A reader asked:
What are some ways to balance work and school? Cus I’m working 25 to 30 hours a week and taking only three classes and I’m still behind. I don’t know how some people work fulltime AND go to school fulltime while paying rent and having kids.
I don’t know how people balance that kind of schedule with school/kids/work. I think that it’s nearly impossible and that most people couldn’t do it.
Here are a couple of things I do know about passing classes under time pressure:
Choose your classes carefully:
- Not all classes are equally time-consuming.
- If you’re working a lot of hours, it’s probably better not to take all the really time-consuming classes in the same semester
- (Eg: if you’re taking a class that has five papers, or lots of complicated programming assignments, it might be better not to take others than are like that at the same time).
- It can also go a lot better to select classes based on who is teaching them rather than based on which description theoretically looks best
- Classes go much more smoothly with teachers you’re readily compatible with
- (particularly if you tend to need a lot of help)
Consider taking classes that are relevant to your work:
- If some of what you’re working on at work can inform your class assignments, that makes life a lot easier
- For instance, it’s much easier to write a paper on something you’ve researched for work than it is to research something else *and* what you have to work on at work
- And more generally: if the concepts you’re learning in school are related to and overlapping with what you think about at work, it will be much less time consuming than if you have to do both separately
- This can be true even if your work isn’t particularly intellectual on the face of it. No matter what your job is, it involves knowing things, and classes are easier if you can make knowing those things relevant.
It is possible to pass classes without doing all of the reading:
- Most people don’t do all of the reading (except in seminar classes in which most of class consists of an in-depth group discussion of the reading).
- If you are struggling to keep up, you may well be doing more of the reading than you should be.
- It’s worth learning how to skim text in order to get the basic ideas
- When a teacher cites something a lot in class, it’s generally worth reading it again after more closely
Having a study group or partner helps in several ways:
- Perspective from other people can make it easier to tell whether you’re understanding what you need to understand
- It can also make it easier to tell whether you’re doing *more* work than you need to in order to keep up and pass.
- You can also pool knowledge. There will always be things that some people get and some people miss, and some people talk about it.
- Meeting with others at a set time to do the work for a class can stop it from expanding to fill all available space
- Even if you don’t have a regular study group, sometimes you can organize review sessions before tests. Those can also be helpful in similar ways.