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Student workers struggle to maintain balance with work, school, social life

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Pratibha Gautam

Staff Writer

Working in college seems like an impossible task for most students due to the challenge of managing time responsibly.

Finnegan Nicholas Nelson, a junior graphic design major from Pike Road, works as a cook at Sonic. As a cook, he has to prepare the food, wash dishes and take out the trash at closing.

Every week, Nelson deals with the pressure of having to balance 25 to 30 hours of work and the 17 credit hours he is taking this semester.

“I go home at closing and have to stay up all night to finish a project, but I really need the money,” said Nelson.

Many college students face the challenge of having to balance academic and financial burdens and, when unprepared, can fail to strike a balance.

Matthew Gonzales, a sophomore accounting major from Pansey, also works about 30 hours a week. He is a cook at Panda Express.

Gonzales agrees his work life is affecting his studies.

“There have been times when I’ve waited too long to start assignments, and I’ve had to wait until I’m done with work, about 11 or later, to do major assignments,” Gonzales said.

Additionally, Gonzales points out how it can affect more than just studies.

“It’s hard to balance work, school and social life,” he said. “I just sleep less, or I’ll skip a little bit of studying and not put as much effort as I should.”

He added that he has, on occasion, taken advantage of the fact that he is not always required to go to some classes.

Both Nelson and Gonzales want to invest more time and energy on their studies but are tied down by financial needs.

“I wouldn’t be able to make it through if I weren’t working,” said Nelson. “There are a lot of times, even now, that I’m barely scraping by financially.”

As Nelson has worked only over summers before, he is still learning to manage his work and classes and believes he will get better at it.

Gonzales said he was somewhat prepared for the hard work.

“My first job was at a farm, and I would work long hours every day, so it’s not the hard work that’s the problem,” he said.

Grant Robinson, a junior nursing student from Birmingham, was also ready to work through college. He worked as a laborer in construction sites before starting his present job at Arby’s.

Robinson notes the importance of balancing his time management. He also highlights the importance of having a supervisor who understands and respects students’ priorities.

“My manager is nice,” he said. “If I have something really intensive coming up, I can take a day off; it’s really flexible.”

Furthermore, Robinson talks about how it is important for students to get real-life experience and not just focus on their studies.

“If you just go to school, you don’t really focus on what happens after,” he said. “I think working, having to pay bills really grounds you.”

Gonzales also said his work has provided him with practical knowledge and real-world experience.

“It’s given me a lot of perspective to a lot of my classes,” he said. “When I’m taking management and marketing classes, I can see that at work in Panda Express.”

For Nelson, the completion of goals is important.

“At the end of the week I feel satisfied by the work I’ve accomplished even though I might have sacrificed sleep,” he said.

All of these students have had to sacrifice and learn to manage their time responsibly in order to balance work and study, but the benefits outweigh the burdens.

Each of them has gained invaluable life experience that will guide them as they work towards their goals.