Meet Kristin Connell, a 25 year-old Seattle transplant and student. Although she currently divides her time between college courses and a part-time job, she has four years’ experience juggling a full-time student life with family, friends, and professional responsibilities. How did she do it? We sent an Edu411 interviewer to find out.
Edu 411: You’re currently working on a bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising. Is this your first experience of college?
Kristin Connell: No, actually, this is my second degree. I have a BA in anthropology from the University of Nevada.
Edu411: Were you a part-time or full-time student there?
KC: I was a full-time student. I usually had about four or five classes, each consisting of about three hours a week. They ask you to map out an hour’s worth of study for each hour of class–so if I was taking a fifteen-credit load, I would also have fifteen hours of study time each week.
Edu411: So you had a busy school schedule. Did you work full-time as well?
KC: Well, when I started school, I started out slow–not working as much because I got help from my parents. As I went through college, the help from my parents subsided and I started working as much as forty hours a week in a couple different jobs. I worked in a bookstore the whole time I was in college. Along the way, I also worked as technician in the university’s archaeology lab and as a courier for a property management company.
Edu 411: A lot of our readers are concerned about balancing a college schedule with a full-time work schedule. Did your work life suffer as a result of your study time or vice versa?
KC: No, my grades didn’t suffer and neither did my job. With work, I luckily was able to find employers who worked around my school schedule. With school, I scheduled my classes in large blocks of time without long breaks in between so that, at the end of the day, I could finish class with enough time to go to work.
Edu 411: What about your social life and family life. Did either suffer from the time you spent studying?
KC: Absolutely not. I was able to have a glowing social life and spend meaningful time with my family without ignoring my coursework or my job. It was all about making what was important to me a priority and not wasting my time on things that weren’t important. If I wanted to have a family dinner, for example, I made sure I had all my studying done beforehand–or made time to finish afterwards.
Edu411: Are there any “tricks of the trade” to juggling a full-time job, school schedule, social life, and family time? In other words, how do you “make time” for your priorities?
KC: There are two major tricks: first, find an employer who will work around your schedule and not hold it against you that you’re pursuing an education. Most don’t, because they realize that through education you’re going to become a better employee. Second, make sure to schedule your classes so that you’re not wasting the time between them with excessive breaks. I used to schedule all my classes on Monday and Wednesday so that I was free to work Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. If you can’t schedule your classes as easily as that, you can always use your breaks to study. Also, you should play to your strengths when scheduling study time. If you’re doing really well in mathematics, let’s say, you probably won’t need to spend as much time studying math as you would a subject where you’re not as comfortable.
Edu411: One final question: what advice can you give to a person who is considering earning a degree, but concerned that they won’t be able to juggle all their responsibilities?
KC: Just remember that you’re getting an education to better yourself, and to never let anyone in your life make you feel bad for that, because you should always have people in your life supporting you in your goals–even if it means you don’t get to spend as much time with them, they’re going to allow you that. Also, keep in mind that it’s only human to do what’s important to us first. If your priority is finishing a term paper, you make time to finish your paper first. On the other hand, if your priority is attending your child’s soccer game, you make sure you do that before anything else. If you know how to schedule well, make the most of your time, and play to your strengths, you’ll find that there’s enough time in the day for all of it.
Balance Comes in Different Forms
As you might imagine, Ms. Connell represents a rare breed of student. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2005, only about 9 percent of full-time students aged 16-24 worked 35 hours or more per week. Keep in mind, however, if you’re still worried about full-time burnout, you can earn a degree as a part-time student or through online courses. Take it from one who’s been there: when it comes to your education, you have to consider what’s most important to you.
Publish date: March 9, 2008