How to Balance Online Classes While Working Full Time

6 min read

There is no denying that balancing work and college is hard. You need to be productive at work while still having the mental energy to go to class, study, prepare for exams, and write papers.

It’s challenging!

However, taking online classes can make time management easier. However, every student will still face the same challenges when it comes to managing classes and work.

To help, here are seven tips to help you balance online classes while working full time.

1. Communication Is Key

The most important thing you can do to balance online classes with your full-time job is to communicate—with your employer, with your friends, with your support network, and with yourself.

First, talk to your employer. Tell them that you are enrolling in an online degree program and may need to take off or work odd hours from time-to-time for exams or studying. Many workplaces are surprisingly flexible. They may even appreciate that you’re taking the time to earn your next degree. After all, it makes you a more valuable employee in the long run.

You should also communicate with your friends and support network. Let them know what you are doing, that you may be too busy to spend time with them sometimes, and that you may need extra support. They will be happy to help you out and will be understanding of your high stress and limited availability.

And most importantly, communicate with yourself. Balancing work and college can get intense, make sure you check in with yourself and acknowledge how you’re doing. You’ll be the most successful if you recognize the importance of self care..

2. Focus On Your Goal

When you enroll in your online degree program, take some time to write down why you are doing it. What are your goals and how does this degree help you achieve them? Write them down and pin the note to your wall or save it somewhere special.

When you’re in the middle of a heavy semester and you’ve got a lot of to do at work, you might get bogged down by the stress. You may think, “why am I doing this to myself?”

That’s when it’s helpful to look at your goals and remind yourself why you are doing this. Whether it’s for a promotion, a career change, or a master’s degree you always promised yourself you’d earn—keeping your end goal in mind can help you deal with the stress of balancing work and online classes.

3. Set A Strict Schedule

At the beginning of each semester, your professors will send out a syllabus with important exam dates and deadlines. Read it the very day they send it out, then mark up your calendar! Write down the dates and set reminders for when you should start studying. Then make sure this schedule fits around your work responsibilities and deadlines.

Making a schedule and forcing yourself to stick to it is key. This will require self-discipline, but if you can stick to a timetable, you’ll find yourself less stressed out in the long run and more prepared for unexpected roadblocks along the way.

4. Maximize Your Downtime

One of the toughest things to do when balancing work and college classes is to find time to study. Between working 40 hours a week and taking three or four classes, you don’t have time to spend 4 hours in the library 5 days a week.

Instead, you can maximize your downtime. If you commute on public transportation, study during your commute. Do you get a one hour lunch break at work? Study time. Even carrying flashcards with you and studying during several five minute intervals throughout your day can help you slowly chip away at your course material. Figure out where you can squeeze in some extra studying. This will help you balance your online courses with your life in the long run.

5. Optimize Your Vacation Time

Consider using your vacation time as a chance to prepare for a big exam or important paper. Your online degree is most likely only going to take a year or two to complete. Utilizing your vacation can give you the headspace you need to complete important assignments. It may also help you stay sane and improve your GPA.

If your employer is flexible, you can take your PTO or time off before big tests or projects to help you clear your mind and fit in enough studying to be truly prepared.

6. Be Present

Balancing work and online classes can be hectic. In the middle of a busy semester, it’s easy to find yourself stressing about your exam while you’re at work or thinking about work while you are supposed to be studying. Or worse, scrolling through Facebook when you’re supposed to be watching your lecture.

Finding balance will be easier if you make the effort to be present. When you take time to study, really sit down and focus on studying. Don’t think about work and don’t look at social media.

The same thing goes for work—don’t think about your classes when you are at work. Your work performance will be better if you stay present and focused on the task at hand.

Stay present, stay focused, and the balance will become easier.

7. Remember to Relax

Working hard at your classes and your job is important, but so is taking care of yourself. Nobody can operate at 100% all of the time. In order to have the energy you need to balance your work and your studies, you need to take some time to relax.

Pencil in rest days into your schedule. Make time for yourself. Be strict with yourself about actually taking time to relax, spend time with friends and family, or participate in a yoga class. Be present while you are relaxing, so that you can head back to work and to your studies recharged.

Learning to Balance Work and Online Courses Is Possible

There’s no way around it—balancing work and online college classes is a challenge. Still, it’s possible to successfully earn your degree while still working.If you stick to a schedule and utilize these tips, you’ll be able to earn your next degree without sacrificing your professional life.

If you’re looking for a flexible online bachelor’s or master’s degree that is fully accredited, check out our extensive program list and request more information to start the journey towards your next degree at the University of Cincinnati.

birds eye view of students working at a round table with laptops and study materials
Need additional student resources?
Already an online student? UC Online has additional tips and tricks to ensure you are on the path to success. Check out our Student Resources section for what you need to maximize your learning.

Sign up for updates from UC Online