As debts rise, more and more students are taking on part-time work to fund their studies and a social life. Claire Morris shares her top tips on how to do it all
It’s the same story for most students: we’re skint. Being at university means accumulating massive debts. According to a 2012 University Lifestyle Survey, 30% of students expect to be more than £20,000 in debt when they graduate. Paying back that loan one day is a grim prospect.
But let’s face it, once tuition fees and accommodation costs are paid off, there isn’t much of a loan left to fund the other necessary aspects of uni life like travel, household bills and, you know, food (it doesn’t matter how cheap they are, it isn’t necessarily a good thing when Sainsbury’s Basics instant noodles become your staple diet). So, many students are turning to part-time work to earn a little extra cash. In 2013, 57% of students were working part-time to help fund their lifestyles; students can’t live off just their loans anymore.
However, taking on a part time job during your degree has its drawbacks. A job that takes up valuable time in the evening or on weekends on top of uni coursework can leave you with little time for anything else and your social life can suffer as a result. It’s important then, that you’re able to juggle all three.
The most important thing is to prioritise; set aside a couple of days a week for uni-work, or more depending on your workload. If you have an essay due in a week, don’t agree to work every night leading up to the deadline. Talk to your boss. Chances are they’ll have other employees in the same situation, or they’ll have been through it themselves. If you’re a reliable worker, they’ll be more than understanding and happy to accommodate your needs.
Communication is key; don’t agree to work if you know you can’t, because inevitably you’ll end up letting people down. Be open and honest about your commitments from the outset and it will make things much easier for everyone. Equally, if things are quiet at uni, offer to take on some extra shifts. Not only will your boss be grateful, but you’ll also reap the rewards of the extra money in your bank at the end of the month (new shoes, anyone?).
The key to juggling a job and uni is time-management. It may seem simple, but buy a diary if you don’t already have one so that you can keep track of everything; it’s amazing what can slip your mind when you’re so busy.
As well as working hard though, make sure you look after yourself. Set aside free time and cherish every minute of it. Make dinner and catch up with housemates, go to the gym or call your friends and family back home. It’ll feel great to take your mind off your hectic schedule for a while and will give you the much-needed opportunity to get some rest. That way, come Friday night, you won’t feel totally drained and you’ll be able to go out and get drunk with everyone else. What’s the point in working hard to earn extra cash if you’re so exhausted that by eight p.m. on a Friday you’re asleep in front of Eastenders and you miss that night out you’ve been saving up for?
There will be hard times when things pile up and you wonder why you’ve taken so much on when all your friends seem to be out every night having a great time without you. But think of the positives; it will look great on your CV that you managed to balance both your degree and a job successfully, and with work-experience under your belt, you’re more likely to find employment after your degree is over.
So, be prepared for the strange looks and the sympathy when you tell your friends you can’t go out because you have to work, and accept the fact that you might find yourself pulling the odd all-nighter because you miscalculated how long it takes to write an essay. Just keep thinking how great it will be when you finish your degree and you get to lounge in the luxury of free time again. And remember, there’s nothing better than the feeling of finally getting out of that overdraft!