Balancing school and work responsibilities at the same time

By Joleen Montoya and Anne Weil
Posted 1/10/20

Pursuing a college degree, vocational certificate or other postsecondary training can be challenging in ways people don't often talk about.

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Balancing school and work responsibilities at the same time


Pursuing a college degree, vocational certificate or other postsecondary training can be challenging in ways people don't often talk about.

The transition to school can feel unexpectedly isolating and demanding. It's not uncommon for us to hear doubts and concerns come up. It might be difficult navigating a school's system -- being unsure where to go for what; being in a new learning environment or returning to a learning environment; keeping up with course work; finding peers with shared backgrounds or common interests; balancing work with classes or school with family responsibilities.

We want students and their families to know there is help available. Colleges and vocational programs offer a wide and varying level of student services.

Those who are first generation to college can be especially affected, since they do not have the benefit of their family's previous experience with postsecondary education to smooth the path. In addition, students from small, rural communities such as ours may find the transition uncomfortable, especially if they leave home to live on or near a campus.

Most schools have some sort of student services division which houses different programs for students ranging from multicultural and LGBTQ groups to support services like counseling and academic tutoring. We encourage students to take advantage of free services like the writing center to bolster academic success and find social clubs to help create community.

Students may initially feel shy about accessing these offerings, but they should know that everyone needs support to plug in and succeed in school. Self-advocating and navigating these services is part of becoming a strong student and community member.

Because many of Bridges' clients are among the first generation in their families to pursue postsecondary education, we find that TRIO (programs for for economically disadvantaged students) is also a valuable support for many of our students. The Student Support Services program through TRIO provides assistance to low-income students, first-generation college students and disabled students enrolled in postsecondary education programs.

Eligible students may receive (among other services) personal and academic career counseling, career guidance, instruction, mentoring and tutoring. The goal of the student support program is to increase the college retention and graduation rates of its participants and help students make the transition from one level of higher education to the next.

In order to qualify for this benefit program, you must be a current or prospective student pursuing an associate or bachelor's degree and you must be one of the following: low-income, first-generation college student or disabled. Contact your school to see if you may be eligible for their TRIO program.

Some things former Bridges clients have found helpful include: talking with others who have pursued the path you are on, keeping open communication with your family and support network and getting involved with extracurricular activities or joining a study group on campus.

Bridges isn't just for people applying to schools - it's also a resource for students already enrolled. Contact Bridges for assistance in connecting with resources at your campus. We can help you figure out how to navigate your school's system.

Call or email Bridges Project at (575) 758-5074 or

Joleen Montoya and Anne Levine are college counselors at Bridges Project for Education, which has been providing free college counseling since 1997.


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