Working and Going To School: A College Student’s Guide To Financial Success

Now, as a college student I’m no stranger to working. Having held various jobs since I was 15, I look at this as preparing for the future. Simultaneously working while taking on a full-time student course load is one of the most difficult things I’ve learned to conquer in my short 20 years of living.

Currently, a proud worker of three jobs – it’s important that I know how to handle this jam-packed schedule while still keeping my education as the main priority. Nothing makes me more proud than handing over a check from my bank account every semester, paying and upkeeping for my own car, and balancing various expenses.

For those of you following similar situations here are some tips that help me as a full-time student with a full-time workload:

1. Create a budget and track your cash flow

If you pay for tuition as I do – absolutely set up a payment plan if possible that is paid each month. As for loans, take only what is necessary and start to make monthly payments on the loans. You’ve already heard it a million times but – do not make the minimum payments! The more you pay, the less interest accrues.

After you calculate your monthly expenses for tuition, books, transportation/gas, and a small allowance for various expenditures – find out how much you need to be making.

2. Get a job or two to support your college expenses

The go-to jobs for college students include restaurants and bars, I definitely recommend this if you thrive in fast-paced environments. For those who need calmer environments – babysitting is definitely an easy opportunity for students to make money. The hours are flexible, and you can always pick up more hours, morning or night.

If you’re looking for more work experiences, do not overlook paid internships – that’s right they exist! Internships always take priority over any waitressing job, be persistent in working out a fixed hourly wage.

Once you have a steady stream of income, you can begin your money schedule. In a spreadsheet, list everything you pay for monthly in one column and the amount you bring in monthly. From there you can figure out if this job is right for you and will be earning you enough money. Don’t’ forget – you do not have to feel like you’re stuck at your job!

3. Plan your time  between school and work

Something that I’ve always struggled with (and still do) is finding a healthy balance between school, work, and social life. I’ve gotten used to saying no to any and all plans and had a problem sitting still. I’ve scheduled my classes to take place in the mornings and go right from class to work.

At first, this routine was tremendously stressful, but I found my niche. I work best in the mornings so often I do my homework days in advance in the mornings and on the weekends. Preparation and motivation are hard to attain at first but developing a routine, writing it down and sticking to it will pay off.

Being a college student and working a 30-hour work week seems like a lot but I couldn’t be happier to be doing it. Yes, the money I’m earning and paying towards my education is important but so is the experiences I’m getting and the relationships I’m making. Working for jobs and internships in my field has opened my eyes to what I want for my future and what I can really see myself doing- you only learn this through job experiences.

In addition, working in the foodservice industry has opened me up to a lot of new people and connections that have helped me further my career too– small gifts of school supplies, articles pertaining to my studies, book recommendations, and small stuff that remind me why I love working and meeting people.

In summary

You just need to fully understand your money needs and find the healthy balance between work and school –  but most importantly do not let your job(s) overshadow your ultimate goal of a degree.

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