Working While in College
This week, I’ll describe a situation that concerns me. I can’t say that I have the solution, but I think discussing the problem will increase awareness and possibly prevent some students from experiencing it in the future.
In the best of times and circumstances, college is expensive. Many have to work during college in order to afford it. Today’s economy is causing more students to have to work, and work more than in the past. Often, students are making poor choices with regard to the prioritization of work and school.
My personal philosophy on this topic has always been that new freshmen shouldn’t work during the first semester of college unless it was absolutely essential. I figure students have enough to worry about getting used to college and their new environment, figuring out where things are and how they work, and what it takes to be successful. I don’t think they need the added responsibility of a job and the added time management problems it creates during a time of such transition.
Unfortunately, that philosophy has become much more of a luxury than it once was. And fewer students are able to actually implement it. Another reason I think new students shouldn’t work is that many of them, frankly, aren’t ready to make the kind of decisions required to balance school, work, and other responsibilities.
The uncertain financial situation we now find ourselves in is causing more students to have to work, when many of them really shouldn’t be. Students in general have difficulty figuring out how much time they need to devote to school in order to succeed. And that’s before you throw in a job, and with it, added obligations to the new boss and co-workers, not to mention the obligation to self and/or family to earn as much money as possible to pay for school.
Now the student has two, often competing, priorities and obligations. School, where they are supposed to earn the best grades possible, and work, where they are supposed to earn as much money as possible. Compound that with students often not knowing exactly how to study or how much to study. I think you get students who don’t know exactly how to handle school, but DO know how to handle work – so they work (sometimes more than initially intended). They may be sacrificing good grades, but doing it while achieving the satisfaction of lightening the financial burden on themselves and their family.
I’m usually a proponent of allowing students to feel their way through things and figuring them out as they go. In this case, I think students need involvement and guidance from their family. I’m talking about appropriately prioritizing school, setting limits on working and minimizing obligations to family and others at this time. Students will then be better able to allocate their time to these two tasks, and likely achieve better grades in the process.
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