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It's a fact of life for almost two-thirds of all college students: you will probably work at least part time while taking college courses. And, according to a report from the State University of New York at Brockport, more than 10 percent of college students work more than 35 hours a week.
Students in the survey noted that working while in school affected their studying time, limited class scheduling, reduced class choices, and kept them out of the library. Here's some advice to ease these four concerns:
Ask your employer for help. Approach your employer right away after you've decided to enroll in college. Your boss has to balance getting the work done with helping you improve your future. Ask for split or flex time, share your position with another employee, and generally be respectful toward your company while putting your studies first.
At the beginning of each semester, ask for a few afternoons off when there will be midterms and finals scheduled. An extra four hours of study time can make a huge difference and won't impact your employment that much. Asking for time off in advance lets everyone know what's going on and reduces the chance for emergencies.
Arrange work time around class time whenever possible. You need to take classes in a certain order at a certain time—the college will be less flexible than your boss. Work a few hours, go to class, then work a few more hours. You'd be surprised how many employers are willing to accept temporary interruptions in the work day—as long as the work gets done.
Schedule time with yourself to visit the library, or take advantage of online library options offered through your college. A lot of research for papers and presentations can be conducted online through your school's library portal. Learn how to use it and access it from home after everything is done for the day. Download articles to your computer to read later. If all else fails, schedule at least two hours per week in your college library for research and/or studying.
Watch your time-wasters. TV, video games, going out with friends, and generally blowing off steam after a long day of school and work can help you relax. Strike a balance between working hard and things that really do nothing for your future. Study now and watch TV when you've graduated.
A College Degree Equals Cold, Hard Cash in Your Future
Working full time while going to college can have negative effects on completing a degree program. Each year, thousands of students drop out of school because work takes priority over studying—even though most associate's degree programs can be completed in two years or less.
The lifetime gain in earnings from a college degree is amazing—holding an associate's degree can increase your annual salary by $10,000 (or more) per year worked, and holding a bachelor's degree increases your annual salary again by another $10,000 to $15,000 per year. A college education pays for itself and is a big investment in your future.
You can earn an associate's degree while working full time—but it's not easy. Keep your eyes on the prize and ask your employer to be flexible and accommodating. You can succeed!
Orszag, J., Orszag, P., and Whitmore, D. Learning and earning: Working in college. The College at Brockport, State University of New York, 2001. Available from http://www.brockport.edu/career01/upromise.htm.
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