Feb. 10, 2018

The Working College Student - Beware

I was 18 years old, brand new on the campus of Temple University. It was a new world for me. Though I was still dependent I was going into a largely independent world. I didn't really have much of a care in the world at that time, but I did know that college cost money and money that my family didn't necessarily have to spend. I felt the need to take some financial responsibility. I started working at the age of 14. I worked through all my years in high school and into the summer after graduation. Since I was a local college student (I'm from Philly and Temple is in my town) I decided to secure employment somewhere in the city while I attended college. I lived on campus and worked not one but two jobs during my first year in school. I always had a strong work ethic and enjoyed the chase of getting a job. Interviewing, writing a resume, filling out an application, doing everything I needed to do to prove that I was the right employee for the job. Working was something that came second nature to me. However working while a college student dealing with rigorous academics, a new schedule and brand new independence deemed to be rather challenging. Many times I would work late into the night resulting in my oversleeping for an 8 a.m. class. I worked as a cashier at Cheltenham Mall which was a few miles away from school. I remember catching the "C" bus back down Broad Street to my dorm sometimes 10/11 o'clock at night. I also worked as a clerical and teaching assistant at a local charter school most afternoons. I really enjoyed this work as it was akin to my passion. I was making money to help with college expenses: tuition, fees things that my parents didn't necessarily have to worry about and it fueled my independence. With the increased working hours came it's own set of issues.

I worked more than I attended classes at some points. I was working 40 hour weeks. I woukd moss my morning classes and wake up just to go to work at the cgarter school.in the aftenoons, then hop on the sub to go to my evening job at te mall. At times I spent the money that I was supposed to be using for my college expenses on frivolous things. Still made time for my friends though. I overslept often. I worked alot. I partied. I didn't study. I was the epitome of a non-academic person living in a dorm on Temple's campus. I valued my jobs so much more than I valued school and that was almost my downfall.

Yes being able to balance school with some sense of responsibility is admirable and skills that many teens should seek to have.  But my focus was off. I was in college to learn, not just work and live. It took a long time for me to be able to juggle a healthy school-work balance.

Why am I telling you this story?

Because each day I encounter students who say things like "I'm going to work while I'm in college." Or they say, "I have a part time job in high school it won't be much different in college." I am here to tell you that the academic workload in college is much heavier than it is in high school. Many hours will need to be devoted studying or homework in order to be a successful college student. Now am I saying not to work in college? Not exactly. That is a personal choice. What I am saying are three things:

1. Remember why you are going to college in the first place. College is school. You are there to learn. You are there to earn a degree.

2. Work should not come before your academics. If you need to work more hours in order to stay in and pay for school you need to reevaluate your entire college situation. Start seeking financial assistance (visit financial aid office, scholarship applications, transfer to cheaper school, housing or meal reduction, join school orgs that grant scholarships, take advantage of work study, become an RA)

3. Evaluate whether you are working for a need or a want. Is it absolutely necessary for you to hold a job while in college? For some people the answer is yes for most people the answer is no. And if the answer is yes how much money do you really NEED to get by?

I wish I would have evaluated my need prior to working so much as a freshman in college. I am happy to say that I overcame and though I worked all 5 (yes 5) years of college I found a way to balance work and school so that I graduated. Even made the dean's list a few times!

You can do both it just won't be easy.