Y’all, college is expensive. With jobs and internships becoming more and more competitive and requiring more and more experience, it only seems logical that students feel the need to work during the school year. In case you’ve never thought about it, let me tell you, being a full-time student with even just a part-time job takes a lot of time, scheduling, organization, and motivation.
Some students have no choice but to work. After all, those student loans aren’t going to repay themselves. Others study abroad or have family responsibilities over the summer, so they can’t take advantage of internships outside of the school months. There are even others who don’t know a life without a job. Work is what gives them consistency, what keeps them in a routine.
So, to all you working students struggling to keep your head above the water, whether you work a 6 hour week or a 20, whether you work in a restaurant or in an office, you are not alone.
Regardless of why you work, it’s an understandable commitment that you can’t let fall by the wayside. Yes, obviously school should be our number one priority, since I guess that’s kind of why we’re at college in the first place ( 😉 ); however, with everyone expecting to be our sole focus, many students are finding it harder and harder to say no. We don’t want to let anyone down, I know. Professors, family, friends, and bosses all expect your full attention and that you give 110% all day, every day. I’m sorry, but it’s simply impossible to keep a full gas tank 24/7. That’s not how Life’s equation works.
It’s a harmful cycle that ends up impacting your performance in every aspect of your life. Because you’re either in class or at work all day with meetings and study groups all evening, I get those of you who often can’t start homework until after dinner, if that. I know this leads you to stay up a lot later than you should, only to get up early for some last minute cramming and start the cycle over again. I mean, I’ve done it. I know it’s not good and I usually lecture others about doing so, but I also get that sometimes you feel it’s unavoidable. Academic stress outweighs any other stress in your life and it builds and builds since work can be such a distraction from school.
I know everyone has days where they’re simply running from one place to the next, but when you work, it’s like that all the time. There’s never any solid amount of time to recharge until you’ve finished fighting traffic both on the highway coming back from your job and in the dining hall just trying to get a fast meal. When you’re constantly rushing from breakfast to class to lunch to your car to work to the interstate to dinner to a meeting which you have to leave early to meet your project group on the opposite side of campus, well, by the time you finally get back to your room all remnants of daylight are gone; your energy is also extremely low. It seems impossible to answer emails, finish homework, apply for scholarships, look for jobs, plan events, write a blog post ( 😉 ), get in a workout, study, and overall just prepare for the next day in the few hours left before you probably should be going to bed.
Even if you only work a part-time, 10-hour week, that’s 10 hours of catching up with friends over lunch, Netflixing with the roomies, getting questions answered in office hours, completing homework (and doing so with quality), going to company-sponsored networking events, and taking advantage of random all-campus happenings that you don’t have the opportunity to cash in.
When at work, you’re making a mental to-do list of everything you have to do for school. When in class, you’re making a mental to-do list of everything you have to do for work. Your brain is often all over the place and something is bound to slip through the cracks.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned so much from my job. It’s given me so much and helped me open doors I never knew existed. I’m forever grateful I had this opportunity to get my start in the engineering world over the past year and I don’t regret it for a second. I know not every working student can say that though, and it’s easy to lose motivation when you feel like you aren’t appreciated.
You end up sacrificing more than anticipated when you accept an off-campus job during the school year, but you know what? It’s totally doable. You’re making it. You’re taking it day by day and, trust me, even if you don’t see it, you’re winning. Don’t let the struggle of a work-life balance bring you down. Challenge is good, it’s necessary, and your efforts and accomplishments are recognized. This will not break you. It can only make you stronger.
~ What have you learned from working while in school?