other course options if something at my university didn’t fit into the schedule. Any state school in South Dakota would transfer to my university, so there were about five different times that I took a course through another college. Many times there were online or correspondence classes, so I had to be more disciplined in getting them done. But those classes offered me more flexibility than having to take the 9:00 am class on campus. 2. I rewarded myself for having everything done. Wednesday nights were “wing night”. If I had all of my work done by 8:00 pm, I’d let myself go out for a couple hours with the girls. It was a great motivation to keep on my work. I also gave myself Sundays off because my apartment needed to be cleaned and my laundry needed to be washed at some point! =) Great post! I’m sharing it across my networks!

  9. I had a couple part-time jobs during my time in college. For me, it was very easy to make to have a work/school balance. I typically worked 3 times a week. I was able to study after work and on the weekends because I rarely worked them.

  10. I just recently graduated but I was able to balance my school and work load quite well. It was tough but I am glad that I did both at the same time. It taught me how to budget my time on a tight schedule and focus on what matters most in life. It also increased my work ethic in my professional field.

  11. Amy @ DebtGal

    I did not work during college, but I think this is great advice for balancing multiples priorities/activities at any point in life. Now that I’m back to work part-time, I’m balancing that, bring a part-time homemaker, and being a parent, as well as blogging. The principles you outlined are important for this, too.

  12. Valerie

    Hi, I read yesterday that if you use a website called ”” you can block your access to sites that are distracting to you (while studying or working) for an amount of time i.e.: blocking the Facebook page or Youtube. I haven’t tried it but I thought I’d share!

    1. Thanks for sharing. Great idea!

  13. Great tips! I used all of these when I worked during college. It is difficult, but I also didn’t have much of a choice. $800 was barely cutting it in the city. I learned a lot of lessons from that time, and was able to develop a good work ethic from it, at least.

  14. Brittney @ Life On A Discount

    Great article and thanks for posting! I am actually planning on going back to grad school in January to finish my master’s degree. I work about 60 hours a week as an Executive Director now, but have been developing a schedule that will allow me to go to class in person for 4 hours a week and take an online class as well. It will be stressful at times, but I am prepared to work through it. It will only be for 4 semesters (1 and 1/2 years), so it’s manageable.

  15. Laura M. Johnson

    Re: using every minute between work/commitments to get studying done, I’m especially a fan of flashcards. That’s how I prepared for the GRE vocabulary section. Now I’m gearing to go back to grad school! Thank you for this article!

  16. Lyssa Michelle

    I started working, with the idea of being part time, but my job needed me to a)work closing until 730/8 when my daycare closed at 6 and b)kept trying to give me 30-35 hours when I couldn’t work that much and take 3, 8 week courses. The money from the job made things a bit easier, but the stress of trying to do it all with two kids and my husband working full time just wasn’t worth it.

  17. Lenie idol

    I study with regular load and I work too. Yes, it is true that doing them both at the same time is really hard. I didn’t have bf in a while since I started working and studying because of my schedule,LOL. But I am not worried about that. I am more worried that I can’t finish my studies. And yes, if you work and study, you should know what to prioritize. 🙂 But I know the fruit of these hardships will surely be as sweet as honey. For those who want to study and work, that’ll be fine as long as you are good in managing your time 🙂