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  • Writer's pictureLa Voz Latina

Balancing Act the Lives of Working College Students

By: Michelle Calderon 🇸🇻

Student after the Latinx Graduation Ceremony at the Adele H. Stamp Student Union UMD showing off their cap on May 21, 2020. (Alexa Figueroa)

While getting a degree is a full-time job in and of itself, many students have to balance working long hours while pursuing their education. 

The College Student of Employment reported that 40% of undergraduate students worked full-time in 2020, while 74% worked part-time. The data also found that Hispanic undergraduate students worked the most compared to their counterparts. Out of all the full-time working undergraduate students, 43% were Hispanic. 

Many students work to cover their living expenses, avoid accumulating debt and pay their tuition.  They don’t have a strong support system to assist them with the rising cost of living. 

While working during college has some benefits, students struggle to keep up with their classes, grades, and an active social life. Many sacrifice healthy habits like getting a good night's sleep to keep up with their classes and work demands.

Yesenia Garcia-Navarro, an Appalachian State University ‘20 alumna, worked 40-50 hours a week at a fast food restaurant during her junior and senior years. She commends her professors for helping her push through

“During that time, it was pretty difficult. I think it was the fact that I knew I had to keep pushing so If I’m being honest, I didn’t get a lot of sleep,” said Garcia-Navarro.

Garcia-Navarro recalled when she opened up to her professor about her high workload and the stress she was under. 

“There was a time when I worked all night long on a presentation that I had to do,” Garcia-Navarro said. “Literally, from all the way through the night, I stayed in the library to the next morning when I had to go into class… I was on the verge of tears, and it was just really bad… I talked to my professor, and she could just see it on my face. I honestly just started crying in her arms, and you know she was there for me.”

Working over 20 hours a week has detrimental effects on students’ grades. 

“A major factor in determining the positive or negative effects of employment on the academic performance of students is their GPA,” according to a BYU Employment Services study.

Cindy Pontachack, a Towson University ‘20 alumna, managed to maintain good grades by steering clear of procrastination while working well over 20 hours a week her sophomore to senior year. She worked two jobs, a server and babysitter.

“I’m like the opposite of a procrastinator... I was one of those people that as soon as I got assigned something and I knew my schedule was so hectic from working, I immediately got it done.” Pontachack said. 

Pontachack also balanced her school assignments by completing them during breaks between her classes.  “ A lot of times when you're in college, you have classes here and there, and then you have gaps in between, and I would spend my gaps doing work,” Pontachack said. 

Aside from bringing challenges to their academics, working also makes it harder for students to have a social life. Weekends are great opportunities to make more money or go to a party. Some students sacrifice socializing for work. 

“I 100%  didn’t party at all the last three years of college… I did sacrifice my social life,” said Pontachack. 

Neglecting your social life and well-being can also have damaging effects. The lack of support increases the potential for mental health issues. 

“A study of 115 university students who had higher social support had lower rates of stress and were well-adjusted to university,” said a scholarly article, “The Role of Sources Of Social Support On Depression and Quality of Life for University Students.” 

There are more positive impacts of working on-campus than an off-campus job for more than 20 hours, according to the BYU Employment Services study. Students have more flexibility, time to work on their studies, and understanding superiors. 

Hannah Schiavone, a University of Maryland‘21, worked 40 hours a week at UMD’s Eppley Recreation Center and commended her boss for helping her prioritize her school assignments by letting her cut down on her hours during busy academic weeks. 

 “I’m very lucky that my boss from my on-campus job really steered us to prioritize school work. I was sacrificing work rather than school.” Schiavone said. 

While working as a student is challenging, students benefit from the freedom of having money, including avoiding student loan debt and getting their foot in the door when the time comes for their first post-grad professional job.

“I was actually able to graduate with no debt. Which is really nice. It 100% did help.” Pontachack said. 

“I went into interviews not scared of any questions cause I had such a wide range of experiences to pull from for answers,” Schiavone said.

Working and getting a degree at the same time can take a toll on someone's grades and social life. Learning to prioritize and communicate with professors about your busy life is important. 

“Try to create a priority list, and if you do have to work full time and be a full-time student at the same time, maybe that’s cutting out some social activities. If you do have social activities, do them when you’re at home, or you can do some self-care with your friends,” said Garcia-Navarro.


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