Working while being a student is a full time job that often gets to be overwhelming. Here is how you give yourself the best chance at managing your time and mental health while doing both.
Being a student comes with its fair share of challenges like running out of money before your next allowance enters your bank account or having to stretch every penny because otherwise you will end up scrounging around your cupboard looking for your next meal. Let’s be honest, sometimes those expensive nights spent out on the town are worth eating noodles for the rest of the month. Then there are movies to see, Ubers to take and food to be delivered. With all of this it is easy to find yourself financially vulnerable. To avoid this a lot of people get jobs but finding a job that fits your academic life is the next easy step, right? No!
“Finding a job that offers students flexibility in terms of working hours and understands that these individuals are students first and foremost is absolutely important. However, the moment many students get a taste of money, it can be very easy for them to be blinded by the short-term gratification that comes with working,” explained Sphelele Ngubane, a lecturer at the Durban University of Technology.
The transition from varsity to being a professional can be daunting and create crippling anxiety. You go from juggling classes and a busy social life to having very little time for your friends because you now have to prioritize work and study. The most unfortunate part about this transition is that no amount of assignments, theory, and hard work done while hungover can prepare you for the real world of a proper 9 to 5.
I was very strict with myself when I started my journey as a working student. I understood the ramifications of employment as a student because I had previously fallen victim to the perils of student/employee lifestyle. Back then it led to me dropping out and working full-time in a field totally opposite to my field of studies. The biggest and best lesson I took with me when I enrolled back into varsity was flexibility. I needed a job that understood that my focus is completing my studies, therefore there will be times where I’m not available because I am inundated with school work. The second part was understanding that I was going to be in a very demanding environment and therefore have little to no social life.
What nobody tells you is how difficult and stressful managing the two can be at times. Thanks to the back to back meetings, early mornings and late nights, it’s very easy to find yourself in a loop that benefits just one aspect over the other. Luckily my lecturers shared notes on online platforms and I was very transparent with my class representative about my dance between work and school. It also helped that my boss was understanding.
Ngubane says “transparency for all parties is very important so that the student can thrive in all aspects and both the employer and employee need to understand that these individuals are working on a student calendar. The students need to prioritize as well.
When you do get a bit of free time, take a moment to recharge. Hike with friends, spend time with your family and do anything that Instagram influencers would call self care. A strong support system is absolutely important because they recharge you when you’re depleted and keep you going.
Ngubane explained how detrimental working and studying can be for the students that lack the discipline to juggle the two. He says one of the many reasons South Africa has a high dropout rate is because students end up not attending class, missing deadlines, and not submitting which leads to failure and the subsequent drop out because work has taken precedence over the other.
He added “varsity opens you up to several vulnerabilities because there are students from different backgrounds and the need to fit in sometimes leads students astray and consequently they drop the ball.”
Being a student is difficult at the best of times. When you add a job to that it can quickly become overwhelming but it is also part of what it means to be an adult. You’re going to have to juggle things and the key to juggling things is balance. Take care of yourself because no one else will.