Bucks Students Feel Pressures of Balancing School and Work

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Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Hannah Boscola

A typical day for Criminal justice major, Bridgette Cinque, 23, starts when she clocks into her full-time job as an accountant at Seko and ends when she finishes her work for school and workout routine.

Cinque, who will be graduating from Bucks this January, says her time as a student hasn’t always been easy, especially when balancing multiple obligations.

The most stressful part of working full time, and even over time, while attending school “is when professors don’t acknowledge some students work,” Cinque said.

For over a year, Cinque has balanced schoolwork, a fulltime job, and volunteering as a firefighter, along with her social life and trying to go to the gym.

“I’ve used sick and vacation time from my job to call out a few times so I could complete some assignments for school,” Cinque said.

Cinque is not alone. As the cost of college attendance continues to rise faster than family incomes, many Bucks students face the tricky act of balancing school involvement, personal lives, and shifts.

According to Mental Health America, about half of all full-time college students have jobs outside of school; this number jumps to 80 percent when it comes to part-time students.

For the students responsible for their own finances, or even those of their families, working a job while in college can help supplement expenses, but at what cost?

“I personally am lucky enough to have a job that has a set schedule, so scheduling my schoolwork is much easier,” commented Jared Byer, 19, social science major, who works as a custodian at local school district.

“In some ways, I personally feel that going to work allows me to have a more productive life. However, if I needed to live on my own, I would need another job, and I could see that balancing between much longer work hours as a full-time student would definitely feel impossible,” Byer said.

It is recommended that students dedicate at least 3 hours, if not more, of outside classwork for every course. For full-time college student, 12 hours or more of outside classwork, is recommended to succeed, leaving students with little leeway.

Aileen Leong, said her greatest challenge as a student is “time allocation.” Balancing schoolwork and her career as a freelance writer, while taking care of her two children who go to separate schools, leaves her with little time to lose, Leong commented.

Many students voiced how being overwhelmed is not a good way to learn. Cheyenne O’Neill, 18, business administration major, said while working at Forever 21 she struggles with time management and a drained social battery.

“It takes a lot of energy to go to school, and then be social after at a customer service job,” she mentioned.

“If you have a bad day at school, you also can have a bad day at work, and then you have a bad day at home,” O’Neill added.

When there are multiple commitments competing for your time, your mental bandwidth can get stretched, according to Dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences Samantha Gross.

Gross referenced, “Bandwidth Recovery” written by Cia Verschelden, who visited Bucks to share how people who live with persistent economic insecurity and members of marginalized groups, systematically experience conditions in their lives that result in chronic stress and, therefore, decreased health, and social and economic opportunity.

In “Bandwidth Recovery” Verschelden says, students who are operating with depleted mental bandwidth as a result of scarcity in their lives can struggle to succeed in school.

Gross explained time management is very important but emphasizes this includes taking time for your physical and mental health.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Use our faculty’s office hours, use our counseling center, use our career center, use our academic success center. These are all services that are of no cost to the student and can really be valuable,” said Gross.

Counselor Vicki Mansure noted that it’s vital to watch the way you talk to yourself and change the narrative.

Mansure hosts “Talk About it Tuesday with Vicki”, an online discussion at 12:15 p.m. about current counseling topics, such as how to silence negativity, how to get started and stay motivated, and self-care 101.

According to Mandy Reilly, a counselor at the Upper Bucks campus, “it’s particularly challenging to manage time wisely with competing priorities.”

If a student is feeling stressed about balancing the demands of work with school, “Bucks counselors are here to help,” added Reilly. Counseling services are free to currently enrolled students.

“It is important to check in with yourself, and know that it’s okay to take a break,” said Gross.

Counseling is available on all Bucks campuses. To schedule an appointment to meet with a counselor call 215-968-8189, email [email protected], or stop by the Student Services area at your Bucks campus. You can also visit bucks.edu/counseling.

Additionally, the college provides information for students who might be struggling financially at bucks.edu/resources/basicneeds.