5 Things I Did to Maintain Straight-A Grades in College While Working 60+ Hours Per Week

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MAY 18, 2017 — For many of us, the semester is coming to a close, which means a huge weight off of all of our shoulders—at least for a little while.

I’ve been absent on the blog for several months—but I can explain! As with every semester I’ve been in college so far, I took the full course load this semester with 6 classes (18 credits). I also continued in my role as editor in chief of the school newspaper, maintained my freelance writing and editing business, and, much to my surprise and delight, took on a full-time job opportunity with a local newspaper.

I was going to school newspaper meetings at 11 a.m., going to class from 12 till 3, then working from 3 to midnight every day. It was totally exhausting, and I hardly had time for anything else, but I managed to make time for my fiancé and my family as much as I could, while still maintaining an All-A grade average.

How did I do it?

Allow me to share my secrets! Here are the five things I did every day to keep my head above water with all the things I had going on:

1. Keep a running, prioritized to-do list

When you’re working as much as I was, it can be hard to maintain the beauty of your sacred paper planner. After completely wrecking my planner with changing schedules and deadlines, I had to find a better way to look at the tasks ahead of me.

At the end of a long night at work, I needed to see a list of everything that absolutely needed to get done by the next day, not a big jumbled mess of the assignments that were due sometime in the week ahead. For this reason, I started operating via a checklist, quite similar to my old Due Date Spreadsheet.

My checklist was pretty simple. I kept it in my Notes application on my iPhone, and it read: Monday, followed by a list of tasks that needed to be done, then Tuesday, etc. When I got to Saturday, I’d simply start again at Sunday. The list was constantly growing, but it made sense to me. It was easy to navigate, I knew exactly what I needed to do, and it was easy to make adjustments as professors changed due dates or new assignments came up.

It broke my heart to not be able to use my beautiful Day Designer planner, but it can be difficult to prioritize when you can’t “cut and paste” assignments into a different order. For that reason, this checklist really worked for me. It also ensured that I didn’t stay up all night on a Tuesday doing homework that wasn’t due until Thursday: sleep is important! 

2. Take time for yourself

In the midst of all this busy-ness, my fiancé, Ryan, and I had a really rough few months this semester. Between a difficult death, family struggles, and a car accident, our lives seemed to be completely turned upside-down all at once, and all of this personal stuff was beginning to really take a toll on me. I needed a break.

So I didn’t feel bad when I took a few mental health days this semester by telling my teachers that I wasn’t feeling well (not a lie) and taking some time to be comforted by Ryan and my family. Everyone needs a break every once in a while, and if missing one 50-minute class is the difference between my sanity and a complete mental breakdown, I’ll help myself out and take the day off.

3. Get a sufficient amount of sleep

I mentioned this in tip No. 1, but I wanted to reiterate because it is super important.

When I was in middle and high school, I oftentimes ended up staying up super late studying for tests because I knew I just had to get that A. But, according to my mom (who was right, by the way), getting a good night’s sleep will help you a lot more on the test than staying up all night studying.

When you’re tired, your ability to rationalize depletes significantly, and your thoughts aren’t as coherent as they could be. Both of these things make test-taking (which for an English major like me means a lot of essay writing) much more difficult.

Don’t be afraid to cut yourself off with studying and get some rest. Your mind and body will thank you!

4. Don’t forget to eat right

I’ll admit, I got pretty lazy with my eating habits over this semester, and I gained a few pounds. This is totally avoidable, however—even if you’re like me and can’t get to the gym very often because of a busy schedule. Plan ahead, bring snacks with you, and eat breakfast at home so you don’t have to eat out for every meal. Maintaining a healthy diet will also help you feel more energetic throughout your busy day!

5. Compromise with yourself

Finally, in order to maintain this hectic lifestyle, I had to compromise on some things. For instance, yes, I got to go out with my friends—but I had to do homework for the first half-hour or so. I also had to give up some stuff—like going shopping with my friends—to have time for other stuff—like trips. It’s a big game of give and take, and you just have to figure out the right balance for you!

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So there you have it, my five tips for keeping up with school even with a crazy hectic schedule. If you’re nervous about next semester, don’t be: You can do this! It’s just going to take a little planning and a lot of solid time management.

How are you setting yourself up for success this semester? Share your story in the comments!

14 thoughts on “5 Things I Did to Maintain Straight-A Grades in College While Working 60+ Hours Per Week

  1. I am a third year full time college student working two jobs (56 hours a week, one in Apple). It is hard to maintain a good GPA because I am an Economics student so there is alot of math and reading. I am also living in Silicon Valley so everything is expenisve. Any tips on how to get my grades up while keeping both jobs.


  2. Hey I am in college too, studying Journalism and have worked at a few newspaper jobs as well, so I can totally understand the workload and crazy schedule! I hope you have found some time to catch a break from the chaos!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Im about to go into my first year of college to study nursing and Ive got 15 credit hours not to mention i have to get an apartment because there are no dorms. This helped me alot and made me feel more comfortable about being in college and on my own for the first time. Do you have any more tips about having an organized planner?


  4. I loved this so much! I’m not in college yet but as a senior in high school I have thought seriously about taking the max amount of credits per semester plus work and sports when I do start college. I have been worried about it but your tips make it seem very possible!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you liked it! Don’t feel bad if it IS too much for you though; everyone is different, and every college has different expectations of students as far as academics, sports, etc. Don’t be afraid to step back if you have to! Good luck!


  5. Great read! I am about to be in a similar situation next semester with my first semester of nursing school, cross country practices (at 5 am) , and a job. I have been stressing about this for the past few months and I’m really anticipating everything that will happen. But this post really helped:)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hey so I had a pretty similar semester with juggling work, my chronic illness (arthritis) and being a physics major and like you, I love using a paper planner. So what I did was at the beginning of the semester, I wrote down the big assignments I had ahead of time and for the smaller, week by week things like readings or math homework, I wrote on tiny little post it notes and stuck the various assignments on the exact hour (I have an hour by hour planner) that I was going to do the assignment and then I could just move them around if the deadline changed. Also, what I found helpful, is to get started on the assignment the day I know it exists. Sometimes even putting in 10-15 minutes over lunch or on the bus or before bed and then that made it easier to finish it. Anyways, hope some of this helps and thanks for your blog post! Very informative and comforting to know I’m not the only one taking on this much!

    Liked by 1 person

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