The problem of prioritisation: How to juggle your exams with jobs and work experience

  • @indyvoices

In this latter part of the academic year the problem of prioritisation, handling your commitments and perhaps even trying to keep up with a job while managing revision begins to feel somewhat unmanageable.

Exam term has arrived and it means relearning everything you neglected to take in as the academic year whistled past your ears. This is typically an extremely stressful time where people curse their previous lapses of willpower and write off whole days' work on account of a hangover they shouldn’t have had in the first place. So when on top of all this academic stress you pile pressures of employment or work experience, you have a real recipe for panic.

Conflicting commitments raise questions: is it more valuable to concentrate on your degree, continue earning money so you can continue with your degree or seek extra work that will set you apart from the crowd all looking for jobs after their degree?

My stance, after having tried to juggle work experience applications with current employment commitments and relearn an entire module that I slept through thanks to a New Year’s resolution to give up coffee (bad idea), is that as far as possible your degree should take priority – it is what you came to university to ultimately obtain after all.

I have been told by various people that degrees do not matter in the grand scheme of things, that I should just attempt to wing my way through these three years and focus upon getting work experience.

I strongly disagree with that. Of course work experience is invaluable, forming connections with people in the area you are hoping to pursue on leaving university is extremely useful, and fleshing out your CV with more than just your course is important.

However, your degree shows that you can put the time and dedication into a subject and come out the other side with evidence of this. It’s the means through which you can claim your right to move in a certain field of academia, and the education accolade that shows you’ve put several years into making yourself knowledgeable.

Aside from anything else, it’s something that you have put several years of your time into, and you should be able to walk away proud of what you have achieved, not disappointed you didn't get the results you wanted because something else took priority.

Admittedly many students are in the unlucky position of needing to work to top up an insufficient student loan, and of course in this situation the need to buy food becomes more pressing than the need to colour-code your lecture notes.

But it is important to remember that there is time to obtain work experience after graduating, and there is time to work in order to pull yourself out of the debts you have amassed over the past few years. There will not be time, however, to go back and alter your mark once exams are over. So while you have the time to determine the course of your degree, this should take precedence as far as humanly possible.

Now excuse me while I return to revision.