Tips from students on staying sane while working through college

If you’re a working college student, it may feel like you’re the only one who’s juggling so many things at once. But you are not alone.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor
Hope Marie Harley works in the counseling office at Frederick Community College on a work-study program to avoid student debt, on October 6, 2015 in Frederick, Md.

If you’re a working college student, it may feel like you’re the only one who’s juggling so many things at once. But you are not alone.

The National Center for Education Statistics found that 40% of full-time students and 76% of part-time students were employed in 2013, according to the latest data available. Between classes, homework, extracurriculars and your job, there’s not much time left for you — and we all need a little time for ourselves to keep from going crazy.

Check out these insider tips to learn how to stay sane and have fun while you work toward that degree.

1. Schedule time for everything

Take a look at your week: If you spend 20 hours in classes, 15 hours at work and 10 hours participating in extracurricular activities, that becomes a 45-hour week. And you still need time to study, so scheduling your week is important.

The more detailed you are with your schedule, the better, says Makena Finger, an incoming senior at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She has a work-study job in addition to teaching yoga, pulling odd jobs and participating in several clubs.

“Google Calendar is my best friend,” she says. “I have everything blocked into that, even my workouts, otherwise I’ll find a reason not to go.”

2. Learn to say no

There’s only so much you can do in a day, but when you’re in college it’s tempting to agree to every opportunity that comes your way. And there’s no shortage of events to attend or clubs to join. But as Josh Larson — an incoming senior at the University of Wisconsin, Madison — found, that “yes man” mentality isn’t sustainable.

“Back when I started doing work and extracurriculars, I thought I could do it all. I mean, the reality is a person can only do so much, and I stretched myself thin that semester,” Larson says.

In other words, be selective.

3. Work on campus, if possible

If you have the opportunity to do a work-study program or an on-campus job, choose that over an off-campus job. Your boss likely will have worked with other students in the past, and might be more understanding than the average employer when you have to rearrange your schedule because your chemistry class has an extra lab that week.

And, as Finger notes, another plus to the work-study job is that things tend to overlap.

“It’s called work-study for a reason: There’s usually time to get both done, so if you have an opportunity to do a work-study job or a similar position, then definitely go for that,” she says.

4. Keep one day a week sacred

You may have a packed schedule, but be realistic: Even the most determined students can burn out if they aren’t careful. Incoming junior at the Missouri University of Science and Technology Sam Ogunmolawa quickly learned that lesson when he started his work-study job three years ago.

“One thing I learned from working and doing all that school work is that you really need to enjoy your free time,” says Ogunmolawa, who works about 12 hours a week in addition to being a member of the National Society of Black Engineers, the student union board and the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.

When building your weekly schedule, be sure to dedicate at least one day a week to doing what makes you happy or relaxed — even if it’s just staying in and binge-watching your favorite TV show.

Devon Delfino is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: ddelfino@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @devondelfino.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by USA Today College.

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