All work and no college: finding the balance when working part time

College fees seem to go solely in one direction: up. Even the grant system can only help the average student so much by merely paying a percentage of the fees. Where does the rest come from? Perhaps your parents can afford to pay them, or you were smart and started saving early and have the money sitting in your Credit Union account. For the rest, a part time job seems to be the only way to make ends meet, not just for college fees, but for basic needs such as food, and in some cases, accommodation. It almost seems like the norm that students struggle financially.

It is not just the stress of having no money that inflicts a majority of Irish third level students, but having a part time job can also be quite stressful. Now you have to find a balance between two almost equally stressful situations. It’s a catch-22: you can’t afford not to work and you can’t afford not to attend classes. Fees are so high that it can almost feel like you’re throwing away money not attending your evening classes for the sake of making your 5.00pm work shift. Kind of ironic, isn’t it?

Fortunately, a lot of employers will do their best to arrange your shifts around your college schedule, but is that really enough? You can’t ask more of your employer, but working evenings and weekends can take its toll. Suddenly you have no time to do your assignments outside of college hours and you can’t remember when you had a day that was free of work and college. A good idea is to book your work holiday entitlements when you have a week off college also, for example, the reading weeks. You can get assignments done and still have time for yourself.

Finding the balance

It all depends on how much money a week you can live on. Some may find that they have to take on extra hours just to pay off loans or rent. Others find they can work just two days a week and still have money left over. Everyone needs a balance, but it’s not the same balance.

Working weekends only may not seem ideal because you’re guaranteed no weekends off for the duration of the terms. However, the upside of not working the weekdays means you have rest periods as well as time to do your assignments, because face it, if you had weekends off you wouldn’t waste them doing assignments anyway. Another plus is that most college courses provide at least one day during the week in which there are no classes. Think of the possibilities!

On the other hand, if you would prefer not to spend your weekend working long shifts, then working evenings can be manageable. Ensure that your employer knows when you can and cannot work. Also take into account the time it takes you to travel from college to work. If, for example, it takes you two hours in heavy traffic to get there in the evenings, chances are you won’t make it for your 6.00pm shift after finishing college at 5.00pm. However, if you finish at 4.00pm, you will more than likely make it; just don’t pressure yourself if you feel it is too much.

College and work can be stressful in their own ways, but they are manageable as long as they don’t clash with each other. No one can tell you what way to arrange your timetable, the only advice is to arrange it so that you’re comfortable and that you are no longer dealing with unnecessary stress.

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