According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in 2018, 81 percent of part-time undergraduate students were employed and 43 percent of full-time undergraduate students were employed. These percentages haven’t significantly changed since 2010. In 2020 these students balanced not only work and school, but also a pandemic. In March 2020, what began as an extra long Spring Break turned into almost two months of online classes.
The shutdown and new rules have caused new challenges for employed students. Students that lived on campus had to leave, and few were allowed to stay depending on their situations. Students that left campus and didn’t live in or near Tifton had to quickly figure out a way to keep working. Vicky Gonzalez, an Psychology major, successfully appealed to housing to stay, however, due to a change in rules this past winter break she was unable to stay on campus over the holidays. She commuted over an hour to and from work everyday.
Another student, Amber Nicole Winter, a ToGo Specialist at Olive Garden, was considered essential when they went ToGo order only during the mandated shutdown. During this time she worked 45-50 hours a week on top of online classes.
Some employed students were scheduled for more hours at their jobs even though they were taking the same amount of credit hours when they went online, it is not uncommon to have students in an online class meeting that are also at work. This puts a strain on the amount of time they have to focus on class or do assignments.
“The biggest thing I struggle with is keeping up with deadlines. There are some nights when I have to work and don’t get off until 11:00, and have assignments due at 11:59,” Winter states.
Outside of work and class time finding time for studying and extracurricular activities seems to be another major challenge these students face, especially when they’re working more than they were when they took mainly in person classes.
“I struggled the most with studying, as there were certain days I would be working knowing I had an exam in a few hours and that I wouldn’t be able to be studying throughout the day leading up to it,” said Margaret Brady, an Ag Education major who works for UGA at their Aquaculture Unit. She goes on to say that she overcomes this struggle by studying in advance whenever possible.
Lee Hancock is a Turf and Golf Management major that works two jobs. One at Forest Lakes Golf Course and another as a Delivery Driver for Dominos. Hancock says, “finding time to study and take part in extracurricular activities,” is a struggle he faces.
Students have different reasons for working while in school. For Joclyn Shourds, an Animal Science major who works at a Pet Supermarket, it’s personal. “I work because my mom is a single mother taking care of three children and I need to be able to afford personal things for myself whether it is my car or phone bill or maybe supplies for school,” said Shourds.
Brady works to mainly gain “real world experience” in her field, “but to also be able to pay for school and support” herself financially. Winter also relies on a job while in school to be able to pay her bills and be independent.
Students like Brady, Shourds, and Winter seem to prefer in person classes especially when it’s a subject they struggle with, but they also occasionally prefer online so they can work at their own pace and schedule more hours at work. The social aspect of in person classes is also a big bonus, and Hancock prefers fully in person classes.
Students with part-time or full-time jobs can have a hard time keeping balance. Brady says, “It’s definitely been difficult to keep a “balanced” life with all of my responsibilities but it is something I continue to work on.”
While Winter says she feels her life is balanced and lists finding time for friends and her partner help keep it that way even when she’s working 40 hour weeks and taking 15 credit hours.
Students that work often need extra support to be successful in both school and their job. Winter believes that school’s offering an option to be solely online would be beneficial to those who need to work full time.
An online student could benefit from the small student-to-professor ratio that ABAC provides while also working at their own pace managing a full or part-time job.
Other students state that professors being more flexible would be the best way to support them throughout their college career. Shourds would like professors to be understanding that not all students’ living situations are the same, “especially with a pandemic going on.”
“Some of my best professors I have had the pleasure of learning from were the ones that were the most understanding about all of the different responsibilities I faced in my day to day life,” said Brady.
The Academic Support and Financial Aid offices are available to help students navigate the challenges that come with working as a college student. Students can also find support for classes at the Academic Achievement Center located on the 3rd floor of Carlton.