13 Women Reveal Exactly How They Balance College And Full-Time Careers

by Natalia Lusinski
Hannah Burton/Bustle

Throughout college, you may have held, or currently have, various part-time jobs. But some people even have full-time ones between classes. After all, there are a lot of perks — test out what kind of job you'll have once you finish school, learn to manage your time better, make some spending money, and start paying off student loan debt before it gets to be a ton of debt. But working while going to school may also get overwhelming, and fast.

However, as you will see below, it is ~definitely~ possible to mix school and work successfully. "Focus and be present," Nicole Wood, CEO and Co-Founder of Ama La Vida, tells Bustle. "It's hard to compartmentalize your brain and have the ability to shut off work or school the second you walk out the door. But you won't get the most out of school, work, or your relationships if your mind is constantly drifting back to school when you're at work or vice-versa. Give your full attention and energy to the activity you're in each moment, and you'll be a lot more productive and successful at each."

That said, you'll see how these 13 women found the perfect school-work balance for themselves, and perhaps they'll inspire you to do the same.


Larisa, 20


School: Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania

Job: Professional Wakeboarding

Advice: "Balance is key in any part of life, and I strive to find it in both my professional career and at school. When you love something as much as I love wakeboarding, it's so easy to be consumed by it and to forget everything else. Luckily, I also love school, family, and this world, and I don't take them for granted. I've been able to find balance by keeping myself grounded, focusing on what I love, and being thankful every day for the opportunities I have in front of me; opportunities like traveling around to train and compete with the best since I started working with Red Bull, and having that college experience in an incredible place like Penn and spending time with people who I admire and love.

It's challenging to juggle so many different things at once, but if you know what you're passionate about, it's easier to prioritize the things that matter and to avoid wasting time with things that drive your focus away from your goals. Once you know your passions, my advice would be to live in the moment and make sure you're appreciating everything in real time. When I'm training, I'm training, and school is not on my mind. Once I get out of the water and into the library, wakeboarding takes a backseat and my studies become my priority. Also, make sure you're having fun with it!"


Jenn, 29

Hannah Burton/Bustle

School: Graduate school, PhD in Economics

Job: Resume Writer

Advice: "The best advice I'd give others who are trying to balance work and school is to be very transparent with your manager about your personal situation. My manager understands that my homework load can get heavy sometimes, and whenever that happens, she tries her best to give me fewer clients. In addition, she usually allows me to work flexible hours from home in order to maximize my productivity. The fact that she is so sympathetic to my personal situation makes my life so much easier."


Anna, 20

Hannah Burton/Bustle

School: Studying Communications and Marketing

Job: Communications and Marketing

Advice: "I am both studying and working in Communications and Marketing. I never planned to do both together, but was always open to this challenge. I have a flexible schedule at work that allows me to balance working and staying in university at the same time. The key things to make it work are great time management skills and determination. In the best case scenario, working for an employer who is open to flexible hours makes it much easier."


Mona, 29

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

School: Graduate school

Job: Reporter

Advice: "Balancing graduate school while being a reporter was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. The hardest times were finishing my thesis/capstone while covering the craziest election in any political history. Learning to balance both wasn't easy. The key to balancing both was time management and sacrificing. During the first three months, the time when the Primary was heated, I worked all day traveling and covering the race, while at night, I sacrificed my sleep to work on my thesis. The only time I slept was on the road for 2-3 hours a day. I never planned to work and finish my thesis at the same time, but I was not going to sacrifice one or the other. If anyone asks for my advice regarding balancing both work and school, I always tell them, 'Do what your gut tells you and don't listen to anyone when they say you only can do one not both. Prove them wrong!'"


Spencer, 25

Ashley Batz/Bustle

School: Undergraduate major in Interdisciplinary Studies

Job: Digital Marketer

Advice: "I never truly intended to work full-time while also being a full-time student; however, with age, I found myself looking for more independence. Luckily, my drive for independence left me with a hearty resume that benefited me as I searched for internships and, finally, the first job introducing me to my professional career. Balancing both can be challenging, and one saving grace for me was online courses. These can be tricky because it's easy to fall behind, but they can also be your best friend. Being able to essential attend class in my PJs in the comfort of my home allowed me to keep my sanity, especially during those hectic work days. Another important way to stay on top of a work-school life balance is to use a planner and stick to it.

Utilizing the bullet journal system during the last two years of college allowed me to pencil in homework, work schedules, grocery lists, personal goals, and social engagements all in one place. I would say the most important part for anyone looking to find balance is to make sure you fit in time to be young. Although it's important to have drive, don't forget to truly live out your early 20s. No one can take these years away from you, and it's important to make them count!"


Becky, 30

Ashley Batz/Bustle

School: MBA in Wine Marketing and Management

Job: Wine Marketing and Management

Advice: "I balance work and school by prioritizing. It is very important to have a schedule and to stick with it. Getting school work done after working is exhausting, but if you organize when you have deadlines, around your work schedule, it's possible. Working during lunch breaks is a great way to get some reading or assignments in without having to stress about doing everything after work. I did not plan to do both. I was interested in a Masters degree, but I know that I still have to work, so in order to do so, it needed to be done. The key things are motivation and organization. You also need to make small goals. Can you finish the program in 2-3 years? Are you organized enough to actually get your work done in your professional life and then your school work? Would you really dedicate weekends and Friday nights to getting your school work done? These are all important questions."


Patina, 24

Ashley Batz/Bustle

School: Undergraduate degree in PR

Job: PR

Advice: "When working on my undergrad, I went to school full-time while simultaneously building my career/working full-time. The key to balancing the two was flexibility and time management. A critical component was finding a company that allowed me to change my schedule every semester and occasionally work from home. Some semesters, I would commute on the train in NY for three hours on conference calls, doing my homework, and reading the paper (essentially to a PR career). Then, I'd get home from class at 5 p.m. and work from home until the late hours of the night. Other semesters, I was answering online discussion boards from a cellphone between work events. I did always plan on doing both.

My parents were Polish immigrants who couldn't save for my college education. If I were to meet someone who plans to do it today, I would encourage them to take as many online courses as possible, and warn them that it takes time to finish your degree. My undergrad took much longer than my friends', but in the end, I ended up with more work experience, no student loans, and a reputation as a hard worker."


Clare, 27

Ashley Batz/Bustle

School: Major in Sociology & Double Minor in English/Cinema Studies

Job: Product Support Specialist, FreshBooks, a technology company that makes cloud accounting for self-employed professionals and their teams

Advice: "Not finishing my degree was always a major regret lingering in the back of my mind. But I was happy in my career, and never planned to go back to school while working full-time. That was until my father recently passed away from cancer. All of a sudden, I had a newfound motivation to graduate, as this was always incredibly important to him. Here's what I'd want others to know: Juggling both is hard. I had to make a conscious effort to improve my work/life balance, but to be honest, I still haven't perfected this. Be honest with those around you: There will be days when you feel like it's all too much and you'll need an understanding support system to get you through. And, above all, forgive yourself. If you're not able to always give everything 100 percent, that's OK. You'll be better off in the long run, so be kind to yourself."


Sara, 26

Hannah Burton/Bustle

School: Masters in Creative Writing

Job: PR

Advice: "My grad school program is basically over — I'm just waiting on my thesis grades/feedback — but for two years I balanced working full-time in PR at a tech company with a part-time masters in creative writing at the University of Cambridge. Given what I chose to get my masters in — creative writing — it just made sense to choose a program that would allow me to still work full-time: it's not like the degree will pay for itself, now or possibly ever. Having studied abroad at Oxford, I knew I really respond well to the one-on-one tutorial system, and as luck would have it, both Oxford and Cambridge offered part-time masters programs in creative writing. I'm also lucky enough to work at a tech company in San Francisco, where unlimited PTO is the norm and my managers trusted me to be able to balance my commitments.

I loved my program so much, and it felt like such a privilege to be able to do both school and work, that staying in on Friday nights, giving up my weekends to write, and so on, never felt like a hardship. I've read that having a baby makes people much more efficient and productive at work — they can't get a way with having a lazy afternoon and making up for it by working late; they want to go home and be with their kids. Well, school — my assignments, the thesis I wrote — those were my babies, and so ultimately I think that commitment made me better at my job, too.

I'd tell others to choose your school wisely: find the right program for your lifestyle and your priorities. If you're lucky, you'll love both school and work, but try to love at least one of them — if not for the day-to-day grind then for the better opportunities, improved financial future, or achievements said day-to-day grind will afford you in the future."


Dani, 22

Hannah Burton/Bustle

School: Full-Time Student, Bachelor's of Business Administration at Simon Fraser University

Job: Communications Manager at Procurify, a spend and procurement management software

Advice: "I use my Google Calendar religiously and block out times for when I am at work versus in lectures, and I color-code them so they are easily differentiated. I always planned to work and go to school at the same time, so I am able to finish my degree on time. A lot of students around my age have taken time off to do practicums or internships, but I decided to do it at the same time. Usually during interview sessions, I am very transparent with the hiring managers that I am still a student, and I discuss possibilities of me working around my work schedule to make it work for both parties. Then, they are in the know that you are juggling two big responsibilities. They have been very considerate in letting me leave earlier or giving me extra time to work on my projects.

Sometimes you are already inundated with many things at work, not to mention for school, which is why you should only focus on projects and tasks that are important and immediate. Tasks that are not important and immediate should be discarded entirely, and tasks that are immediate but not important can be done a little later. This way, it clears up your plate and ensures you don't burn out. When you are balancing school and work at the same time, there are some things that you will have to sacrifice. This means saying no to some hangouts, going home earlier on weekdays, and so on. Learning how to say 'no' is one of the most important life skills that I've learned, and it saves me a lot of disappointment and wasted time."


Sarah, 36

Hannah Burton/Bustle

School: 5-year doctorate in Acupuncture in NYC

Job: Massage Therapist

Advice: "OMG, I definitely did not balance anything! Many people in my program were supported by spouses or parents, and I am single, live alone (thankfully, in a cheap apartment), and had to hustle all the time. Some of my tips are: 1) You will periodically be mad at everyone in your life who has money, vacation days, cheap rent (or y'know, health insurance); 2) You will lose friends because they won't understand why you don't have time to hang out, or why you periodically disappear into your bed when you have a rare full day off; 3) ... You do not need to get straight As, you need to internalize enough information to be good at your future career. Do not expect to attain mastery as a student. Save enough brain power to do your job well so you can keep paying your rent; 4) Plan ahead for it all to be overwhelming and have an alternative part-time schedule if your class schedule is too daunting. There's no shame in taking longer to finish a program. No one will ever know; and 5) No matter how much you are killing it, you will always feel like you are failing because you could be doing more. You are not failing. I promise."


Elizabeth, 30

Hannah Burton/Bustle

School: Getting an MBA

Job: Full-time Product Manager

Advice: "When I finished undergrad, I never planned to go back to school again, but as I got older, I realized I needed an advanced degree to get the salary I wanted. I never wanted to be dependent on someone else to support me, and possibly a family, down the road. I'm not going to lie — it's tough balancing both. I wake up earlier, stay up later, and have to say 'no' to a lot more social events than I would like. The advice I would give to someone else considering balancing school and a career is to have a solid support system in place. I wanted to get my MBA so I would never be dependent on someone else and, ironically, I don't know if I would be able to finish with my sanity intact if it weren't for my family and my fiancé."


Erin, 36

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

School: Master's Certification from UCLA in College Admissions Counseling

Job: Founder and CEO of Going Ivy, a college admissions consulting group focused on helping students write their own admission ticket to their dream schools

Advice: "I've never really found that balance has to mean everything is equal. Sometimes work gets more attention, sometimes family, sometimes school. ... I started my own business about eight years ago, editing college admissions essays and applications. Based on a need in Phoenix, Going Ivy became a comprehensive college admissions service — helping with tutoring, test prep, applications, and finding the right match for students. ... It's important to me to be satisfied in my job, feel like I'm helping someone and, yes, I like a trophy. The trophy is the acceptance letter — my success is tied to their success. A credential is also important to the families I work with. I'm getting a post-Master's certification from UCLA currently in college admissions counseling. Thank goodness for online classes — I can still help my clients and watch my kids' swimming lessons. It's all about the balance."

As you can see, many common themes emerge when trying to perfect the work-school balance, mainly about time management, prioritizing tasks, and learning to say "no."

"You have to know your priorities," says Wood. "Right now, you have chosen your future as your priority, and so don't overexert yourself unnecessarily on the things that don't serve that purpose. It's important that you don't forget to take care of yourself. No matter who you are, it is possible to reach a point of burnout, so it's important to pause, celebrate the small victories, and give yourself time to recharge. Self-care, whether it's making time for a yoga class, a pedicure, or a night with your girlfriends, is just as important as homework assignments and deadlines."

Whether you're currently balancing working with going to school full-time or are thinking about doing so, hopefully you've been more inspired after seeing how other millennial women do it. All in all, it ~is~ achievable and can be incredibly rewarding.