Full-time students double work load with full-time jobs

Alyssa Potter, a public relations major at Webster University, prepares pastries for a display at Starbucks in Rock Hill. Nikki Waller | The Journal
Alyssa Potter, a public relations major at Webster University, prepares pastries for a display at Starbucks in Rock Hill. Nikki Waller | The Journal

Mason Finch clocks in on time to start her shift at Buffalo Wild Wings, one of the three jobs she has this semester. The 20 hours she will work as a server, the 15 hours bartending at the Gamlin Whiskey House and an unpaid internship of 15 hours at Emmis Communications adds up to a 50 hour work week.

A new study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce reports that students are working an average of 30 hours a week. The research also revealed that these are not just typical hours for Finch, but also undergraduate students across the country and at Webster University. About 25 percent of working students are simultaneously employed full-time and enrolled in college full-time.  Finch, a Webster University student majoring in advertising and marketing, is one of them. As a senior with an 18-hour course load, she said time management is probably the most difficult part of juggling her responsibilities. 

“At times you lose your mind, and you forget what you need to do. Making sure that everything that you need to get done that day gets done because if it’s not done, it goes to the next day and the next.  Then you’ve got a pile of things,” Finch said.

Webster University alumna Jennifer Westervelt-Harris said time management was a huge part of her days.  During her final year in school, she worked a full time job and an additional 18 to 20 hours as an intern. 

“I often would change clothes in the back of my car multiple times a day and eat a granola bar in between work, school and my internship,” Westervelt-Harris said.

Westervelt-Harris said the most difficult part about working full-time was prioritizing. Sometimes she found herself trying to decide whether to finish a term paper, take an extra shift or stay late.  She said she was determined to avoid having a pile of student loans to pay back after graduation.

“I wanted to come out of college with as little debt as possible,” Westervelt-Harris said.

According to the Institute for College Access and Success, seven in 10 college graduates in 2014 had student loan debt, with an average of $28,950 owed per borrower.  Georgetown researchers revealed the additional workload students are taking on does not generate enough income to eliminate student loans. A student working full-time at the federal minimum wage would earn $15,080 annually before taxes.        

Wendy Patrick, a behavioral expert and business ethics lecturer at San Diego State University, told CNBC that working when you are still in school enhances the ability to meet deadlines, work under pressure and effectively structure time blocks.        

“It instills a sense of discipline, responsibility, structure – all elements that contribute to a successful life,” Patrick said.

Finch said this idea is very important, and one of the few reasons she is determined to maintain her busy schedule.

“I need to make sure that I’m doing everything that I can in order to put myself in a position where when I do graduate, I can move out of having to work 60 hours a week and go down to a full-time job and feel comfortable enough and stable enough to say I can go to a two-week paycheck and not have to depend on money every single day,” Finch said.

Sophomore and public relations major Alyssa Potter said that working a full-time schedule between 36 and 37 hours and carrying a full-time course load last semester was a bit overwhelming. Potter said her position at Starbucks as a shift supervisor became exhausting with her full course load at Webster University.  She said her dedication to her position at work made it difficult to find a healthy balance.     

“All I did was school, work, sleep, study. No fun. My parents were yelling at me the whole time,” Potter said. “It wasn’t a money issue. I was trying to prove myself at work.”

Potter said this semester is different. She has been working part-time hours since the semester started, which she said allows her to have a social life. 

“I was preparing to step down, if this semester had continued at that same pace,”  Potter said. 

Luckily, she said her employer allowed her the flexibility of working fewer hours this semester.

“I’m always going to be the best employee I can be; I’m always going to get the best grades I can get. It’s sleep and my personal time that gets compromised,” Potter said.

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