Prioritizing balance between work, school

College tuition is indisputably high, and is increasing every year. Students, especially in recent years, feel the need to work one job or more to combat the cost of school, textbooks, living away from home, etc.

“The need to work, especially to work a lot, is usually tied to financial need, which carries its own burden of anxiety that students have to balance, too,” Dr. Traynor Hansen, an English professor, said.

The pressure to decrease student debt, alongside the desire to build a resume with work experience, is very present in the lives of current college students. Some students have found themselves working under stress, culminating to an unpleasant experience, while others have come to enjoy the routine and stability of working part-time.

Ann Lam, a freshman fashion and merchandising major, has worked at American Eagle for two years. She loves working with clothing and fashion, and appreciates the flexibility of her schedule “because I took a lot of credits last quarter, and I’ll have a lot this quarter, its nice to have a job that considers and works with your schedule,” she said.

Similarly, freshman Brianna Dolce, who works as a nanny in Bellevue, finds that she is able to enjoy work more because she knows she will have time to get schoolwork done. She also prefers a job with more flexible hours because it decreases the stress she associates with working.

“It doesn’t affect (my schoolwork) very much, because I can do homework, and I’m having fun while getting paid,” Dolce said.

Her previous job, an on-campus position, was not as flexible, she mentioned. She had a hard time managing her time around work, and the experience ultimately taught her how to prioritize her time.

“I feel like it affected my (schoolwork) more than my job off campus,” she said. “I missed tutoring a lot because I had to go to work. I think it definitely affected my grades more than my nannying job.”

Unlike Dolce’s experience, however, first-year Sophia Gunther’s on-campus job works well with her schedule, and she says it does not cause her extra stress nor does it have a negative effect on her intensive schoolwork as a pre-med student.

Gunther loves her job because it lets her do something she loves: working with special needs children and teens.

As a job coach for special needs kids who come to campus from Ballard with their special needs teacher, she loves her job, and talks passionately about how fulfilling her work is in helping students transition into life after high school, “trying to get them motivated so that they’re able to go out into the workforce and get jobs after high school. And I’m able to hang out with them and have fun,” she said. “It works really well with my schedule because I can do it at a reasonable time; I don’t have to be out late, and I’m off on the weekends.”

Another student who enjoys the people she works with, sophomore Shelby Perkins, loves her nannying job because she adores the children she works for. Besides allowing her to work with children she has come to cherish, nannying for a family in Magnolia has also helped her learn time management skills that she thinks will help her later in life.

“Time management is the biggest piece because I’m picking the kids up from school, taking them to different places, and just learning that about the future,” she said. “I love nannying, it’s the best.”

Some SPU professors, such as Dr. Karen Julka-Tischhauser of the Spanish language department, fully agrees that time management and responsibility are greatly improved in students who work part or full time.

In my experience, students who work part time are often better at time management,” Julka-Tischhauser stated.

The argument for the benefits of work, however, becomes split after that point. Julka-Tischhauser continued “this is only the case when hours are limited. I find that some students work more hours than they can manage and they are not able to keep up with their homework or take advantage of office hours.”

SPU professors tend to differ from the students in their perspectives on part time work because they seem to agree that the negative effects on stress and time outweigh the positives once a certain number of work hours is exceeded.

Dr. Reed Davis of the political science department is also worried about college students who spend too much of their time working, even in order to decrease their debt.

“College is extremely expensive, so many students feel compelled to work, even though a part time job hardly puts a dent into the average debt a student will accumulate,” he said.

He is worried because, like Julka-Tischhauser, he has noticed that working too many hours is detrimental to student work. He has seen the way that too many hours of work has affected student participation in school activities, extracurriculars, and programs, which ultimately affects both their college experience and their resume.

“The problem with working 20 to 30 hours a week is that it leaves precious little time for students to do anything but study and go to work,” Davis elaborated. “What goes utterly ignored are the extracurriculars or those leadership opportunities that are vital to a great resume.”

The only consensus seems to be that of the importance of flexibility, the ability to prioritize school work and not allow work to detract from the time allowed to manage classes and college experiences. Both students and professors agree that work is only worth the salary if you are also able to manage schoolwork easily alongside it.

In the end, according to the surveyed students and staff, it seems to come down to flexibility and the time allowed by the work.

“Ultimately, based on the students that come to mind, it seems like the question of balance — one’s ability to manage one’s time and responsibilities — is a deciding factor,” said Hansen. “Some students I’ve had have thrived in finding that balance, while others have struggled.”


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