College ensures students countless opportunities that will carry on through adulthood to help develop them into successful participants in a work-oriented society. As midterms and the holidays approach, maintaining schoolwork, a job and a social life in equal tact becomes more and more challenging.
For many students, college is the first real taste of independence. But with that freedom comes a long list of decisions about how to spend time and money. One goal for a working student is a balance that allows them to excel in school and experience all that college life has to offer while holding down a job.
According to a survey conducted by YouGov, approximately 4 in 5 college students work part-time in college, averaging 19 hours a week, but just 18 percent pay their way through school. With so much responsibility, maintaining a social life can be difficult.
However, many students manage to strike a balance between their social, professional and academic lives. In some cases, that balance is made possible by simple priority management.
Nicole Ring, a junior majoring in psychology, works just about 25 hours a week as a server at Genghis Grill, and has made academics a greater priority than her social life.
“My greatest aspiration in life, currently, is to be able to be independent in regards to finance,” Ring said. “Going to school and prioritizing schoolwork is an investment towards my future plans. The work I put in will eventually pay out and will help me achieve these goals.”
Ring said she has worked weekends since she was 16 years old.
“I can’t really remember the last time I had an entire weekend off and chose to be social,” she said. “Yes, I would like to have more time to relax and enjoy my youth, but I also am fully aware of my responsibilities. Saying that I am unhappy with my social life would be completely untrue; I am wholly thankful for where I am, at 21 years (old), in all aspects.”
Although some students keep with the mantra “work now, play later,” others see their social college experience as a more significant priority. Java Royal, a senior majoring in communications who works about 25 hours a week, said he makes time for his social life, although it can be difficult.
“I think it’s important to have time for the ones who are close to you, and because of working and doing school work, it’s hard to keep that social life,” Royal said.
Royal said he maintains two jobs, one as a member of the orientation team at USF, and the other at Wells Fargo.
“I don’t hangout with my coworkers as much, so I wouldn’t say that my job plays a part. However, I would say that I do have that social life with my friends,” he said. “We go out to social places often and have great times.”
Working on campus can allow for a more effective social college experience in several ways.
“It allows for a student to really know the ins and outs of the campus as well as getting to know the faculty and staff,” Royal said.
A USA Today article also emphasized the importance of getting out and around on campus.
“When you’re pulled out of your dorm room or off-campus place, you are mingling with other students, professors and your coworkers. The more time you spend on the campus, the more likely you are to learn about and get involved in on-campus events and groups.”
Russ Coughenour, assistant vice president of USF’s Career Services, said on-campus jobs are certainly beneficial and convenient to on-campus students.
“It makes you feel even more connected to the campus,” he said. “You’re building contacts on the campus, you’re helping the university out, you’re making a little bit of money and it doesn’t take you long to get to and from your job.”
Coughenour also said there are several tips students should keep in mind while trying to balance good grades and a job.
“(Engage) in the resources the campus has to available to you; (find) people on campus that you trust and have critical conversations with and can point you in the right direction; (be) intentional about your semesters and your class load,” he said.
Success in balancing the two is all about “seeing things clearly, when you can and can’t fit things in, and balancing the financial part,” Coughenour said.
Students who have managed to find the balance between work, school and play are living proof that one can be a student, a professional, and a young adult and be successful.