Balance School and Night Shift: A Savvy Guide for Students

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Going to school is difficult. Working the night shift is difficult. Going to school and working the night shift, why would anyone make that choice? Even though working nights whilst studying seems a recipe for disaster and no sleep, it can also have its perks based on the timetable of course you are studying and your home situation. So before you automatically rule the option out, let’s deep dive into how the savvy student / worker can balance both scenarios extremely well.

Working night shift whilst attending school requires flexibility, planning, adequate sleep and a focus on healthy body and mindset techniques. Online or virtual classes removes travel time and allows you to study whenever you can – a great bonus for a night worker.

In this article, we will tackle a number of ways you can juggle going to school and working nights. If that’s something you need some assistance with currently, or want to know what you might be in for when starting down this path, then you’ve come to the right place.

The Key to Balancing Night Shift and Study 

Like anything else in life, your work life and your school life require balance. However, finding that balance can be a tad bit difficult. Working the night shift already comes with its own issues, the main being a sleep deficit, but when you add taking classes into the mix, things can become overwhelming.

Online Classes

The first thing that I would recommend would be to really consider online schooling. There are so many schools that offer programs where you can obtain your degree from the comfort of your own home. This has proven beneficial for a lot of individuals who work nights.

Online classes allow their students to access course work and information twenty-four hours a day, meaning you can complete your work any time you like. You are able to go home after your shift, lock in and get in an hour or two of school work done before sleeping. Or, if your company policy allows it – you can get in some school work during your downtime at work. 

We fully understand that online school is not ideal for everyone though.

There is a large population of people who learn better in person than having to do coursework by themselves online. “Most college students and faculty seem to share a preference for in-person, not online, instruction. This shared perspective was revealed by two recently released studies from the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research.

The first, published in October, surveyed more than 40,000 students at 118 U.S. institutions, while the second, published this week, drew on data from 9,500 faculty members across 119 U.S. institutions.

Among student respondents, 70 percent said they prefer mostly or completely face-to-face learning environments”

EdSurge, 2020.

That excerpt accurately represents my point – most people prefer in-person classes. So, how can you manage working night shifts and attending in-person classes?

One thing you should take into consideration is whether or not you want to attend classes before or after your work shift. This is all based on personal preference. Some people tend to have more energy before the shift, while others tend to have more energy after the shift. I would create my schedule accordingly.

You don’t want to be too tired while attending class, so picking the right time slots is essential. Just keep your work schedule in mind when selecting your class times. An overlap causes friction on all fronts.

Group Your Shifts Together

For those outside the know, it’s easy to recommend using your leave when the study is getting excessive. However, most college students will likely be a casual staff members with limited leave up their sleeve. So as an alternative, be smart with your roster. Grouping your shifts together at the start/end of each pay cycle is a great way to maximize study and sleep time.

Have honest conversations with your manager where possible about your schedule. You are not afraid of hard work (you are studying and working nights after all!), but there could be a better way to keep you productive on the work front and having an open dialogue with your work boss will be respected, especially if your study helps you become a better worker for that business in the long term too.

Listen to Your Body

When you are tired and run down, how does your body tell you it needs to rest? Cold Sores, pimples, stomach pains, eczema, headaches? Whilst balancing study and 3rd shift, pay attention to these signals and act on them. Getting run down will not only affect your job but your ability to retain information will be severely impacted, which is not what you want.

Healthy snacks, plenty of water, vitamin D and gentle movement – it all sounds basic but will decrease your chance of slipping into a funk that knocks you around for a little while.

Remember Why You Are Doing It

 Another big thing when it comes to balancing your school and work life, and I cannot stress this enough – gain perspective. Don’t let the stress of doing both become too much for you. Constantly remind yourself that this moment that you are in, yes it can be overwhelming, but it will not last forever.

Short-term pain for long-term gain.

Once it is all said and done you will have conquered a great task and can walk away from the entire experience feeling accomplished. Don’t overdo it, understand your limitations. Take the necessary precautions to protect yourself mentally and physically.

Importance of Sleep When Studying on Night Shift

Taking care of yourself is essential, especially when it comes to working the night shift. If you work the night shift there are extra precautions that you just have to take if you want to remain healthy mentally and physically.

Those who work night shifts typically have an issue when it comes to getting adequate sleep. When you add schooling into the mix, chances are there will be days where you will get even less sleep, doing this too frequently can cause serious issues for your health, work and school life. 

A lack of sleep is not something that should be taken lightly. Sleep is essential for survival, good sleep is essential for your mentality.

“For our nervous systems to work properly, sleep is needed…It also leads to impairment of memory and physical performance and reduced ability to carry out mathematical calculations. If sleep deprivation continues, hallucinations and mood swings may develop”

American Sleep Assocaiatiion

So, I think it is safe to say that getting too little sleep too often can be disastrous. One thing I would suggest is putting yourself on a sleep schedule and ensuring that you strictly stick to that schedule – your body will thank you. Pick an exact bedtime and rise time. This means you need to plan out your day from start to finish. You need to incorporate your work hours and the hours you intend to work on your schoolwork, and any personal errands you need to run. Consider investing in a planner to hold yourself accountable.  

Importance of Studying

When you work the night shift, there are some things that you just have to work extra hard at to maintain. When you work the night shift and are in school simultaneously, maintaining good grades is difficult, as it seems like you are having to put in twice the work.

When you work a day shift, you can take classes directly after your shift and essentially be in a good position to still get a decent amount of sleep. When you work the night shift, that option becomes more challenging (for many different factors that could take up an entire blog all on their own). With that being said, you need to put in effort when it comes to studying, to get the grades you so seek from it.

Night shift comes with brain lags that can make it extremely difficult to retain information. So, this could mean more time spent studying than compared to when you were on day shift. See what I mean about having to work twice as hard? A day shift worker doesn’t have to deal with the side effects that come with working a night shift. 

Neglecting to study can cause testing anxiety, self-doubt, and a consistent fear of failure, thus tainting your school experience. It can also lead to lower grades, less interest in your education, and poorer performance in class.

Studying can alleviate so much pressure and stress on you. You don’t want the stress of not studying to be the reason you begin making mistakes at school and at work. Misdirected stress can cause you to make mistakes in situations where you normally do not make mistakes. So, what I am getting at is make sure that you set aside enough time in your day to get an adequate amount of studying done. Studying is different for everyone, not everyone requires the same amount of time for it. So, learn studying techniques that are unique to you. Study the material in a way where you retain and fully comprehend the topic. 

Related: Night Shift Memory Problems: Causes, Symptoms & Remedies

Is Night Shift and Going to School a Good Option?

Working the night shift and going to school could really be a good option for you if that is something that you are considering. Working the night shift alone has great benefits. For example, there is less competition. Many people find it too difficult to work the night shift, so they tend to opt-out. Therefore, that creates a space for you to shine and really show off your skills. It also looks really great if you are ever looking to change jobs, employers love an employee who is versatile and capable of working different shifts – especially night shifts. 

There are some schools out there, Post University for example – that allow you to take 2 classes at a time in eight-week increments. That’s a great option for someone on the night shift. It lightens your workload exponentially. Taking two classes in eight weeks just seems easier to manage than taking a full workload of classes as well as working a full-time job. This is a great way for you to finish school on time, get your degree, and still be able to thrive in your profession. 

At the end of the day, the night shift isn’t for everyone – we understand that. However, it is something that is a great option. So, don’t count it out. You should consider all of your options, and go with what best works for you. I know that may seem like something that may seem like it could go unsaid, but it is important. You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you wind up doing poorly in all aspects of your life, which can, unfortunately, happen if you are not careful. It takes a lot of willpower and strength to get through this stage of life, but the benefits that come with it are so worth it if you are able to stick it out. So, don’t get discouraged too easily.

There are many jobs out there that are great for college students. Let’s explore a few of those. 

Good Night Shift Jobs for College Students

There are an array of jobs out there that are perfect for students. If you are a student and are currently looking for a job, a quick google search will generate a list of jobs near you that are considered great for college students. These are jobs that can be a great look for your resume. Below is a list of top jobs for college students. 

  1. Security Guard
  2. Taxi/Uber/Lyft Driver
  3. Certified Nursing Assistant
  4. Front Desk Clerk 
  5. Freelance Writer
  6. 911 Dispatcher
  7. Resident Advisor

This is just a small list of jobs, there are literally so many jobs for you to choose from. The most important thing is that you find a job that suits you personally. Nobody knows your life as you do. You know what you can and cannot handle. Go into picking your job with that frame of mind. Once you decide to become a working student, things in your life will have to change a bit. So, ensure the job that you choose aligns with your needs.

VIDEO – If your study forces you to do night shift at home, this video will really help you out!

As you can see, there is a lot that goes into working the night shift and maintaining your status as a student. Whether you are a full-time student and work part-time or some other variation, you understand the struggle! Hopefully, we were able to provide you with a few tips to help you out along the way.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Working and going to school can be a lot on anyone’s plate; it’s a juggling act at times. However, if you successfully practice some self-help tips, hopefully, you will reap the rewards of your labor.

Remember, this moment and space you are in are only temporary. You will not be in school and having to work at the same time forever. There will be a time when all your hard work pays off. Focus on that! Constantly encourage yourself along the journey and surround yourself around people with a positive mindset. The only person that needs to believe that you can do it is you, with that mindset you can achieve anything.

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Good luck! 


Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, but this is at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure and privacy statement for more info.

Daniel Smith

Managing a global sales team I've experienced the challenges of working at all hours of the day and night. Being a shift worker I know how tough it can be balancing everyday life when you feel like you haven't slept in weeks! Providing advice and tips on how to manage your schedule, whilst still staying healthy is where I can help.

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