Ally Babillis is a Florida native who earned her bachelor’s degree in Retail Merchandising and Product Development with two minors in Business and Communications. After graduating from Florida State University, she moved above the Mason-Dixon line to pursue a career in fashion. She currently resides in Philadelphia and is working in retail sales for women’s designer apparel. In her free time, Ally enjoys watching FSU football, trying new moves on the dance floor, and singing her heart out at karaoke. She is still shocked that people don’t use the word “y’all” up here.
From 2007 to 2009, the global economy took a turn for the worst, leading us into the Great Recession. Experts say it was the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. During the Great Recession, many Americans lost their jobs, their homes and their savings. In 2009, I entered my freshman year of college. My college funds, which were held in some poorly chosen stocks, nearly vanished. All of a sudden, I was stuck fronting the bill to my college education. It was a huge shock to me. I was always under the impression that college would be paid for. I never even thought about how much it would cost. My parents did not make enough money to cover all of my living expenses. Although, I had help from scholarships and student loans, there was barely any money left over after tuition, textbooks, and other fees. It was up to me to cover my rent, groceries, car insurance, and whatever other bills fell into my lap. To cover my expenses, I got a job serving at a restaurant near school. I would work up to thirty hours a week on top of my fifteen credit hours and extra curricular activities. A lot of my peers were in the same boat as me. On top of our hectic schedules, we would still find the time to study, attend class, and see our friends. So how do you balance your work life, social life, and academic life? Here is some advice that helped my friends and I get through those times.
1. Learn how to manage your time. This is the key component to balancing your life as a working college student. List your tasks by priority. Keep a weekly planner. Being able to see your week in front of you can help you find the time to squeeze in that chapter before lecture. Learn how much time it takes you to do things. Ask yourself, how long it takes to finish the required reading? How long does it take to get ready for work? Thirty minutes? An hour? Add this time into your schedule. Try to live and work close to campus. It cuts back on time and transportation costs! A thirty minute commute five days a week totals to five hours a week. A ten minute commute five days a week totals one hour and forty minutes. The shorter commute can save you three hours and twenty minutes a week. You can knock out a few assignments and squeeze in a gym session with the time you saved. Remember, time and money are limited when you are a working college student. Don’t waste either on long commutes.
2. Work for a company that is flexible with your schedule. Some companies, will offer to reimburse your tuition. These companies are willing to work around your class schedule. Working in the restaurant industry is also a great job to have as a full time student. You can make $100 or more in a five hour shift. Many restaurants hire students because the short shifts and work hours are beneficial to both parties. Unlike other industries, it is easy to get your shift covered or pick up an extra shift if needed. Some restaurants even give you a free employee meal. That can significantly reduce your grocery bill. Regardless of where you work, you need to communicate with your employer about your needs as an employee and student. This will allow them to help you maintain a good work-life balance.
3. Communicate with your professors. During my junior year, I had a huge test the same week my rent was due. I didn’t have enough funds to cover rent and needed to work some extra shifts. This left me with no time to study for this test. I emailed my professor and asked to meet with her to explain my situation. She was very understanding and let me take the make up exam the following week. She even told me I could miss class the day of the test if I needed to work. Talk with your professors. They really want to help you and see you succeed! Remember, they have been in your shoes. Most of them will understand that feeding yourself and having a roof over your head is essential to earning a higher education. Show them that you care about their class by putting the in the effort to succeed. They will appreciate it and find a way to push back the deadline on that ten-page research paper.
4. Team up with your classmates. The divide and conquer strategy is not only effective it is encouraged! Find a study group and split the work. When a big test was coming up my friends and I would divide the material to outline for a study guide. It saved everyone a lot of time. Having a study group can boost exam grades while making friends in the process. Developing these relationships with your classmates can help you be successful in classes to come and your career.
5. Make time for your friends. This is easier if your inner circle works with you, lives with you, or has class with you (not all three at once, you will drive each other crazy). If your group of friends aren’t in these area of your lives try and hook up with them at least once a week. Grab a coffee between classes or go out with them one night a week. Texting and calling each other throughout the week helps keep you connected. College isn’t just about the education. It is about the friends you make as well. They will carry you through life. Well, at least through your twenties.
6. Make time for yourself. During college, Mondays were reserved for me. I did not work on Mondays. My class load was light, if I had any. It would be my day to relax or my day to catch up, depending on the week. You need a day to yourself to decompress. There is a lot of stress that comes with being a working, full time student.
7. Take care of yourself. When you are burning the candle at both ends, it can be easy to burn out. You need to prevent this. Get as much sleep as you can. Have a healthy, balanced diet. Drink a lot of water. Get some exercise. These habits can maximize your energy levels and cognitive skills.
8. Stick to one extra curricular activity and make it count. If the extra curricular coincides with your major, that’s even better. School clubs are great for networking and boosting your resume. Let the club officials know that you won’t be able to show up to every single function or meeting they have. They will understand. They are busy students too.
9. Embrace the all-nighters. They will be unavoidable at times, especially during finals week. Embrace it. It is part of the experience. Rest up before hell week.