Work Beyond the Classroom

Written by Christina Lopez.
Graphic by Peyton Cabaniss.

 

It takes planning, persistence, and prioritization. As college tuition costs skyrocket, more full-time students are taking on jobs to finance their college experience. According to CNBC, a 2015 study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that in the past 25 years, over 70 percent of college students have worked while attending school full time. Whether out of necessity or just to acquire some spending money, the number of students with jobs has only continued to rise. Although working students have a different college experience than their non-working counterparts, there are several benefits that help balance the difficulties.

First, effective time management is crucial when balancing work and school.

Women and Gender Studies and Government Junior Delaney Tubbs says her time management skills have greatly improved. “Working requires that my time is heavily structured; I view this as a positive. My limited time forces me to really focus on my academic work instead of goofing off and calling it studying,” Tubbs said. She works for a criminal defense law firm and previously worked as a bartender at Frank Hot Dogs.

Humanities and Sociology Senior Ian McEntee works as a stylist at Nordstorm. He agrees with Tubbs on the importance of wisely managing his time. “I work about 32 hours a week while doing 15 hours of class plus orgs. The only way I have survived this long is by making sure I’m constantly aware of what needs to get done and how much time I have to do it,” McEntee said.

The aforementioned study found that students are working an average of 30 hours a week. Twenty five percent of students with jobs, however, are employed full time, which is equivalent to 40 hours or more, while also enrolled full time in school, which is a minimum of 12 hours. With pressing time commitments such as this, it can be difficult to balance school, work, and a social life.

Taylor Sanchez is a Political Communications senior who works as a Marketing and Communications Student Assistant for the Alumni Department in the McCombs School of Business.

“Sometimes having a job affects my abilities to be involved in orgs on campus, so it seems like working can take away a lot of your ‘social’ wants. If I were in an org, I would struggle finding time to prioritize my studies in between social events during the week and weekend– all on top of a busy class and work schedule,” Sanchez said.

Still, if time is properly managed, work should not interfere with the student’s academics. “I am first and foremost a student,” Tubbs said. “There have been times when I wanted to spend more time working on an assignment or studying but have not been able to because of work… But I wouldn’t say my job affected my GPA. While work was important, I know school is always my first priority.”

Such a mindset is the key to succeeding at working and attending school. Still, there will be sacrifices that come with taking on the responsibility of a job. McEntee says students should consider these sacrifices when looking for a job.

“Over commitment and stress culture isn’t healthy,” McEntee said. “If you only have the mental health energy to take on doing like 15 hours a week, don’t take on 25 hours a week. Take on only what you can control.”

Despite the difficulties of balancing a job and classes, there are benefits to working that the simple classroom experience cannot provide.

“My job has taught me to be patient with people,” McEntee said. “I work in a place where people expect the most and will give you the least. Some days I want to scream and throw a stiletto at a person’s face, but I can’t… It’s a real-world application of all of the things people tell you about what you can and can’t do.”

Sanchez agrees with McEntee that her job has taught her about real-world application of learned skills and stresses the need to learn to improvise in a workplace environment.

One of Tubbs’ biggest takeaways from working is the sense of community that helped her thrive in the stressful situation. “I got to know other people who worked in the businesses around me and their generosity never failed to amaze me. I felt like I had people outside of school who were looking out for me and wanted me to succeed,” Tubbs said.

Overall, jobs can equip students with skills and experience that will benefit them far beyond the Forty Acres. However, it is important that students assess the parameters of what they commit to so that working while being enrolled full-time at school is a healthy and positive experience.

 

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