The burden of balancing school and work

By Cassie Colby |

Clearly flustered, 20-year-old Asiah Bennett briefly explains the dress code at her job while simultaneously tossing colorful tops and street wear onto the floor.

“Working and going to school is no easy task,” Bennett said. “I enjoy the feeling of working, but also wish I had more time to study.”

She works part-time at Soma Intimates, located at the St. Augustine Outlets. Her schedule is set to work Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 4 to 9:30 p.m., sometimes later. “Occasionally they try to have me work weekends, but I usually find a way out of it,” she said.

Still tossing various items around her room, she explained the burdens of being a working full-time student. She said that each year the workload in school intensifies, which she believes puts more pressure on employed students like herself.

Laughing to herself, she said that she is so busy sometimes she forgets to eat. Bennett is no rookie to working while in school. Her first experience in the “real world” began at 16.

“I don’t mind working at all. I think it builds character. Paying for expenses myself helps me appreciate everything more. Why work hard to support yourself, but fail in school?” she said. Bennett thinks working, like school, takes dedication, especially if you want to excel.

Headed out the door, Bennett grabbed her shoes and car keys. Headed to work, she thought about what homework she had to complete when she comes home. There is little rest and relaxation for employed students.

Flagler college student, and Bennett’s roommate, Omar Zapata, was rushing to get ready for work as well. “I just try to stick through a challenge, because in the end I know it will be worth it,” said Zapata.

Zapata works three jobs, making his roommate’s life seem easy — one on-campus job, two off-campus jobs. He works every day except Saturday. “I barely get any sleep. After school, I immediately have to come home and get ready for work. After work, I come home to eat and study. I rarely go to bed anytime before 12,” he said.

Like Bennett, Zapata believes that working builds character and helps one learn skills for the real world.

Bennett and Zapata are two of the many college students nationwide who are working and maintaining a scholastic career. Not only do they have to study, but they have to dedicate a significant portion of their day at work. Balancing the two often proves to be too much for some students. It certainly takes a strict dedication to be able to work and go to school.

“In 2010, about 40 percent of full-time and 73 percent of part-time college students ages 16 to 24 were employed,” according to the National Center for Education Statistics. A student going to work and school, in 2012, is not an uncommon life style. For some, working and going to school are a way of life.

However difficult someone sees working and going to school as, there are some benefits to the experience, like being more prepared for the future. Both Bennett and Zapata agreed that without employment and schooling, they would be unprepared for what is to come after graduation.

But there are negative effects with student employment. A Brockport University study suggests working more than 10 hours a week can have negative effects on an employed student’s academic performance.

However, Zapata and Bennett maintain a grade average of B+. Both say most of the time they do not have energy to study, but realize school is an important factor in the equation for success.

Another factor that drives students to work is the financial burdens that come with a college education. “People often ask me how I go to work and study. I tell them it’s something I have to do. My family is unable to support me. Working for me is vital. There is no way to get around it,” explained Bennett.

Zapata, like Bennett, works to pay bills and other college expenses. “My motivation comes from the success I will experience later in life,” he said. “Although my parents cannot give me everything I need for college, I feel reassured that I am able to provide for myself. It is a feeling that relieves the fears I have for the future.”

During the weekdays at the Zapata and Bennett household, the lights seldom turn off before 11 p.m. Both students believe that college is a time for growth and new experiences, but work often takes away from the fun aspect of college and forces them to view a harsh reality.

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