Opinion: Working While in College is Challenging but not Impossible

Education and work are both time consuming things, but sometimes education is impossible to afford without work. While challenging, working through one's college education is not altogether impossible if students plan accordingly (Photo by Erin Lathrop).

College is a large financial commitment, and not all students can afford to attend without also working some sort of job.

According to a study by Georgetown university approximately 70% of all students attending college also take the time to work a job. The study found that roughly 40% of undergraduate and 76% of graduate students work 30 hours per week or more.  Those numbers, however, don’t include the students who work part-time jobs.

The study also addressed that students working full time at minimum wage would earn approximately $15,080 each year. This compensation does not cover the cost of tuition and living expenses at the majority of colleges. 

$15,080 is far from enough to attend Albion college for two semesters each year, let alone one. That’s not to mention that money and finances aren’t the only problems that students face. Most students who attend college and work at the same time find themselves faced with other challenges as well.

Finding a job that will work around one’s class schedule can be difficult, presenting the physical challenge that people can’t be in two places at once. Some jobs that college students choose believe that the student should prioritize the job over their schooling, which should never be the case.

Another challenge students may face is in motivation. Mikela Deaton, a senior from California, works at Biggby Coffee. Deaton said that one of the biggest challenges she faces while working and attending college is the lack of motivation.

“A lot of times, I work closing shifts. So, I’ll be at work from 1:30 until 8:30 or 9:00,” said Deaton. “Having been going to classes all day and then going to work, the motivation to come home and do homework and prepare for the next day usually isn’t there.” 

Students also deserve to have time outside of work and school for things they enjoy doing in order to create balance in their lives. However, working full-time doesn’t always allow students that opportunity.

Nicole Young, a senior from Albion, works at Albion Malleable Brewing Company. Young said that her biggest challenge was finding time for social events.

“Managing school and work has gotten easy for me, just because I’ve been working since I was like 14, 15,” Young said. “I joined a sorority last year, and then it was kind of like, I have all these events that are on Saturdays, and Saturdays are the day I work.”

Finding a balance between two things is much easier than trying to find a balance between three. Income and education are necessities for college students, so most students who work tend to sacrifice their social life for the other two factors.

Though students may face those challenges alongside many others, it doesn’t mean that working and attending college can’t be rewarding. Students gain some valuable skills, such as time management and professional experience while also basking in other rewards, like having an income and graduating with less student debt.  

“Working forces me to be better at my time management,” Deaton said. “I know that I opened yesterday and close tomorrow, so anything that needed to be done in the next three days needed to be done today.”

The ability to properly manage one’s time is essential to working and attending college. A good schedule and planned out day takes away a buildup of stress.

Young said that she was able to use the information from classes she took to analyze things at work and really see the information she was learning come into play in the real world. 

“It’s really helpful that I have been working all four years because I got the chance to connect those things to my economics and management major,” said Young.

Students who are thinking of working a job while attending college should start slow, learn their limits, prioritize their schooling and take care of their mental health. While challenging at times, working while in college can be rewarding if done in the right way.

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