Balancing school and work: how do you choose?

By Dominique Leclair, Contributor

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]chool is a lot of work. Long hours. Little sleep. Impending deadlines. Every student, regardless of the program, will tell you how challenging it can be to juggle three or more courses, with each instructor expecting that you will make his or her course your priority. Now add the weight of a full or part-time job. The responsibilities and demands on your time are at a crossroad. Which one becomes the priority? Who do you say yes to? Who do you say no to?

For some of us, having a job isn’t really a choice. I mean it is; we all choose to do or not do things, but when rent is due and hydro bills are coming in (I’m a big fan of electricity) and the student loans aren’t stretching as far as the government thinks they should, what do students do? They get a job. And this is where the fun really begins.

Whether you plan it or not, there will come a time when school and work will conflict and you will have to decide which will come first. Each path comes with its own unique benefits and consequences. It’s your responsibility to decide if going to work and delaying studying for an exam or revising an essay outweighs the money for working, or, if saying no to a shift or missing work is the better choice.

[quote style=”boxed”]Juggling priorities is a fact of life, a fact that can be overwhelming for many students, but good practice in the long-term.[/quote]

How do you decide? Consider your options and what your motivations are. If you chose to go back to school to improve your quality of life, get a better job, and hopefully increase your finances, does this mean that you sacrifice getting real food for a few days and miss that shift? Eat mac’n’cheese or ramen noodles, like they do in bad sitcoms? Or if you miss that shift you may be putting your job in jeopardy, and then it isn’t only a few poor meals, but possible eviction if you can’t make rent. Maybe getting a bad mark on that exam or essay is a small sacrifice in the big picture of your school career.

Juggling priorities is a fact of life, a fact that can be overwhelming for many students, but good practice in the long-term. It is about choosing what is most important to you, and considering the repercussions of that choice now and in the future. Your priorities may change. Today school comes first, tomorrow it may be work. During finals, school will likely be the priority; how many marks are given in that one week? On the other hand, there will be times when the paycheque is clearly more important; thinking long-term, you will see that sometimes it isn’t the worst thing to get a lower grade on a minor assignment.

School is short-term. It will only last a few years. Complete your courses, graduate, and move on. These are dilemmas you may face in the future; the “right” answer isn’t always easy or quick to figure out. This is what life is about and these are hard lessons to learn at times.

But remember, they are also the necessary and important ones.