Benefits, drawbacks of working while in school

Whether it’s at working at her job, going to classes or participating in student organizations, Vienet Romero is always on the move.

A typical week for the senior in Applied Health Sciences looks like this: Monday and Tuesday consists of volunteering at Carle Auditory Oral School and attending class. On Wednesday, Romero works at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, where she is a cashier at the ticket office, and then heads to class afterward. When class finishes, she volunteers at Garden Hills Elementary School and later attends to her secretarial duties for the Bilingual Organization for Speech and Hearing Science Students.

On Thursdays, Romero observes in the audiology clinic, attends class, and heads straight to work at Krannert. While Romero has no classes on Friday, she works from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and each weekend she has to work an additional weekend shift.

Romero isn’t the only student on campus who has to balance a heavy course load and work schedule.

An NBC News article states that “four out of five college students are now working while going to school, typically 19 hours a week while classes are in session, according to the 2013 College Student Pulse survey conducted by YouGov for Citi and Seventeen Magazine.” The survey also found that “77 percent said money played an important role in where they applied, and one-third said that money was the single most important deciding factor in enrollment.” The online July survey included more than 1,000 college students and high school seniors.

A recent SallieMae study also found that there has been reduction in parent contributions toward college tuition. “Parents now fund from income and savings 27 percent of college expenses, down from 2010’s peak funding of 36 percent,” the study stated.

Romero said she works while in school to lift some of the financial burden off her parents and save money for graduate school for audiology.

“I save 30 percent of what I make, and the rest goes to groceries and applications for grad schools,” Romero said.

Whether one’s finances is the reason students choose to work while in school, juggling a job with class has many intrinsic advantages.

Jessica Leach, director of Media Career Services, said that just getting experience in the professional world is important, whether it’s a part-time job, internship or senior position in a student organization.

Romero said that she has improved her skills and abilities from her jobs, such as her communication skills and attention to detail.

“I’ve become way more comfortable speaking over the phone to strangers,” Romero said. “My mom noticed this right away because when I used to call my bank to dispute a fee, I’d usually end up passing the phone to her.”

Emily Wickstrom, assistant director at The Career Center, said that jobs teach students how to be professional, makes them more employable and helps them build a network and have references. Additionally, having a job shows future employers that a student can manage both work and school, she said.

Yet, while there are many benefits of working while in school, students must learn how to balance school and their job.

Students should know their limits and not take on more than they can handle.

“If you don’t have the time, it’s OK to say ‘no’ to things that aren’t necessary,” Leach said.

Leach said students can stay on top of their schedules by staying organized. One way is by simply making Post-It notes or noting important dates on their phones’ calendars, she said.

To balance work and school, a University of Illinois at Chicago article recommends that students find jobs on campus, be transparent with employers about schedules, find out about tuition assistance, have an outlet for stress and more. Having a job on campus can be beneficial because campus employers understand students’ needs for flexibility.

A Forbes article also recommends that students should make sure they don’t “forget themselves.” The article advises that students remember to eat property, get enough sleep and fit in time for exercise. If students take on too much, they will end up getting sick, tired and burnt out, preventing them from doing well in either work or school.

Leach stressed that students’ No. 1 priority is their academics. Leach said that it is “great to be involved,” but students should “take a look at what they are involved in” and weigh their options.

Romero is able to balance her time between work and school by telling her supervisors how many hours she would like to work a week. By planning how many hours she’ll be working, she is able to avoid burnout.

Romero said she gets a majority of her homework done during her weekend shifts or “during the down time,” when people are not walking in or calling for tickets.

Whether students are searching for jobs during the academic year or after graduation, they should search the “right” way, Wickstrom said.

The right way, according to Wickstrom, is to “know what you’re looking for: location, major, skills and experiences.”

Wickstrom advised that students searching for jobs during the school year should ask themselves these questions: What do you want to do? Are you just trying to make money, and what kind of experience do you want to gain?

Although her job is unrelated to her major, Remero said she loves her job and has been able to gain many invaluable skills.

“I would go to very few Krannert shows if I didn’t work there,” she said. “I love that I can see so many world renowned performers and get to bring my friends along, too.”

Amanda can be reached at [email protected]