My Guide to the Delicate Balance Between B-School Academics and Part-Time Jobs
As many college students know, working a part-time job is a great way to help fund your education or earn a little extra money.
This story was originally published by Poets&Quants.
However, when you add a part-time job onto an already busy business school schedule teaming with assignments and important deadlines, it can become difficult to find a balance between it all.
It is a balance I have had to figure out how to navigate as a BBA student at the Ross School of Business. Growing up, my mother would often say “if you don’t get any scholarships, you won’t attend college.” Therefore, my financial situation and working has always been at the forefront of my mind while in college. The first job I had in college was offered to me via a work-study program, and I worked for MDining for the fall semester of my first year. Then, throughout sophomore year, I worked as a resident assistant, a mentor for the Ross Summer Connection program, and a BBA ambassador, along with volunteering for a non-profit organization. Finally, this year, I will be continuing the aforementioned jobs from last year in addition to working as a sales consultant for an advertising company. Therefore, I have quite a bit of experience juggling multiple roles at once, and I’d like to share with you what I have learned.
Stay organized and know your priorities
My first piece of advice is to have a set organizational system. This can be by using a planner, Google Calendar, a scheduling app, or anything else that you can use to input meetings, assignment deadlines, and important reminders. The reason for doing this is to help you plan your schedule accordingly so that you have time for your academics and your job, as well as anything else that you’d like to add into your routine such as extracurricular activities and social events.
By doing this, you can also better visualize your schedule and its capacity. I often hear the analogy that activities in college are like a buffet. Everything may look appealing, but you can only take on so much, whether that be credit hours, part-time jobs, extracurriculars, etc. Therefore, being able to see how full your schedule is before you’re in the midst of it is important because it helps to not overwhelm yourself by giving yourself too little free time.
From there, it is important to plan out what you want/need to accomplish for each day. Personally, I like to make lists of what needs to be completed based upon the priority level of each task. For instance, on Fridays, I do not have classes, so I plan out my time between working my various jobs and developing myself academically. Events on Fridays, such as career development opportunities or working a shift for one of my jobs, take precedence. Then, I incorporate breaks and meal times into my daily schedule. Finally, I devote the time in between all of this to working on assignments in accordance with their due dates. In turn, this helps me to break down a long month into weeks, and then weeks into manageable day-sized pieces. This then helps me to reduce my stress level and better take care of my mental health.
Resources and where to ask for help
Now, despite following all of the steps I listed above, I know from personal experience that it is still possible to be overwhelmed. I understand the feeling of wanting to be able to take on everything that you signed up for. Furthermore, I know how important it can be to keep your current job due to financial reasons. However, this does not mean that you need to do it all alone.
One of the biggest resources I have utilized within Michigan Ross to help me balance my academics with my jobs is academic advising. Every so often, I would meet with my academic advisor and talk to him about my current academic performance, my various jobs, and how life was going at the time. I have found my academic advisor to be a great giver of advice when it comes to trying to balance everything I am involved in. And, I have found that my academic advisor is one of my biggest supporters. I could talk to him about any stress and problems that I was facing, and he helped me to put everything into perspective so that I could work through it. For instance, last year during the second semester, I was struggling to find time for myself in between my classes and various jobs. I was quite stressed, but talking to my academic advisor helped me to realize that I needed to schedule personal time. He helped me to realize that self-care is more important than anything else, and that I needed to start prioritizing it more.
Additionally, although I have not used their services personally yet, I am comforted to know that there are people within the University of Michigan's Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) that I can always reach out to whenever I need. They can help students to manage the stress that comes from balancing academics and a part time job, and they can give referrals to other professionals as well.
Balancing it all
Finally, my last piece of advice is to establish a mental list that rates the order of importance of each of your roles. The order goes like this: You are a person first and foremost, a student second, and whatever else after. For students like me who’s financial situation is at the forefront of their mind, the role as a part-time employee comes third before other things like extracurricular activities. For others, this third role may be different. It is dependent on the person. However, above all, know that you are a person with feelings and emotions, and you should treat yourself as such.
Although you may feel compelled to do so, don’t push yourself beyond your limits. There is strength in knowing when you’ve taken on too much, and there’s nothing wrong with dropping activities of lesser importance when you need to do so. Furthermore, be sure to take time for yourself. Everyone needs a second to just be themselves and not think about the other roles. So if you feel like you want to take a walk, go for it! If you want to hang out with your friends on occasion, do it! Remember, there can be no balance between academics and a part-time job without you, so be sure to take care of yourself and always be sure to ask for help when needed.