Working as a students brings many opportunities and downfalls

Photo by Taya Power-Thornton

College is expensive. Between tuition, rent, groceries and everything in between; it’s no wonder many students have to work while getting an education. Balancing work, school and a social life can be a daunting experience, but it’s important to know that many students are doing the same.

The National Center for Education Statistics found that as of 2020, 40% of full-time undergraduate students were employed, compared to 74% of part-time students. 

Having a job while being in school can have many benefits for students, from learning responsibility and time management, to building connections within the campus and the community.

Debbie Kaylor, director of career services has worked for Boise State University for almost 20 years. To Kaylor, jobs are a great way for students to learn these valuable skills. 

“Whatever your post-graduation plans are, employers look for new college graduates who have some experience,” said Kaylor. “Jobs teach you teamwork, communication, critical thinking and leadership, and employers are looking for that. I think employers, for the most part, would rather have somebody who’s well-balanced, has worked, has been in clubs and has a decent GPA versus the 4.0 student who has just gone to classes.”

Abby Gordon, a junior at Boise State majoring in history and minoring in political science, shared that she thinks having a job is part of the college experience. 

“I am here to learn and experience new things, so I am happy to work. There are days I miss out on things for work, but it’s the same for school,” said Gordon. “Plus, I don’t mind having some extra cash in my pocket.” Gordon works 10 to 15 hours a week at the Old Idaho State Penitentiary. 

In addition to the overall benefits of working, on-campus jobs offer connection and community and are especially great for students who don’t have reliable transportation or don’t want to work too much. Working on campus allows students the opportunity to both be involved within campus and stay close. 

“I think it’s important to connect to campus,” said Kaylor. “If you’re connected here, you’re far less likely to just walk away.” 

Despite the benefits, working through school can also hinder students academically and personally. Working too much can cause grades to slip, students to skip class for work, stress and exhaustion.

Goodell, a junior at Boise State, is majoring in environmental studies and minoring in climate studies. On top of being a full-time student, she is a youth soccer coach for the School of Soccer, and is an environmental intern with the Idaho Small Business Development Center. She works 20 hours a week, 10 hours at each job. 

“It is really hard to balance a social, work and school life and make sure you are doing everything perfectly or even to the best of your ability,” said Pia Goodell. “I would say it’s been a negative experience because I have a hard time prioritizing my social life so it feels like everyday is work, school and work.”

Students who work through college not only experience academic stress, they also often notice a decline in their quality of life. Working students have less time for leisure activities like socializing with friends or engaging in self-care, leading to a poor work-life-school balance. 

“I think both of my jobs have taken a toll on my mental health because they haven’t really allowed me to take time to be with my friends and even with myself for some self-care time,” Goodell said. “It’s made it difficult to take time to make dinner and go work out which are activities that I really value.”

Another factor that hinders working students’ quality of life is exhaustion from doing too much.

“It (working) is difficult. There are times I want to come home from work and take a nap but I have homework to do,” said Gordon. “I got lucky that my job allows me to do homework while I work, but it still takes a lot of mental energy.”

Ultimately, working while going to school is difficult. Despite the numerous benefits, there are also many negative aspects that students must consider before deciding if having a job in college is right for them. 

“Everyone works for their own reasons, if you have the chance to work for something you love or something that might open some doors for you in the future, I recommend it,” said Gordon. “It won’t be easy but it will be so rewarding.”

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