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How To Balance Your Studies With A Job At University

When I started university I was excited about living by myself, but I soon learned that money was essential for […]

When I started university I was excited about living by myself, but I soon learned that money was essential for getting by. So I got myself a job. By the end of the first year I had invented several simple rules for balancing a part-time job with university.


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Your Degree Must Come First

As you may have noticed, things like coursework and seminar prep work usually take up most of your time. Don’t try to change that. You came to university to get a degree and you’re paying thousands of pounds a year to do it, so just get it done.

It must come before everything and you should give it your full and undivided attention, forsaking a social life and everything else that makes you happy. Ok, maybe not to that extreme. But sometimes it does feel like some tutors want to add that at the end of their start-of-year speeches.

I will just emphasise that your degree is the most important (and expensive) thing that will come from your years in higher education, so give it the attention it deserves.

So when it comes to writing up coursework and diving into the dissertation, try and do the following;

  • Turn off your phone, Facebook, Twitter and anything else that will provide you with contact to the outside world.
  • Lock yourself in your room and don’t come out until you’ve made a sizeable dent in your work – about 1000 words of an essay should suffice before the urge to socialise becomes too distracting.
  • Make sure your work periods outnumber the amount of breaks that you will inevitably take.
  • Try to hand your assignments in early; it will give you a bit more time to relax before your next project is due in.

Those are just my words of advice. Here are a few more tips.

How to Fit Your Job Around Your Deadlines

Once you’ve gotten the hang of prioritising your university work, it’s time to add to it by getting a job. Coursework must come first, but it’s understandable to feel conflicted when your boss asks you to do a shift around the same time that you have a 2500 word essay due in. You need the money, but you don’t want to turn in a rushed and poorly written essay. Here’s what you do:

Plan Ahead

Don’t annoy your boss by constantly backing out of a shift you’ve agreed to do because you’ve forgotten about that project deadline coming up next week. Bear in mind that your boss has a business to run and you’re not making it easy by being unreliable.

It will benefit everyone in the long run if you avoid double-booking yourself by knowing when you will have to give your deadlines your full attention and when you can afford to work on someone else’s time.


If at all possible, try to get a job that doesn’t require too much travel. It will make it easier for you to organise your time if you don’t have to factor in unexpected road accidents or train delays.

Whenever it’s possible, try to arrive before your shifts start. I used to arrive fifteen minutes before I needed to be there and spend ten minutes just catching my breath and reading my kindle. Not much, but it was a few minutes that I had to myself.

Remember that if there is a real emergency (and you’ve proven yourself to be otherwise reliable) your boss can get someone to fill in for you.

Squeeze in Some Well-Deserved Fun Wherever Possible

If you’ve just gotten paid and you have a rare night off, spend that money on a few drinks! Look out for cheap club nights and drink deals at your Student Union or at the local pub – whatever floats your boat. Make sure to take advantage of any special deals in your area. Especially look out for any student discounts.

Work is synonymous with university and independence, but it’s not what instantly comes to mind when people remember their days as a student. That’s because there is more to university than work. It’s about the people you meet, the friends you make and the experiences that shape your future. It really is the best time of your life.

My time as an undergraduate is nearly over but it feels like I’ve only just started. There is nothing I would change, but there is still so much more I want to enjoy – even the balancing act of a part-time job and university work is something I am reluctant to let go.

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Sara is a full-time student at Bath Spa University. Alongside her degree she works part-time as a waitress at a popular wedding venue and she writes for The GKBC Writers’ Academy.

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