Students: large percentage are now working while studying

Half of all full-time students and 8 of ten part-time students have a job, according to Inside Higher Education.

I don’t fit the typical definition of a full-time college student who works. Though I would love the idea of getting a paycheck or even getting money deposited into my account on a weekly basis, from someone other than my mother, this is not going to happen any time soon.

Besides homework and studying for the 18 credit hours I’m enrolled in, work and learn hours, and coordinating events for a student organization, I tutor. I help international students with their homework in any way that I can. I cannot imagine studying in a language that I am still learning and trying to improve on a daily basis. I guess you could say I have a soft spot for these students; I’m told it’s something called compassion. Sometimes I think it’s something called stupidity because then I wind up stressed out. Nevertheless, I do it.

Because of my hectic schedule, I am constantly surprised when I hear others say that they work other than the work and learn hours at school. Gary R. Pike and other researchers conducted a study that found that those students that work more than 20 hours at an off-campus location are more likely to suffer from poor academic performance. However, another study reported in The Daily Iowan stated that “clocking over 20 hours per week can translate to greater gains in areas of leadership and psychological well-being.”

I consider working part-time while going to school a risk. However, even more surprising is the amount of students that both study and work full-time. Not to mention the serious lack of time for a social life, these students are susceptible to failing prey to the ultimate disaster: burning themselves out. This can result in dropping out or taking longer time than usual to graduate.

According to an article published in May of 2006, 78 percent of undergraduate students work approximately 30 hours per week. Let’s take for example a student who is taking 18 credit hours and working full-time (40 hours). Add 8 hours a night for sleep and the student is down to 54 free hours a week, almost eight hours a day. Take three of those hours for meals and the student is left with less than five free hours a day. The list has not included the time needed to take a shower and get ready for class as well as work or the drive to school and work. And good luck if there is an emergency that cuts into the student’s schedule because there goes either a night of sleep or the completion of an assignment.

Though this group is divided into those that consider themselves students who work and workers that study, this does not change the fact that they are focusing on two important activities simultaneously. What does the name have to do with anything? The name of a perfume doesn’t change the scent, just as the name of student workers doesn’t change the fact that they must spend hours at a job to make money (for any number of reasons) and then go home to a long night of homework and studying.

The purpose of an education is to study and acquire the skills needed for a professional job. If a student’s focus is interrupted with the need to work, then the student is not receiving the optimal educational experience. However, if the need to work is great, then what other choice does the student have? Money is not everything. Tell that to these students who work, or if you prefer the other term, workers who study, who must take up jobs to pay for tuition or simply to pay the rent and bills. Those that succeed at balancing these aspects of life are learning important lessons (time management, for one), but what are they losing?

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