Working hard while studying at University

Find out how you can work and study at the same time

Some students feel working part-time is a distraction from studying not worth risking. For others it’s a necessity which can’t be avoided. It is possible to work and do well at University – follow these five tips to make the best of both.

Make a Budget

Before you arrive at University calculate your income against your expenditure – rent, bills and living costs, and be realistic. If your mobile phone bill is £30 a month don’t budget for half of this, and during the first few weeks keep a track of what you spend. A budget of £50 a week for living costs is not unreasonable, but if you smoke, want a new pair of shoes or fancy a night out, don’t expect to stick to this. By the end of your first semester review what you spend against what you’ve got coming in. From this you can work out whether you’ll have enough money, or whether you’ll need to cut back or find work. A further blog entry on this will follow in this series.

Work Wisely

Once you’ve mapped out your finances and your projections, you can work out roughly how much you’ll need to earn each year to live. If, for example, you need an extra £2,000 a year, consider trying to earn £6k in your first year, when you’re under the least academic pressure. Don’t leave this to the last year, once you’ve amassed debts, and when you need to focus on achieving the best qualification.

Write a CV and Covering Letter

Update your CV and get a second and third opinion – does it include a picture, and is it definitely not too boring, or too zany? Write a covering letter but adapt this for every job you apply for. Dropping off generic covering letters and CVs around town – to companies not necessarily advertising for staff – is not the best use of your time. Save your ink and legs and instead target employers actively seeking staff. If you’ve not yet started on your CV, you can get a free CV template here – and there are some great examples of cover letters here.

Be Creative – and Persistent

No matter which part of the country you’re studying in, the current job market is fiercely competitive. The best way to find work is often through word-of-mouth, a family friend or a relative who can make a recommendation, but even without this and, with enough determination, work can usually be found. Many jobs are advertised online, including on the DirectGov website (, or through agencies. If you sign up with employment agencies, don’t expect them to call you, it’s up to you to chase them up regularly – and don’t email, call them instead. If you struggle to find work, don’t give up. If you planned to spend ten hours a week working, spend ten hours a week job-searching until you secure a position. If you continue to have problems, review your CV and covering letters, and consider whether you’re aiming too high.

Know When to Quit

Striking the right balance between studying and working can often be difficult. More money relieves financial stress, but the longer you spend at work, the less time you’ll have to study – and achieving a pass will be disappointing if you had greater potential. Saying no to extra shifts is hard, but if you grades start to slip, cut these back and, if they don’t improve, consider quitting. Stripped back living costs, no vices and no nights out is no fun, but for a short period in your life, a sacrifice worth considering.

Leave a comment