A juggling act: The burden of balancing work and a college lifestyle

Nicole McIsaac, Managing Editor

“I’m sorry I can’t come, I have work.”

If only I had a penny for every time I had to use that phrase throughout my four years while being a student at Quinnipiac University.

While some college students may find themselves prioritizing assignments, some meetings and maybe a few extracurriculars, others have to account for another reality at the same time — working full- or part-time jobs. Although it may come across as manageable, sometimes these students really need a break.

As a senior preparing to enter the workforce full-time while also in graduate school, working multiple jobs has been my reality. I had my first taste of employment working at a deli in my hometown at only 14 years old. Now, I balance three different jobs on top of my full-time academic schedule.

Call me the “workhorse.”

From internships to food service jobs, I usually am always rushing from point A to point B, trying not to miss deadlines and staying up after an eight-hour shift to study for that extra exam.

Although I have learned to pull back when I physically and mentally need a reboot, I have found it often hard to explain myself to other students at Quinnipiac who simply don’t live the same lifestyle.

Given that all of my weekly finances are paid by me, myself and I, one could assume that awkwardness might arise when I have to tell a friend that I can’t enjoy a night out for drinks because I have to fill my car with gas for the week. Or maybe I can’t meet up with that group of friends to get dinner because the utilities bill is higher this month than it was prior.

And my experience doesn’t just ring true to me. This is a picture that many college students all around the United States have painted for themselves, too.

According to 2020 estimates from the U.S. Department of Education, 43% of full-time and 81% of part-time students work while being enrolled in a higher educational setting.

While some might be blessed with the privilege to not have to work while focusing on their educational studies, others face financial hardships from attending expensive colleges and universities, or perhaps may come from a lower economic status.

Given the price tag that colleges present to those seeking to extend their education, as well as additional fees that go along with it such as housing or book fees, there is no surprise that students can’t just be students.

It’s no wonder individuals are forced into this work and college juggling acts. “Working while in college is very common, especially with the rising price of college tuition and the burden of student loan debt,” per a 2023 article from Fortune.

Before I even committed to college, Quinnipiac was not a real option that I was considering — simply because of the financial debt I would be putting myself and my parents in by attending. Though, education was important to me, and I ultimately made the decision to attend.

However, as a result of that, I had to contribute to the bill. This is a decision I was fine with taking on and willing to do whatever it takes to be located in Hamden, Connecticut, for four years.

At the end of the day, I am still blessed with the opportunity to extend my education — while having a supportive family that backs me up no matter what and are willing to help me face some of my financial hardships from getting my degree. Other individuals, some even being enrolled here at Quinnipiac, have it even worse than I do — and others, worse than them.

While it’s important to acknowledge that, it’s OK to highlight that working students sometimes need a break from putting their all into getting their education. I am grateful to have the drive and dedication to work, gaining life lessons even from a simple barista side job.

For those that this issue doesn’t resonate with, be grateful — but more importantly, be kind to your peers around you who might not have those same advantages while working toward the ultimate end goal diploma.

For professors, remember there are students sitting in your seats that are trying to make ends meet just to be face-to-face with you.

For students in the same position, I understand how you feel. Just know there’s a whole community of college students in the same boat — just keep swimming