Going to college is a full-time job; if you’re a student you don’t need to be told that. But for most students, student loans don’t cover cost of living, and a part-time job is not just a luxury but a necessity to keep a roof over your head and food in your belly. How can you best combine your studies with doing enough work to keep yourself fed, clothed and shod?
Cutting corners may seem like method number one. Buying only Ramen noodles and wearing the cheapest clothing are certainly two very simple changes you could make. But nutritional deficiencies will cost you much more in medical bills, and if you buy the cheapest clothes you may find yourself replacing them constantly. Do the math and work out what would genuinely cost you the least in the long term. If you do decide to go for a very simple, monotonous diet to keep costs down, bear in mind the potential need for vitamins and minerals and compensate with a multi-vitamin. Wal-Mart and other big-box retailers often have own-brand vitamins available which will provide you with everything you need.
Schedule yourself carefully. Buy a page-a-day diary and fill it in religiously. But don’t just pencil in work shifts and study-time! Plan ahead, working little and often on projects due in the future. And schedule some down-time, too; weekly stints at the cinema with friends or an evening out at the bar will actually help you study better and work harder, as the downtime is simply a necessity.
By the same token, budget carefully. You can make little money go far if you have plans for the week. You can spend X amount on food, you will need Y to get to college every day… Work it out carefully and remember to account for spillage; you need some flexibility in case of an emergency!
Find the right job, too. Yes, of course you have to accept a lower wage if you’re going to go for a job that has to be so flexible with your hours and account for finals time. But don’t be silly! If you get a job with a company that makes a meal out of providing you with shifts that suit your studies, you’re unlikely to find a happy future there.
Ask around and check with your guidance counselor; other students and college professionals will be able to tell you which local companies are able and willing to cater for a student’s needs. Making your needs clear up-front is also invaluable; a company is then able to say, “Sorry but we can’t cater for you at this time,” or you can ask a company more willing and able to work with you agree beforehand that your study-time and time spent in class is sacred and not to be touched.
Be willing to offer some flexibility in return, however; if you’re difficult to schedule during the week you may have to give up some of your weekend instead.
Ultimately, holding down a job whilst studying can be done. But go about it carefully so you can have the best experience possible!