Balancing Work and School is a challenge for most students

Abagail McKnight

A student at CCBC had just finished 9 hours of schoolwork for just one of her classes. Exhausted, she stands up from her computer desk and stretched for the first time in hours. Her entire body aches from sitting for so long and her eyes are heavy from staring at a screen, but she knows she must get ready for work at the campus bookstore.

She opens her closet, pulling out her work shirt and some blue jeans. She quickly changes and slips her name tag around her neck, pinning her hair up out of her face. She grabs her car keys and a banana because she didn’t have time to eat and leaves for work.

She arrives to campus 15 minutes later and walks quickly to the building. She enters the store, clocking in at the computer at 8:15 a.m. She takes a deep breath and prepares herself for the next five hours of work.

Many students struggle with balancing work and school, while also having time for other areas in their lives such as spending time with family and friends, or simply just making time for hobbies. It’s often difficult to tell what exactly they should prioritize but work and school often demands the most time and effort for many students.

Infographic by MCOM 111 student, Joshua Cooley

Students' backgrounds and social status have a significant impact on their education, so while some students have the opportunity to focus solely on school because their parents may make more money to pay for their tuition, other students must work in order to pay for college. College is not the only thing they have to pay for, they could be living on their own and must pay rent or bills. These payments require more than part-time hours and often require students to work full-time in many cases.

“Balancing school and work can be stressful because I feel like I’ve been putting work before school,” Sylvia Ven Fleet, a first-year student at CCBC Essex said. “If I do not work, I will not have money for school. I still need to keep up school to get scholarships and good grades to get into the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program. Money is an important part of college. If you do not have money, you cannot earn an education. In my case, if I do not work, I won’t have money or an education.”

Students often feel conflicted with these choices of focusing more on school or work because it seems that no matter what they do, it is still not enough to accomplish everything they want. College can be costly, so the only way to afford it along with other payments is to work lengthy hours. When students study every day in order to complete all assignments on time while also working, it tends to leave little to no time for anything outside of work and school.

According to the article Balancing Work and School, “about half of all full-time college students have jobs outside of school. This number jumps to 80% when it comes to part-time students. One study showed that 70% of college students are stressed about finances.”

Although it is recommended that students only work as much as 15 hours per week to have time for school and life outside of academics, for some students the work hours are still not enough to live off of and pay all finances. Even working full-time, it is still difficult for students to juggle the expenses and responsibilities that are suddenly thrown their way when they reach a certain age.

“Making sure I would get to work on time right after school and maintaining getting my schoolwork done on time was so stressful,” student, Lydiah Filipiak said. “Most of the time I would be so late for school or work trying to rush out of the house...I always found ways to catch up but I was always stressed doing this. I did school one day and it became too much at one point where I just couldn’t do college anymore, so I dropped out and just focused on working. Maybe in the future I will go back, but for now my first priority is work.”

School and work demands can often be too much for students to handle that they reach the point where they are pushed to drop out, or they just realize that college is not for them. Some students have other obligations such as family needs that they cannot simply set aside for school.

The overwhelming feeling that work and school can have on students can also have an impact on their mental health. Some students suffer from sleep deprivation from the long overnight hours of school, or they could be working all night because they were completing schoolwork during the day. They often forget to pay attention to the other necessities for a healthy life such as eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising.

Rani McKnight, a former student at CCBC Essex says, “My anxiety and stress levels were always so high when I started college. All these responsibilities and expectations were suddenly put on my plate and I did not know how to manage everything without breaking down. Thankfully, I found a way to manage my time by taking less classes at a time. Even though it could still be stressful at times, it helped a lot.”

Infographic by MCOM 111 student, Trent Miller

There is only so much time for students to do everything they need in just one day. There are deadlines that constantly need to be met, so it leaves no time for “slacking.” It always requires dedication and consistency.

This leaves students feeling anxious and sometimes depressed because of the feeling of failure of the high expectations that they did not meet. This idea of not being good enough can make students feel like they are the problem and there is no way around it.

One failure can lead to this misunderstanding of believing that you are a failure at everything. Realizing what you can handle, and your limits can help students feel a little less stressed or anxious.

There are also other ways of dealing with stress while also managing your time. Some ways of dealing with stress include simply just taking a deep breath, or going for a walk for fresh air, meditating, or talking about your problems. Sharing the burdens that are on your plate can make students feel relieved, or it leads to great advice from other students that are dealing with the same problem.

Some ways to manage your time include planning what days you will complete the assignments, being realistic about your time and intentions, and asking for help when you need it.

Jennifer Ayers, another first year at CCBC Essex said, “My problem is that I always feel like I had to get perfect grades and make a lot of money to succeed in life, but I realized I am doing the best I can and that is enough. It is okay not to be perfect all the time, we are only human, not robots.”

2 comments

  1. Jonathan Vaell 8 April, 2021 at 11:19 Reply

    This article really hit home for me. As someone who wasn’t able to start college until long after high school, I could relate to the outside responsibilities involved with full-time work and caring for my family. I’ve struggled with anxiety while balancing my job and schoolwork, often I have to select one to take priority and my job has to take priority due to bills. I’ve been fighting against the possibility of quitting college, likely temporarily, due to my other obligations. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone, but also sad to see how prevalent this struggle is for students.

  2. Samantha Webb 10 April, 2021 at 16:27 Reply

    I’m a nursing student currently taking vigorous science courses, and balance is something I’ve definitely struggled with. I lost my job due to COVID, and I watched my GPA climb, but life is returning to normal and balance is becoming more of a problem. I have been lucky enough to have parents who help me with college, but if I didn’t have them, I would be even more drained than I already am. I wouldn’t be able to juggle the classes I am currently taking while trying to make ends meet. You made some amazing points, especially when it comes to balance impacting mental health. College students were already struggling to begin with, and on top of living through a pandemic it has only made matters worse. Reading this article made me feel a sense of normalcy, and reading the quotes you included served as a reminder that I’m not alone during these times.

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