How To Work And Go To College: 10 Tips That Will Help You Succeed

Do you want to learn how to work and go to college at the same time? According to the U.S. Department of Education, 43% of full-time undergraduate students also work at the same time, with 10% working 35 hours or more each week, 17% working 20 to 34 hours per week, 7% working 10 to…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 31, 2023

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Do you want to learn how to work and go to college at the same time?

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 43% of full-time undergraduate students also work at the same time, with 10% working 35 hours or more each week, 17% working 20 to 34 hours per week, 7% working 10 to 19 hours per week, and 6% working less than 10 hours per to work and go to college at the same time

I usually worked anywhere from 35 to 45 hours per week while I was in undergraduate and graduate school.

I did this from when I first started until I graduated, and I also side hustled several hours a week on top of my full-time job.

Due to that, I really understand what it’s like balancing it all. I had to learn how to work full time and go to school full time.

It wasn’t easy, but it is possible.

If you’re reading this article, I imagine you are thinking about going back to school. Or you’re about to start college and want to work a full-time job while you’re in school. Either way, you’re here wondering how to balance full-time work and study.

Whether you are working a part-time or full-time job, balancing school and work can be quite difficult. There are working students in college who are able to manage both, but there are also many who really struggle.

It can lead to stress, lower grades, suffering job performance, and more. There are even some who end up dropping out of school because the stress is too much.

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

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 many ways to balance it all so that you can graduate college while working a job.

I took a full course load each and every semester (usually 18-24 credits per semester and I had to get special approval from the dean due to the load), worked full-time, took part in extracurricular activities, and side hustled. It was definitely hard, and I’m still shocked that I was able to do it all.

I did it because I was focused on graduating with as little debt as possible, and I also had to support myself at the same time. You may be in a situation like that, or you may also have a family and children to take care of.

No matter what your situation is, today I’m going to help you learn how to work and go to college. Below are tips that helped me balance my life, manage my time, stay on top of school work, and more.

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Here’s how to work and go to college: 10 tips for balancing it all


1. Find your motivation for wanting or needing to do both

There are many reasons why you may be working and going to college at the same time. Keep your reason in mind because it can be a very good reminder of why you are working so hard.

According to the survey I mentioned earlier, over 50% of college students do not work at all. That means about half of your college peers aren’t working like you are.

It can be easy to feel jealous, stressed, or angry when you see those students. Reminding yourself why you are working so hard will help you refocus your energy on school and work.

Your motivation can be any number of things, like avoiding student loan debt, providing for your family if you are going back as an adult learner, and so on.

Your motivation will be what you need when you are feeling stressed, exhausted, and so on.


2. Carefully plan your class and work schedule

One of the most important tips 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 a minimal amount of time being wasted.

I spent a lot of time each year carefully organizing my school schedule to make sure that it aligned perfectly with the courses I needed and my work schedule.

You can do this by:

  • Research when the classes you need are offered. If they aren’t offered this semester, you can ask advisors or professors when they’ll be offered in the future.
  • Eliminate any gap that may fall between your classes. Having an hour or two break between each class can quickly add up.
  • If you happen to have time off between classes, use this time to do your homework and/or study can be a great use of your time

I tried to only be on campus once a day, and I did that by eliminating any gaps between my classes. I lived off-campus, and driving to and from school would simply take too much time out of my day when I was also trying to work.

Another scheduling idea is to fit as many classes as you can on the same day. You’ll have certain days you know you need to focus on your classes, and it can save you time because you’re driving to school fewer days per week.


how to work 40 hours a week and go to school

3. Eliminate any wasted time

You will encounter many different time sucks throughout the day, especially as you are balancing school and work and switching back and forth between the two. A minute here and a minute there may add up to a few hours wasted each day.

If you want to learn how to work and go to college, then you need to think about better ways to use that wasted time. 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 the things that are wasting your time, 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.
  • Find a way to work remotely. If you have a job that allows you to work remotely, then this can help you start balancing school and work time even better. You may even be able to work in between class breaks.
  • Prep your meals ahead of time. If you can make your meals in bulk ahead of time 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 cut back on 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 even realizing it. TV and social media can be very distracting too, which is why it is so important to be aware of how it might negatively impact your work-school balance.


4. Separate yourself from distractions

Distractions make it hard to work or study under normal circumstances, but they are even more of a problem if you’re trying to work and go to college at the same time.

Background noises, such as leaving your TV on while you study, 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.

There are going to be so many distractions, and if you want to learn how to work and go to college, you need to separate yourself from those distractions. I know it can be hard, trust me, but I also know how much it will help to eliminate them.

You may want to close your bedroom door, hide the remote from yourself (trust me, this works!), go to the library, or something else. Sometimes you will have to force the distractions out, but it will help you save time and focus on what needs to be done.

Related: How To Be More Productive: 17 Tips To Help You Live A Better Life


5. Have a to-do list and a set schedule

Having a to-do list is extremely helpful for working college students. When you’re trying to balance so many things at one time, it can be difficult to keep track of everything. Your to-do list will put your responsibilities right in front of you. 

The added bonus is that it feels really good to cross things off your to-do list.

You can have a to-do list that lists out your daily, weekly, or monthly tasks. You can use a planner, a notebook, Post-It notes, you can color code things, use stickers, etc. Just find a system that works for you and stick to it.

Balancing school and work will be much easier if you make a to-do list and keep a set schedule. Write out what needs to be done each day, which tasks have the highest priority, and so on.

I know that when I am stressed out it can be easy to forget things, and my to-do list helps me waste less time trying to figure out whether or not I forgot something.


6. Take a break when you really need one

Learning how to work and go to college means you are trying to use every moment of your day as efficiently as possible. But, there are times when balancing school and work can feel extremely stressful.

In times like those, when you feel like you need a break, take a short one to help you come back refreshed and focused on what you need to do.

You can go for a walk, read a book, get in a workout, take a nap, etc. Taking a break when you need one can prevent you from feeling burnt out, which is a danger when you are balancing school and work.


7. Find an online job

What’s great right now is that there are a ton of online jobs, even for college students.

I had to work throughout high school and college, and I will admit that it was tough at times.

While my jobs were almost all in-person, hourly jobs, I would have loved to find something online instead! It would have made it much easier to balance work and school if I had a flexible, online job as I do now.

An online job means no commute (this can save you a ton of time as you are limited since you are in college), possibly a more flexible schedule, and more.

Please read 16 Best Online Jobs For College Students & How To Start to learn more about some of the different online jobs for college students.


8. Ask your boss about remote work options

This won’t be an option for everyone, but it’s worth asking about if you want to learn how to work and go to college.

Many businesses had to send employees home to work remotely over the last couple of years, so now they have better systems in place for remote work.

Even if you were able to work remotely for just one or two days a week, it could be a huge help while you try to balance everything. 


9. Consider online classes

Taking online classes while working full-time can be a lifesaver for many people.

Online college classes can have a very different feel than in-person ones, but they typically allow you to complete the work on your own schedule.

Most colleges offer online classes, and you will have the same professors teaching online classes as in-person ones. That means you’re getting the same quality of education, but you may also get a better work-school balance.

If your school doesn’t offer the online classes you’re looking for, you may want to talk to your college about whether or not you can transfer online credits from another school. Some people take basic courses online and transfer them in to save time and money.


10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

I know you want to do it all, and I’ve been there. But, working and going to school at the same time can be very difficult. You can feel stressed out, lonely, exhausted, depressed, and more.

There are times when you will need help, and it’s okay to ask for it. 

Maybe you need someone to watch your kids for an evening, you need a friend to vent to, or you need someone to study with. There are people around you who want you to succeed, and I know they would love to help if they can. 


Is it hard to work full-time and go to college?

I’m not going to sugarcoat it.

Going to college and working, whether it be full-time or part-time, is hard. It may not be hard 100% of the time, but you will definitely go through some trying times.

That’s why I believe that working college students 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?

We can’t do everything always, and being realistic will help you understand your limitations so that you don’t burn out.


How can I go to college while working full-time?

Start by looking at your schedule, for both work and school. Make sure your schedule is realistic and wastes as little time as possible.

You’ll want to stick to a to-do list and strict schedule, and avoid as many distractions as possible when you’re trying to get things accomplished.

One of the best ways I learned how to work and go to college was to think about my motivation. I reminded myself that I wanted to avoid as much student loan debt as possible. That helped me when I was feeling stressed out and like I was ready to give up.

With the tips I’ve listed to help you learn how to work and go to college, you’ll be able to find more balance in your life. It’s tough, but you’re doing this for a reason.

Don’t forget to fit in time for fun as well.

Are you working full-time and in college? What other tips do you have to help people?


*Statistic from NCES

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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. this post is helpful also for who has a 9-5 job but has also side hustles, small steps great results on long term!!!

  2. DNN

    Working and going to college is definitely a good thing. If it teaches a person to be independent from the traditional day job seen in the long run. Working and makes a person feel good knowing their building toward the future financially and entrepreneurially. Going to college is definitely a good thing, even for those who plan not to stay in the traditional employment field. Going to college is a good thing even for those who will end up online millionaires, not needing their college degrees later on in life because they rely solely 100% on making money from the Internet through affiliate marketing, blogging, YouTube, and numerous passive income based side hustles.