Balancing School and a Part-time Job or Internship

Whether it’s to make money to help pay for school or simply to become financially independent, many students take on a part-time job during their undergraduate years. A part-time job can be a blessing, helping put some of your financial woes at ease by guaranteeing regular income. But combined with your academic commitments, a part-time job can also increase your stress load.

Another extracurricular activity that can consume a lot of time is an internship. Students seek out internships while they’re in school to gain firsthand exposure to their desired field and supplement the lessons in school. Through an internship, you can have invaluable, educational experiences while making helpful contacts. However, like a part-time job, internships can dominate the time you have outside of the classroom, leaving you with considerably less time to devote to your other pursuits.

Nevertheless, the potential for a cramped, stressful schedule isn’t a guarantee, especially if you follow these five tips to balance school and a part-time job or internship:

1. Make a schedule.

Given that your full course load and part-time job or internship significantly diminish your free time, it’s in your best interest to make the most of the time you have left. Take a look at your classes and be honest – not optimistic or unrealistic – about the time you need to devote to studying for each one. By designating manageable blocks of time throughout the week for each class rather than cramming it all in one day, you’ll be able to study effectively and not stress about mountains of homework while you’re at your job or internship.

2. Don’t overextend yourself.

According to CollegeBoard, students who work more than 15 to 20 hours a week are more likely to perform more poorly in school than those who work only 15 to 20 hours. Clearly this doesn’t apply to everyone, but it is important to keep in mind that the more time you spend at work, the less time you have to study and the less time you have to pursue your other interests and hang out with friends. Start on the conservative end with your work hours, and if you find that you can take on more without sacrificing too much, then take on more.

3. Talk to your boss.

Communication is key in any functional relationship, and this most certainly applies in a work environment. Be sure to convey to your boss the importance of your schoolwork, emphasizing that you are a student-employee — not just an employee — so your schoolwork always comes first. This isn’t carte blanche to not show up to work at the last minute because you had to pull an all-nighter to finish a research paper; rather, it lets your boss know that your schedule may require more flexibility than others, and that it has to work around your academic responsibilities. Simply emphasize the importance of school while expressing your desire and commitment to work.

4. Do the internship for credit.

Obviously, this is only applicable in some scenarios. As a government major, it’s easy to find an internship at a think tank, research institution or public office that will count for credit, but a part-time job at a bookstore probably won’t work. Yes, an internship for credit means you are paying your school to let you work for free, but if you are able to find an internship related to your major, that’s one (or two, depending on the number of credits you can get for it) fewer class you have to worry about this semester. Your internship will be integrated into your schedule and won’t encroach on the rest of your time.

5. Bring work to work.

Some jobs — mostly office jobs that frequently hire college students — don’t mind if you study during downtime at work. Remember, you are there to work, so you can’t necessarily count on always being able to study there. Nevertheless, bring reading that you can pore over either when work is non-existent or during your lunch break. By using your time at work wisely, but not depending on it, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to reduce your future studying time and increase your personal time.

This article was written by Logan Harper, community manager for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Government’s online Masters in Public Administration – a top MPA program. Outside of work, Logan loves travel, technology, and documentaries. Connect with him on Twitter @harperlogan.

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