Ever since my freshman year in college, I had heard of these crazy college students who worked full-time and went to school full-time. I never expected to be one of them, but I wondered how it was done. During junior year I decided to try it out and discovered a few things.
In my situation, I was working a summer job full-time that I decided was easy enough that I could balance it with school. This is the first key to success. Do not try this with a physically or mentally exhausting job. I was doing office paperwork, where simple geometry was the most effort your mind had to put out. This job was 40 hours a week, thus meeting the full-time requirement, but did not often have overtime. After 3 months on the job, you could think about anything while doing the work.
The second key to success was picking classes wisely. I looked at the classes that I had left. Unfortunately, by junior year, not many “easy” classes were left. However, I did have some options. I avoided classes with busy work like the plague. Any class with a lab was out of the question. Math classes, even the easiest of math classes, were ruled out due to the amount of homework. In depth science courses were ruled out due to the sheer amount of reading. Online classes were preferable, so that I could use spare time to watch lectures and complete assignments. Unfortunately, the pickings on online courses were slim. The next best bet to an online course, was one that allowed you to pass without doing much more than just attending lectures and taking exams. In the end, I picked an animal diseases course online, as well as economics and psychology lectures, and a karate class for good measure. The in-person lecture courses were both 4 units, the online course was 3 units, and the karate course brought in the extra unit to make the 12 unit full-time student requirement. This brought me right to the minimum of being considered a full-time worker and a full-time student.
So now I had my classes. I would work for 8 hours at the office and drive directly to class. Attend lectures, go to karate, and go online to watch the online lectures and do assignments. And that was it. Okay, not quite. No one could be so lucky as to find classes without any homework and studying to do. I was waking up at 7am to get to work at 8am. Then working until 5pm, with an hour lunch from noon to 1pm. Then I’d have lecture starting at 6pm, going until either 8pm or 10pm depending on the day. On top of that, I had to fit in the online course somehow. This is where the third key to success comes in. You need to learn a new way to manage your time. Normally you probably do a lot of things that are not truly necessary. Watch TV? Spend time talking in chat rooms? Have a hobby? These type of activities need to be moved down on the priority list. On your 15-minute breaks at work, you could be doing a homework assignment due later that week. Maybe you used to use this time to play on your Gameboy, but now you just don’t have that kind of time to spare. It doesn’t really take you an hour to eat lunch does it? Part of that time can be used for studying. Found a parking spot early one day? Catch up on reading or homework during your spare moments. Maybe on those days when you get home after 10pm you’ll only have time to get home, do chores, eat, and go to sleep. When you get home shortly after 8pm however, you can use this time to watch a lecture for the online class or study for other classes. Keep in mind that weekends are available as well. It won’t kill you not to party for a quarter or semester.
With this full-time job and full-time course load schedule, I managed to use the above mentioned time management techniques to stay ahead or at least not fall behind. At times, I was watching all of the lectures for the online course on Friday after work when I did not have any classes. I never missed a lecture for any of the classes, however. This was key, because going to lectures are essential when you are short on time for studying. By the end of my 11-week experiment, I was out of the quarter with straight A’s and my job performance at the office had not suffered. Not only did I stay on top of school and work, but I also kept my volunteer duties with an animal rescue group. I managed to also find some time for social activities, although, I must admit that my social life greatly suffered during this time. However, I did manage to save up some money.
Unfortunately, these conditions cannot always be met, as I found out during the next quarter of my junior year. I simply could not find the courses I needed offered in the evenings. I had to take morning and afternoon courses or I would not be able to be a full-time student. So after 6 months of working at the office job, I had to quit and find something part-time. Not being so busy, I didn’t worry about time as much. Poor time management resulted in significantly lower grades the next quarter, despite actually having more time on my hands. After this experiment, I stuck with part-time work and full-time school, just to be easier on myself. This also gave me more time for social activities. However, after the experiment, I knew that if necessary, I could absolutely work full-time and go to school full-time, and if my grades suffered, it would probably be more as a result of poor time management than as a result of working too much. Obviously, working full-time and going to school full-time is not an ideal situation. In some cases however, it has to be done, and I hope these tips will help someone who is in such a situation.