Balancing Work Life and Student Life

By Julia Fennelly

When I made the decision to go back to school and pursue a graduate degree at Marquette, I knew it would be hard work. Balancing a part-time grad school schedule with working full-time is tough. Period. Along the way, I’ve learned ways to balance work, school, and a personal life and maximize my student experience at Marquette.

Here are a few best practices that work for me:

Learn how to manage your time. Put simply – there are 24 hours in the day and you have to make every minute count. When you have an agency presentation to give, a client dinner after work, and a paper due the following day, it can seem impossible to get it all done. Plotting out the semester in advance can help. Scheduling work meetings, social activities and academic deadlines all on the same calendar helps prioritize what needs to get done.

Adding schoolwork to a brimming workload also means finding time to squeeze in studies whenever possible. Plan out your day during your morning Starbucks run, finish papers on your lunch break and call your parents on your way to class. Make the most of every minute!

Go to office hours. Because I have a limited time on campus during the week, I’ve found that it’s even more important to make time during the weekday to go to office hours. This quality time with my professors has proven to be an invaluable opportunity to talk through projects and get to know them outside of class. If you can’t make office hours, take them to lunch!

Choose projects and paper topics that relate to your day-to-day. In choosing topics that not only interest me, but that are also valuable in my daily work, I can do double duty. For example, social media is now a big part of public relations and is a quickly developing area of communications research. Studying topics in this area allows me to bring insights learned at work to a project or paper and the latest academic research findings for social media to work.

Use your network. Recently, I worked on a group project researching the megabrand Starbucks. As students, we were tasked with making a contact in the marketing department to get an inside perspective on their marketing and branding efforts of a new product. After reaching out to my professional network, I found that I was just two degrees away from a director of marketing at Starbucks in the Seattle headquarters. Making this contact gave us tremendous insight and expanded my network.

Take advantage of your student status. There are many advantages to being a student, including the academic resources that are available at Marquette. Even when I’m off campus, I’ve learned to ask if there is a student discount. For example, on a recent trip to Seattle, I received student discounts at museums and other tourist attractions by pulling out my Marquette student ID card. Score!

Manage your time. Yes, I mentioned this already, but effective time management is the key to finding balance between work life, school life, and a personal life. This is a skill that I’ve honed over the past several semesters at Marquette and will undoubtedly help me throughout my career.

Julia Fennelly is a Senior Account Executive at Branigan Communications. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in advertising and public relations from Marquette University. Connect with Julia on LinkedIn or on Twitter @JuliaFennelly.

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The opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of Marquette University or the Diederich College of Communication.

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