Motivation For College Students That Work

College Students That Work

Are you working in college? Are you looking for motivation as a student that works?

If you’re a college student that juggles studies with work you know how difficult it can get at times.

You know what I’m referring to:

  • The long days.
  • The short sleeps.
  • Early morning anxiety.
  • The last minute stress.

I was initially going to throw out a list of ways to stay motivated as a college student that holds a job but I figured I would just say write whatever is on my mind without any particular format. It’s a blog after all, right?

Just remember that it will all be over one day.

Your studies will be completed. You’ll have a degree in your hand. You’ll graduate from college debt-free or with minimal student debt. You may even have some money saved up in your bank account. This financially buffer will alleviate some of the stress that comes along with the career hunt after college.

You won’t be in college forever. You’re going to graduate and thank yourself for putting the work in when you did.

You won’t have to jump at the first offer that comes your way (unless it’s an amazing one).

With less debt than your friends and money saved, you won’t have to jump at the first job that comes your way.

Obviously life won’t get easier after college but at least the stress of studying for exams and worrying about earning the grades you want will go away. Now you can push yourself in a totally different discipline. The discipline of the real world. The discipline of finding that first career and negotiating your starting salary.

Another way to stay motivated when working during the school year is to use some of the money to reward yourself.

The best part of working in college for me was knowing that I could go away when I wanted to.

This doesn’t mean to pick up a serious drinking or smoking habit. That will only make things worse for you. However, there’s nothing wrong with planning a weekend trip a few times a semester.

I choose to plan a week vacation at the end of every semester to keep me sane and motivated throughout the tough times. In the back of my mind I stay focused knowing that once I write my final exam I’ll be gone for a week.

Others just simply need a quick escape at the end of the day or at the end of a long week to stay motivated while working through college.

What’s the escape for you? Some common escapes include: alone time, playing video games, a free drinks with friends, a workout, playing your favorite sport, etc.

Think of working as a way to keep yourself focused and out of trouble.

If you weren’t working you may spend most of your time studying. On the other hand, all of that free time may not be good for you.

Personally I know that free time isn’t the best option for me. When I have free time my mind tends to wander. I look at my to-do list in the morning and then by night time the list remains identical. On paper free time is perfect for completing all of your school work.

Realistically, let’s be honest. Most of the free time is spent watching the Hills or old UFC fights. So if you ever are low on time, look at it from this perspective. If you were at home there’s no guarantee you would be 100% focused on your school. I worked full-time all throughout college and it actually helped me with my studies. The less time that you have to get work done, the less time that you’ll spend on loitering or social media.

Work helped me avoid so much trouble. I knew that I had to be awake at 6am sometimes. This meant that I couldn’t stay out too late or get caught up in the wrong crowd.

How do you stay motivated while working during the school year?


  1. Edwin says

    Using my own college experience along with that of friends and co-workers, I tend to disagree about your sentiment on student loans. It is true that you will go into the workplace with quite a bit of debt (particularly for more expensive degrees) but I think that debt isn’t as bad as the alternatives I’ve seen.

    I know multiple people who dropped out of school because they were so adverse to debt that they had to work full time and go to school at the same time. Some had very poor grades and had to repeat classes multiple times while others just didn’t see the benefit in continuing to pay such a large portion of their income for school.

    I took out student loans and it gave me plenty of time to do well in school and to actually have a life outside of school and work (I did work part time also).

    Before someone considers whether to apply for student loans or to attempt and work through it and stay out of debt, they should really decide if that type of schedule can mess with their chances of completing school. This is based on purely personal experience and I don’t have any true statistical numbers to back up this opinion.

  2. says

    @Erwin Was hoping to hear that perspective!

    My rebuttal to your argument would be that working during the school year is definitely not for everyone. It wasn’t for me either until I realized how much more fun I can have down south as opposed to on bars around campus.

    I also absolutely hate debt. I’m willing to sleep 3 hours a night at times if it means I will graduate debt free. Not the smartest idea but I never said I was the smartest guy lol.

    I will recommend this for anyone that is not willing to work during the school year- find a program with work terms. My cousin does this. One semester he’s in school and the next semester he works. It may take longer graduate but he’s having a blast while integrating the theory with the practical.

    If you want to finish college asap then that’s cool as well.

  3. says

    I’m always so impressed if students can study, party and work at the same time.

    It’s hard enough trying to get straight A’s to land yourself that high paying gig out of college, to be able to get A’s and work is out of this world!

    I couldn’t hack it, making $5/hour in the library so I did some daytrading instead. I ended up probably losing $3,000! haha. But, what it did do was prepare me for a life in finance and I’m very thankful for that.

    • says

      @FS Don’t worry I think everyone in the cyber world has lost some money on day trading.

      The reason all 3 can be done is because junk is cut out. I realized that if I stopped watching TV and spending hours on Facebook I could be 100x more productive. The partying is a rare occurrence when both school and work are in session but it is definitely something that keeps me sane.

      What do you do in the working world to keep sane M-F?

  4. Chris says

    Juggling work and study is a struggle; I work between 12 and 20 hours a week in an office about 30 mins bus ride from my university. Obviously the money is good, and it’s good to be gaining experience in the ‘real’ world alongside university, but it took a while to get the two parts of my life in sync. I missed some classes when I started working due to tiredness, and a few times I’ve missed work too. After a couple of weeks though it started to settle down and I managed to keep it all going smoothly even through deadline/exam period.

    Definitely recommend it though, as you said, the prospect of reducing graduation debt is a very pleasant one!

    • Desiree says

      Could be worse. Walmart once called me in, and the first thing they asked was, “How long can you work today (my day off), and still be under 40 hours?” Then they put me down for one less than that.

      Feel blessed. Many of my office-working friends have been able to sneak a textbook or two under their desk and get some studying in. You could easily make a dent in your reading assignments!

  5. d says

    One of the methods i use to motivate myself is setting up a countdown calendar which shows how many days I have left until payday. Whenever I get frustrated I just look at the days left and eventually start working again efficiently. However, I’m still in the transition stage and I often miss out on a couple of my classes. I hope I can get the hang of balancing work and school at the same time.

    • Desiree says

      I always had issues with motivation just because my schedule was so inconsistend I could barely plan around it. (Didn’t help that I had to cancel an appointment with a therapist because I was working that day) Keeping a monthly calendar gave me a quick visual of the days I had off, so I could plan fun things to do on those days.

      I also began to accept the fact that on no day that I set foot into work would I feel rested. So I planned as much as I could before work, so I wasn’t to burned-out afterwards to get it done. Then on my days off, I had that much more time to recouperate! 😀

  6. Desiree says

    Using my personal experience, I still have the procrastination issue, and the lack of time awareness, but now it’s worse. I’m always so stressed about how little time I have that I never have time to do it, and I get home at midnight, physically exhausted and out of breath, and mentally burnt out from having to deal with people. Then I take criticism from my teachers that my essay due at 11:59 (written on my lunch break) was turned in when I got home at 12:30.

    I have 2 pieces of advice: Take homework with you, and use your lunch hour (although not reccomended for timed online tests), and go to the cheapest college you can possibly find. Suck it up for four years, so that way you won’t have to work 40 hours, and you can focus on school. I know you’ll be dissapointed that you didn’t go to your dream college, but you would have been to tired to enjoy it anyway. Believe me, it’s better to be able to relax sometimes in a mediocre school than drop out of a good school because you couldn’t keep up.

    • says

      Thanks for your comment. How many more years do you have of school left? Is there any way that you can cut back your hours?

      I wrote this post in 2008 and my life was a lot different back then. Working in college was a struggle, but now at 27 I’m debt-free and loving it.

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