Struggling to balance work and student life? You’re not alone. Thousands of students in Toronto have the balancing act of achieving good grades while working part-time in order to support their studies and necessary accommodations.
For me, moving to Toronto from a small suburban town in the GTA meant that it was necessary to get a part-time job while I was in school. I needed to pay for rent, groceries, and other basic amenities. Not only that, I was studying for my Bachelor’s Degree in Communications at York University, which meant I had to cough up $100 a month for a TTC pass. There was some support from home, but it was clear from the beginning that I had to figure out a way to balance school and work in order to ace all my courses and earn enough money to survive in the big city.
7 Practical Tips to Balance Work and Student Life in the Big City
During my four and a half years studying and working a part-time job in Toronto, I managed to get nearly straight A’s and pay for all of my bills, with a little left over money and time to enjoy a decent social life. I was able to master the recipe for success and am excited to share my tips with you! Keep reading 😉
1) Be Realistic
Before reviewing all of your expenses, be realistic with yourself. Look at what you will need, how much you’ll need and how often. Don’t give yourself a small budget for certain things when you know you will spend more. It’s the same for the other way around, don’t give yourself a huge budget for your social activities if it will take away from your allowance for monthly groceries. It’s important to realize that you will need a budget for this, restricting yourself completely won’t work, but don’t go crazy. Self-discipline is key to balancing work and school life.
2) Examine Your Expenses
Review all of your potential expenses and write them down. Everything and anything you could think of:
- Rent – how much is rent per month?
- Textbooks – if you received OSAP, these aren’t always covered in full.
- School Supplies – pens, notebooks, planners, backpacks, etc.
- Commute – does your school require a commute? Factor in transit cost.
- Groceries – estimate your cost for groceries per month.
- Clothing – be realistic with how much you will need to spend per month on clothing.
- Toiletries – we all need toilet paper, toothpaste, and deodorant.
- Social – again, be realistic. You are a young person in Toronto, you WILL eat out & go out. Factor in a budget but stick to it.
- Extra – this is your “just in case” fund. Everyone should always have a little extra for emergencies.
3) Be Frugal
Remember, you are a student who needs to work a part-time job while studying. You are not the CEO of a top internet company (unless you’re the equivalent of Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard, then please share your story with us). There is no justified reason for you to buy the top designer clothing or the most expensive food at the grocery store. Be smart with your purchases – every. cent. counts. Buy the cheaper option when possible and seriously consider whether or not you need the item. Think about every single purchase as if it was life or death.
4) Review Your Class Schedule
If you have the option to choose your schedule, be smart about the timing of your classes. Plan out your week in a way that will accommodate a realistic studying and working schedule.
If you want to work in the restaurant industry, then you know most shifts will be in the evening. Plan your classes for the morning, with time for studying in the afternoon.
If you want to work in a cafe, then mornings are likely to be the busier time. Therefore, take as many afternoon and evening classes as possible.
If you don’t have the option to choose, then this will be a huge factor in the type of job and company you work part-time for while in school.
5) Find a Job That Fits Your Needs
Review the following elements when looking for a part-time job while in school:
- Location – how long is the commute time and how much does transit cost? Right now in Toronto, a post-secondary TTC pass $122.45. If you live close to school, try and find a job in the same area. If you need to commute to school, decide whether it’s easier for you to have a job close to home or closer to school in order to save time.
- Schedule Flexibility – referring back to step 4, what does your class and study schedule look like? Find a job that fits with your schedule or can accommodate flexible hours.
- Past Experience – did you work while in high school? Was it in retail, cafes, or restaurants? Did you enjoy that experience? Choose a job that you’ll enjoy, it will help you stay positive during stressful times in school.
Binqit is one-to-one job marketplace, catered towards students and part-time jobs, launches 06.24.19. Mark your calendars!
6) Find Study Time
For me, I had a long commute from downtown Toronto to York University. This was before the new subway line extension, so it took about 1.5 hours each way. I did a lot of my reading on the subway and bus, which saved me a lot of time when I got home or to school!
Plan ahead – every week, I reviewed my schedule at work and school in order to plan as much study time as possible. I marked all my assignment due dates in my calendar and made sure to stick to my plan. It is not easy. There are days when you come home and just want to veg out and watch Netflix… which leads to my next point.
7) Make Time for You!
Studying and working a part-time job is stressful, that is why it is important to make time for self care. Every week, save one day, or a couple hours a day, for you to do something you enjoy. Whether that’s watching a movie on Netflix, getting coffee with friends, going to a restaurant, or hitting up one of Toronto’s many tourist spots, make the time. It will help you re-approach your studies and work with a fresh mind and a positive attitude!
Stick to these seven steps and you will effectively balance work and student life in Toronto.