“Some Have to Earn to Learn”

Work and school seem to be two inseparable evils to most college students. To the fortunate few who have the “financial” ability to “choose” one without the other, we hate you (just kidding).

Unfortunately, most college students have to “earn” in order to “learn.” Personally speaking, I held so many jobs in college that my friends called me the “Job Man.” During any given semester, I worked at least two jobs, sometimes three, for a total of 50 – 60 hours a week! No joke. Matter of fact, after graduation, the “real world” seemed a lot easier than college. My mother was very poor and my father didn’t offer me any financial support. I know this sounds like a story from your parents, but I’m still in my late twenties.

I feel personally qualified to offer advice to students who are trying to balance work and school, because in spite of my “blue collar” mentality, I still managed to graduate at the top of my class, participate in five student organizations (president of one), intern and co-op, and still get voted “Student of the Year” in my major. I don’t say that to brag, but to let you know that even though it seems impossible, it can be done.

But how Joe? Well, I’m glad you asked. Each student is different. My toleration for pain is quite high and my need for sleep is quite low.

Not everybody is built that way. But I believe if you want something bad enough, you’ll do whatever it takes to get it. Given the diversity and different personalities of students, I will offer you some general guidelines that any one could use, even the pain “avoiders” and marathon sleepers:

1. Ask why, not how?

Whenever one of my friends saw me on one of my many jobs, they alwaysasked me, “Joe, how in the world do you do it? How can you work two (or three) jobs and still maintain your grades?” I always responded, “I don’t ever to stop to ask myself how, I just remind myself why.”

It was once said that if you have a big enough “WHY,” you can overcome any “HOW.” Have a burning hot reason of why you have to endure this short-term pain to achieve long-term gain, and I promise you, you’ll figure out “how” to do it.

2. Get your priorities straight.

All tasks are not created equal, so you can’t afford to treat them as such if you’re a “working” college student. To use Stephen Covey’s words, “You must put first things first.” You’ve heard the old saying that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Unfortunately, this is true if you’re a working student. Let’s face it, there are some fun things you’re just going to have to give up doing for a while, at least until you’re in a better financial situation.

I missed a lot of parties, a couple of spring breaks, and many fun trips and other activities. Did it upset me? Yes. Was it worth it? For me, absolutely. But the question is, it worth it for you? That’s a call you will have to make yourself.

3. Remember that school is more important than work (for now).

Regardless of how many jobs you have to work to pay for your education and living expenses, never forget “why” you’re working. Some students I know seem to get so involved in their job(s) that they allow their grades to suffer, which in turn extends their time in college (big mistake).

Remember your priorities. As long as you do you job, you will get paid. Give them what they’re paying you for (your time). When you get off your from work or even take a fifteen minute break from work, stop working. Whenever you’re not working, your complete focus should be on school.

4. Leverage your time by working smarter not harder.

Find ways you can steal study time, whether it be on your job or anywhere else. Tape your class lectures and listen to them in the car (boring, yes, but effective). Write your notes on small index cards and take them wherever you go. Treat them like an American Express card; don’t leave home with them.

Study in small intervals instead of big time blocks. Read your note cards while you’re standing in line, waiting for an appointment, during breaks between class, in the car when you’re stuck in traffic, when you’re sitting down eating in the student union, in the bathroom when you’re taking care of your personal business (hey, you have to be creative), and whatever else you can think of.

5. Avoid strenuous physical jobs whenever possible.

I worked a total of 14 jobs from my freshman year until graduation. No, I didn’t get fired from any of them (well, just one — but that’s a long story). Anyway, my point is that none of my jobs (except one — my first) required strenuous physical activity. This allowed me to get more out of myself than I normally would have otherwise. To be quite honest with you, I don’t see how some athletes do it. These are just a few tips from my personal experience as a student, but please stop by again because RealWorld University will be providing much more information on this topic from those who know best: students and graduates. Matter of fact, if you would like to share any of your job and school juggling strategies, please write us. We would love to share your ideas with our RWU audience.

College is already tough as it, and working doesn’t make it any easier. But take comfort in the fact that college statistics show that students who work AND go to school have, on the average, higher GPAs than their fellow classmates who don’t. I know it may seem impossible when you try to earn while you learn, but “what is impossible with man, is possible by God,” saith the Lord.

Thanks for visiting RWU, come back soon, and tell a friend. Remember, the key to wisdom is knowing where to look for the answers. Live Purposefully. God bless.

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