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Balancing study and part-time work

Juggling undergraduate study with a part-time job is demanding, so how do you set about getting the right balance between your work, academic and social commitments?
The best way to achieve a work/study/life balance is to be ruthless about organising your time.

If you're worried about juggling a part-time job with your university studies, you are not alone. Many students need to earn money to support themselves while they complete their degrees, which is why the majority of universities have jobshops or advertise part-time work through their careers services. So how do you balance your immediate need for cash and the desire to manage your finances with the demands of your degree course?

Plan, plan, plan

The best way to achieve a work/study/life balance is to be ruthless about organising your time so that your priorities don't suffer. Carry a diary or use the one on your phone so that you know when important lectures and deadlines are coming up, what dates and times you have agreed to work and what key social events you don’t want to miss. Plan to study intensively for a while and then devote yourself to your part-time work at other times.

Try to have a structured work pattern so that you can get into a routine and don’t agree to work at a time when you have lectures or tutorials scheduled. Perhaps it would suit you better to work more during the holidays and devote yourself to your studies during term time, doing fewer hours at work?

Keep everyone informed

If you have a part-time job it's inevitable that there will be times when your studies need to take precedence, during exam time, for example. If you work regular times, give your employer as much notice as possible that you will need more time during this period and try to negotiate a solution.

University staff also appreciate fully that money is an issue and recognise that students need to work. If you do find yourself struggling to produce coursework on time seek advice and support as early as you can from your tutor. Often deadlines can be extended in exceptional circumstances.

Take care of yourself

Be realistic about what you can do and don’t promise something you can’t deliver, or people will be less sympathetic to your needs another time. You can rush around from pillar to post for so long but eventually you need to get enough sleep. There are only 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week and you need time to unwind and relax. In the end, your health is the most important thing.

If you are still concerned, talk to student services/student support at your university as specially trained advisers can often give you financial advice, from ways to budget to dealing with personal debt. They may present options that you didn’t know about.

Added benefits from part-time work

The benefits of the experience and skills you will gain from part-time work are huge and say a lot about you to future employers. It will help you to sharpen your transferable skills such as teamworking, leadership and negotiation. Many recruiters consider relevant work experience an important part of a CV and some will not interview candidates without it.

Remember that everything you do at university counts. Even if your work is voluntary you may still be gaining key skills, so make sure you log all your experience on your CV.

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