7 Tips for Working & Going to Community College at the Same Time

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Working while completing a degree or certificate program at community college is a great way to earn valuable work experience while also pocketing some extra income. It can also be time-consuming and stressful, but these tips can help you navigate your workload without being overwhelmed.

Work, Study, or Both?

Whether you're attending grad school or community college, tuition prices have risen across the board when it comes to post-secondary education. As a result, more and more students are seeking employment to help cover costs while they earn their degree. According to the Community College Research Center, 69% of community college students work while attending classes. Furthermore, 33% hold jobs that require 35 or more hours per week.

If you find yourself in such a situation, you might be worried about being overwhelmed. Community college is a major time commitment, and the pressures of working while attending classes can be a daunting prospect. Even though it may seem difficult, it is far from impossible. With proper planning, excellent organization, and a healthy work ethic, you can not only survive, but thrive as you complete your classes.

Student working online

1. Talk to Your Employer

If you are already employed, immediately inform your supervisor of your intentions to enroll. By providing advance notice, you give your boss the opportunity to tweak your schedule so that you can attend classes without interrupting your duties and responsibilities at work.

If you're already enrolled and looking for a job, be sure to inform your potential employers of your student status. When applying, look for jobs with flexible hours to avoid being trapped in a rigid job that will force you to drop out of school.

2. Look for Work Near Your Campus (or Vice Versa)

Many community colleges are located in or near cities, where there are plenty of work opportunities. By finding a job near your campus, you can reduce travel time and stress.

On the other hand, if you're already employed, do some research and see if any suitable community colleges can be found near your campus.

Either way, keeping work and school close will make your life much more convenient.

3. Consider a Work-Study Program

Depending on your school, you may be able to participate in a work-study program, wherein you can work on campus while still earning a fair wage. These positions have a number of benefits, the most important of which is the complete elimination of travel from work to school. Given that these programs are run by the school, your work hours are extremely flexible and accommodations can certainly be made for your classes.

Diverse positions may be available via work-study programs.

4. Take Advantage of Flexible Scheduling Options

Community colleges are well aware that a large percentage of their student bodies are employed, and as such they offer a bevy of scheduling options that allow students to fit their classes around their work schedules. If your job forbids you from attending daytime classes, you can instead opt for evening or weekend classes see this example, which contain the exact same content as their 'traditional' counterparts.

If you work long hours, you might also want to think about online classes. These self-paced programs let you complete your studies at the time and pace of your choosing and are an excellent option for especially busy students. Schools also offer hybrid courses, which contain a blend of online and in-person learning.

5. Consider Going Part-Time

Community colleges offer all sorts of scheduling options, but sometimes a student just has too many commitments and full-time study is simply not an option. In these cases, it's a good idea to consider a part-time course of study.

Part-time programs contain identical content, but meet less frequently, giving you more time to complete assignments and helping you avoid the pressures of being overworked. Though the slower pace causes these programs to last longer, the reduced stress and relaxed schedule makes this option worthy of consideration.

6. Get Organized

Even with a beneficial class schedule and helpful supervisor, working while attending community college can be a difficult undertaking. Before getting started, you'll need to be organized. Time management is absolutely essential, so create a balanced itinerary that ensures all your duties are completed in a timely manner. Devise a travel schedule, allot time to study, budget time for other commitments and emergencies, and leave plenty of time to take a break and just relax.

7. Consult Friends and Family

Just because you're not in high school anymore doesn't mean your friends and family can't help you out. If you have any family members who have already earned a degree, ask them for help. Chances are, they have a few tips and tricks that can make life a lot easier.

Your friends might not be in your classes, but they can still help in plenty of other ways. They can help out with little things, like feeding your pets while you're out, so you can focus on the important stuff. If they have already earned a degree or are in the process of earning one, they can provide assistance for more important things, like forming a study group to help you get ready for your final exams.

Friends studying

Working and attending community college may not be easy, but it's certainly possible. With proper organization and good study habits, you can emerge with a degree, work experience, and maybe even some extra income to help you get started on the next step of your life.

By Bill Sands
September 2016
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