Manage Test Anxiety

3 Tips for Keeping Your Sanity While Working and Going to School

It’s nothing new that college students work during their stints in higher education. Holding down at least a part-time gig while taking classes is so common, in fact, that you’re probably a…errr…fortunate individual if you’re not.

The unsurprising truth of the matter is that a significant majority of us work while attending university.

In fact, about one in every five students works a full-time, year-round job. Suffice it to say, work is not (in most cases) a legitimate excuse for not diving into (or back into) your education.

But that doesn’t mean that the prospect isn’t intimidating. Work and school are both big-time commitments, even when you are attending school online. I held a full-time, year-round job through 80% of my degree program, and each and every semester in which I took a full load of online classes (which was almost all of them) felt very intimidating. Even my final semester, when I was a seasoned “pro,” I found myself totally not crying into a bowl of Lucky Charms.

It is possible to not only juggle the busyness of working while attending university, but also to maintain your sanity. (Or at least most of it.) I didn’t always do it very well myself, so the following tips spring forth from a retrospective extensive database of mine on How Not to Succeed in College While Actually Trying.

This means you should do the exact opposite of whatever each of these tips is going to suggest.

Avoid Interacting with Anything and Everything that You Find Remotely Enjoyable
It’s ridiculous to think that you should have anything remotely resembling a life while working and going to school. Do you think Einstein became as smart and accomplished as he was by sipping green tea fraps and reading “Jane Eyre” while there were theories of relativity just hanging around waiting to be discovered?

It’s nice that you like getting outside and exercising or taking in the local art scene or having friends, but even the thought of trying to balance your life or enjoy the ride is akin to pouring money down a toilet when you could be shutting yourself off to the outside world by retreating into your work and studies.

Seriously, don’t even think about accepting any friend requests or letting anyone have your phone number.

What kind of world would we have if life was about more than our textbooks and spreadsheets?

Think about it.

Obsess Over Perfection Obsessively
College is nothing if not a place for us to do everything perfectly. If your research papers aren’t picked up by industry trade journals, or if your speeches don’t go viral on YouTube, or if you get a test back with any grade lower than a 99.5% because you and your professor disagreed on your use of the Oxford comma in the essay question, then you are doing everything all wrong and you might as well pack it in.

You’re probably in this position because of you botched Tip #1. Maybe if you had spent less time “being a good person” you would have been able to graduate Summa Cum Laude. But instead, you enjoyed an evening with your friends and forever sullied your earning potential. Don’t listen to what anyone says, 0.5% can be the difference between having your own office and fetching coffee for the guy with the office.

If only you had spent a little more time studying over your lunch break instead of grabbing a sandwich with the coworker whose cat just died.

Ignore Opportunities for Gaining Valuable, Practical Experience
What? You think just because you’re studying to become a veterinarian means you’re allowed anywhere near animals or other veterinarians? Or that being an English or communications major gives you the right to contribute to any form of publication? What’s next? music majors thinking we’re all cool with them singing in the shower? Am I on candid camera?

The temptation may come in the form of new or increased opportunities at your current job. Or, perhaps, it will show up as a freelance opportunity. Sometimes it may even disguise itself in the form of an entirely new job. But don’t be swayed. No good has ever come from supplementing book learning with practical experience.

I hope by now you’ve fully realized that I was quite serious about you doing the exact opposite of everything I’ve just recommended. It is, of course (at least in most cases), in your best interest to maintain balance in your work/school/life, not stress yourself out unnecessarily over minutiae, and seize opportunities for gaining valuable, relevant experience in your area of study. That much almost goes without saying.


Sometimes it’s easy to forget the, well, easy common sense stuff. To get so wrapped up in the day-to-day busyness that we isolate ourselves, sweat the small stuff, and completely miss/ignore/overthink the good opportunities that pop up.

For your sanity’s sake, though… stop it.

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