Saturday, November 25, 2017

10 Ways To Manage A Full Course Load Working 30 Or More Hours A Week

College students nationwide are at home this week, enjoying their time off from school.  For many, this also includes a short break from their on or off-campus job.  Juggling a full course load (12 units or more) and a job of over 30 plus hours is incredibly hard to do.  In fact, it's highly discouraged by college counselors who insist focusing on your studies is the best move you can make.  Unfortunately, some college students don't have a choice.  There is now an actual term used to define full-time college students who work more than 30 hours a week: working learner.

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For obvious reasons, working learners are more likely to be disconnected from school and drop-out, and to be stressed.  My sister-in-law, Chelsea, a sophomore at Cal State San Marcos, is a working learner.  She earned a 3.8 g.p.a. her first year, in spite of having a full class load, and working more than 35 hours a week to pay for rent, car insurance, and other expenses.  She's in town for Thanksgiving, and spoke to me about her current struggles in Chemistry.  She's getting an "A" in Biology, and her other classes, but currently failing this one class.  She thinks she did well on her last test, and feels she can do well on the final.  Still, her working learner status won't make her "comeback" in Chemistry particularly easy.

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I asked her what some of her recommendations were to other college students in the same situation.  In other words, how could they have the success she's had so far?  This is what she came up with: 

1.  Have an app scheduler that reminds you ahead of time when an assignment is due. iStudiez Pro allows you to prioritize assignments, plan study sessions, and include your class schedule. 

2.  Use Quizlet to make studying easier.  Some students don't study because studying may require them to make flashcards, and then sit down and actually study them.  With the Quizlet app you can look at previous students' digital flashcards or you can type the course name and get flashcards ready made for you to study at any time with your phone in hand.

3.  Have the right mindset for being constantly busy.  Don't compare yourself to full-time students who don't have to work.  They may have every evening to party, while you may be spending every evening at work.  Remind yourself that your efforts are paying off in the form of accruing less college debt over time.  This is a huge win for you!

4.  Have a balance and do include both sleep and a social life.  Despite your machine-like efforts, you must make the time to still enjoy somewhat of a social life and have consistent sleep habits.  You don't need a mental breakdown!

5.  Make use of professor office hours.  You may need an occasional assignment extension, and that decision is made easier when your professor actually knows who you are.  Seeing them about a concept you don't understand opens the door to being comfortable asking for a few more days to finish work you haven't been able to get to because of your busy schedule.

6.  Choose on-campus jobs over off-campus ones.  Aside from being more convenient, your bosses will be more flexible with you during finals, scheduling you to come in at more suitable times.  Commutes will absolutely destroy your valuable time unless you can get audio books or notes and hear them as you travel.

7.  Have the right roommates.  You may not have a choice your first year of college, but by your sophomore year, you should be able to know who you can live with out of your circle of friends.  Pick other studious people to share housing with that will have your back, meaning, they won't entice you to party, and will cheer you on to keep going.

8.  Make time for exercise.  Exercise is proven to reduce stress and make you feel good about yourself.  Your brain will get more oxygen helping you think more clearly.  "I don't have time for exercise!"  Nonsense!  30 minutes four to five times a week is all you need.

9.  Maximize every spare minute!  The bathroom is now a mini study session room.  Your phone is with you right?  Then use going to the bathroom, eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner, heck...even showering, as times to be pumping information into your brain.  There are no rules!

10.  Improve your reading speed.  Keeping up with all of the assigned reading is a college student's number one challenge.  Why not learn speed reading techniques to help with this?  Here's a great article on speed reading techniques.

Being a "working learner" is perhaps the best real-life preparation a college student can have.  If you can work and go to school, you're essentially prepared to do what professional adults do all over the country.  In fact, yours truly earned a Masters in Administration while working as a full-time teacher and being married.  I failed at my first marriage, but I did earn that Masters.  Ha!

In all seriousness, life is hectic and learning to manage your time is a HUGE skill.  I applaud all working learners, and want to tell you, if you happen to be one, I'm your biggest fan!  Hang in there and never give up.  Thanks for reading.

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