How To Balance Work And Study At University

Working whilst at University is a great way to boost your income and gain valuable skills and experience.

A part-time job can give you some much-needed financial security and looks great on your CV too. 

Working whilst studying has many benefits but striking the right work-life-study balance is vital to ensure you don’t feel overworked and under pressure. Here are our tips:

1. Find the right job

Where you work will determine how successfully you maintain this precarious balance. The ideal job is part-time (no more than 15 hours per week!) and flexible with shifts you can fit in around lectures, personal study time and your social life

Check out the university job board as a first port of call. Here you will find on-campus jobs in the library, shops and Student Union bar.

Working for your university is ideal, because they understand the demands of student schedules and will be flexible with shifts. You are also guaranteed a fair wage, safe working conditions and in most cases a job after each break.

Jobs at the university are often snapped up fast, so if you can’t – or don’t want – to work on campus consider retail, bar and restaurant work. Shops and bars often need weekend and evening staff, particularly during busy periods like Christmas. 

Finally, job sites like Student Job or e4s are a great place to search for student-friendly permanent and temporary work. 

2. Organise your time

Map out your schedule every week with lectures, shifts, social activities and course deadlines. This will help you keep track of your time, ensuring you don’t miss out on important events or hand in coursework late. 

Use a diary or calendar to keep an eye on your workload. Notice that you work more than you study? Request to drop a shift or two. Not getting enough ‘me-time’? Plan a movie and pizza night to unwind. 

Try to create a (flexible) routine and stick to it. If you can, work the same shifts each week; Monday evenings and Saturday 9-5 for example.

Assign personal study time at the library – Tuesday and Thursday mornings, perhaps. Make your routine a dirty habit but be prepared to move things around during exam time and busy periods at your job. 

3. Learn to manage stress

Stress is inevitable during your studies but you can manage, if not prevent it with a few simple coping mechanisms. 

Focus on one thing at a time. Got a to-do list longer than your arm? Prioritise each task and give the job your full attention until it’s complete. This goes for everything, whether it’s an essay, work shift or errands for your role as society VP.  

Exercise and eat well. The healthier you are, the better your body copes with stressful situations. Stay active, eat your 5 a day (yes, frozen vegetables DO count) and get enough sleep to prevent burning-out.  

Enjoy yourself! Don’t neglect your interests and social life when the workload gets too much, go out and live a little instead. Doing the things you love will help you unwind, de-stress and re-focus; this will only benefit your academic and work life in the long run. 

4. Take frequent breaks

It's important you get some rest inbetween your studies, in order for your brain to function and do the best you can when you're busy hitting the books.

This is particularly crucial if you have a part-time job while at university - you’ll be grateful you had that cat nap when working a late shift at the bar!

If it helps, make a timetable so you organise your time more efficiently, and know when you'll be taking your breaks exactly.

Taking time off is important for a good work/life balance, so don't wear yourself thin, and take a whole day off if you feel you need it (but don't neglect your studies either!).

5. Don't leave everything until the last minute

Delaying things may lead to piling of more and more work in the end.

Another disadvantage of procrastination is that it only keeps adding more stress at the top of daily work load.

This is why we recommend making a timetable and sticking to it (see point no.9).

It will help you organise your deadlines, and make sure that you put enough effort into all your assignments and other work.

6. Avoid distractions

Today, most of us get distracted time to time by using Facebook, Twitter, or checking our mobile phones all the time.

These things can distract you from the work you may be doing, and can take lot more time than usual to finish tasks.

At the end of the day, when you are not done with particular tasks, this may leave you stressed. Focus on finishing one task and then move on to another.

Also, don't waste time when you could be getting things done. Learn to say no to people and things that will negatively affect your studies or work.

Although it's tempting, avoid spending a lot of time on social media, which can be a huge time sink. This does not mean that you shouldn't have time to relax but more that you should spend your time wisely.

7. Look after your health

A balanced diet is important for students. Studying takes up a lot of energy and, hence, the right amount of nutrition is a crucial part of your university life.

Eat lots of fruit, veg and other good brain foods each week, such as nuts, blueberries, broccoli, eggs, oranges and fatty fish. These will go a long way to keeping your energy topped up.

We have lots of meal and snack ideas over at our student recipes section, as well as tips on healthy eating, how to budget for food and the different methods of cooking.

As well as food, it's essential to watch what you drink as well. This means not drinking too much alcohol, and staying hydrated with lots of water, especially during the warmer weather.

Get a good night's sleep as often as you can (difficult with all the socialising, we know!) but going to bed early, or at least when you normally would, once or twice a week will help you feel more alert and ready for your studies.

8. Prioritise and set realistic goals

Always be honest with yourself. It is essential to understand that with so much on your plate, you do not have all the time to do everything.

Therefore, decide on your priorities and accept that some things will have to change.

Making time to socialise and exercise is important, but you may have to miss a few sessions here and there to complete an assignment that is due, or catch up on work.

At the end of the day, once the course is over, you’ll get some time back to get your social life and exercise schedule on track.

9. Stick to a schedule

The reason for that is that when you plan things, then you always stay informed: It means you know when you will be able to finish a particular assignment or college project.

As mentioned earlier, you can always include breaks or outings as part of your schedule.

It will work as an incentive to stick to your timetable, knowing what you are doing and when.

If not, you may end up with a pile up of work, including new stuff that you were not aware of because you didn’t schedule.

However, be prepared for it to be flexible, and ready to adapt to new assignments, a sudden work crisis and/or unexpected errands. However, the most important thing to do here is to make enough studying time in your schedule.

After all, you are ultimately here to get yourself a good degree!

10. Communicate

It is important to communicate your tight schedule to your employers, clients, friends and family.

This helps in ensuring that the people around you know where and when you will be available.

If you are to study effectively, you need time to go through your class work. Letting people know about your schedule prevents them from interfering with your study time.

Remember, not everyone you live with or work with understands the demands of being a student.

Similarly, not all your uni mates or old school friends understand the responsibilities of working and studying at university.

Therefore, communicate and let the people around you know when you can socialise, when you need help with errands and when you need to study.

By writing things up, making notes, and planning well, you'll find it much easier to balance your life between study, work, and personal life while at university.

Further information

For more tips and advice on studying, working and socialising at university, please see:



Re:How To Balance Work And Study At University

Working while studying in a university is a form of delayed gratification. You may let go of your personal pleasure for a much higher cause of becoming successful in the future.

--Jeff Morgan--