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How Can I Balance My Part-Time Job With Schoolwork?

I'm 17 and trying to balance a part-time job and schoolwork. My teachers don't understand that I'm working until 11 p.m. and my employer doesn't understand that school is important.
Shana*

It can be so hard to balance school and a part-time job! These days, with everyone's finances stretched, many students need to have a job. But it's essential to find a balance that lets you do your best at school and at work.

First, decide if you really need to work during the school year ― or on school nights. If the money you earn is essential to help your family or save for college, let your teachers know your situation and the work schedule you're currently keeping. Talk to your employer, too.

Talking to Teachers

Start with a teacher you think will be easy to talk to. When you approach him or her, focus on doing it in a friendly, respectful, calm, and positive way. Ask if it's a good time to talk. If it's not, set up a time that is.

When it's time to talk, be direct and honest about your situation. Take responsibility. Admit where you're falling short. For example, "I know I haven't been doing that well in your class. I haven't turned my assignments in on time and my test grades could be a lot better." (Or, "I'm having trouble keeping up with the reading assignments for this class," or whatever's true for you.)

Then go on to explain what's holding you back, such as, "I know I need to put more time into schoolwork, but I have a part-time job and on the nights I work, I don't get off until 11 p.m. That leaves me no time for homework or studying — and if there's a test the next day, I'm sunk. I need the job, but I also want to do well in school." Another way to explain the problem might be, "I'm trying to figure out how to balance work and school, but I'm having trouble doing it."

Your teachers might be able to give you extra time on project deadlines, provide study help, talk over strategies for prioritizing and managing schoolwork, or offer other suggestions to help you keep up. If you can't find a teacher who understands, ask your school guidance counselor for advice.

Talking to Your Boss

Talk to your manager about ways you can shift your schedule or cut back on hours so that you can get your schoolwork done. Explain your situation directly, calmly, and honestly. For example, "I need to talk to you about my hours and schedule. I like my job and I need the money, but I'm having trouble getting my schoolwork done on nights that I work until 11 p.m." Then ask for what you'd like. For instance, "Can you change my schedule so I can get off earlier on school nights? Or give me fewer shifts on school nights?" If an unpredictable schedule is part of the problem, ask, "Can you give me the same schedule each week so I can plan my schoolwork better?"

If that doesn't work, see if your coworkers will adjust their schedules to help you. Also consider looking for a different part-time job with hours that fit better with your school responsibilities.

When you talk to teachers and employers, be sure to say thanks for their time and ideas. Hopefully, they will understand your situation better, realize how hard you're working, and find a way to help.

Even though you're busy, be sure to leave a little time in your week to relax, do things you enjoy, and be with friends. These leisure activities help you refresh yourself so you can be at your best for both school and work responsibilities. Good luck!

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: August 2009

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