How Working Too Many Hours While Going to College Full Time Causes a Negative Impact in Students’ Every-Day Lives
Students who work and attend college at the same time suffer from mental health issues, yet are never given enough recognition. While they are trying their best to fit in every priority onto their schedule, like academics, extra curricular activities, work, a social life, and self-care, employed students barely have time to sleep. Without the sleep they need, these students’ health behaviors are becoming worse and are poorly affecting their every-day performance. This is more common in college students who work too many hours throughout the week, and unfortunately, are always on go-mode. With the constant lack of sleep and sleep deprivation, working students never have a chance to truly reset their mind for the next day. Mental health is very important and determines how a student will function for the day, but for employed college students, their health behaviors are never given enough attention.
In the article, “College vs. Paycheck,” author Rainesford Stauffer explains her experience as a working college student who never had enough time for anything but school and work while struggling with peoples’ opinions and telling her to choose between her education or her job. For example, “It wasn’t just my jobless peers who thought I was doing college the wrong way. Well-meaning professors and administrators showed the same lack of understanding for the plight of the working learner.” Many people do not understand that most working college students get a job because they need the money, not because they want the money. Over thinking the idea that one cannot pay for college because they are a first-generation or low-income student automatically triggers stress, leading the student to be under pressure for finding a job to pay for their education. Imagine that added pressure of mentors and administrators trying to advise one to focus on their education more than the job that is paying for it. Stauffer emphasizes in her article that she felt guilty for picking her job over her education most of the time she was in college but also understanding that she needed the job to get an education. She also mentions that essentially the root of this mental health issue, stress, comes from the amount of tuition that students have to pay overall. For instance, “Much of the debate around higher-education inequity focuses on lessening the cost of tuition. Great, but the burden on working students is often left out of that conversation. We need affordable tuition, but also need to acknowledge other life expenses that are just as essential to learning.” Many people who are not in these working-college students’ positions do not understand what they go through on a daily basis and why they do it, leading those students to not recognize that their mental health needs to be stable before anything else, and Stauffer’s idea supports the main cause of those working learners’ mental health issues.
Moreover, there are many examples of poor mental health such as depression, anxiety, phobias, and way more, but the most common of working college students is stress and sleep deprivation because they hardly get enough sleep throughout the week at the same time as their stress levels are rising. Carrying a busy schedule on their shoulders, completing assignments, fitting in their social life, and participating in extracurricular activities is like never turning the switch off. All of these priorities that one handles throughout the day leaves them barely any time for sleep. While going back and forth between all of these priorities, working learners forget that their body is the temple, and they will not perform well in their everyday activities if they do not take care of it.
In the article, “Not Enough Hours in the Day: Work Study Students and Sleep,” author Zachariah Ezer informs his audience on many facts and examples of work study students struggling with sleep deprivation. For instance, “In 2014, an article in the Argus was published stating that ‘Farias, [an administrator], determined last year that nearly 80 students work above the recommended 20-hour limit, with some working up to 40 hours in a single week.’” Not only are working college students not getting enough sleep, but they also are handling the added stress of staying on campus if they are a low-income student and have a hard time paying for their education. Ezer explains that working students that are low-income or first generation feel like they do not fit in when it comes to their social life, especially at elite universities, because they are always busy or because they are “weeded out of friendships based on what [they] could afford.” This causes those students to feel intimidated or having sleepless nights because all they could afford is paying their tuition, not having enough money for much else. Ezer does mention some good examples of working college students’ experiences, and some people may believe that the author is exaggerating his words, but unfortunately, this is typical for working college students.
With this situation in many Universities, working college students do not realize what they are jumping into when they work too many hours. As their busy schedule fills up their 24-hour day, these students forget to maintain a healthy mental state. No matter how well students manage their time, they suffer from stress, depression, anxiety, sleep deprivation, and other phobias. They do not understand that their brain needs to stay healthy in order to perform efficiently throughout the week. Employed college students answer their problems by working harder and attempt to finish ahead of the deadlines, however, when they fail, they become stressed or depressed. On the other hand, the real answer to their mental health problems is the simple explanation: to sleep more often.
Adding on, while the mental health of working and non-working college students battle the difficulties of adjusting to adulthood, the mental health of working college students is negatively affected by the added responsibilities of an acquired job. The academic performance, emotional state, and amount of sleep these college students possess are continuously being jeopardized due to excessive workload throughout the week. Since there are benefits of having a job, like gaining experience, managing time, or earning paychecks, more college students are likely to work while going to school full-time. Whether they are going to work part-time or full-time, jumping back and forth to school and work, students do not realize that they are harming their education. These students lack the advantage to choose whether they want a job and it becomes a priority during their time in college. While working college students’ mental health issues continue to grow, unfortunately, universities make it their last problem to worry about.
Mental Health issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, and several other issues are what many students experience as they attend college full-time and live on campus. Working at the same time is the reason why these mental health issues become worse within these college students. In the article, “Relationship of Work Hours With Selected Health Behaviors and Academic Progress Among a College Student Cohort,” of Journal of American College Health, Vo. 56, No. 6, authors Kim Miller, Fred Danner, and Ruth Staten claim that working more than twenty hours per week has more of an effect on students than working less than twenty hours per week. Working more than twenty hours per week leaves college students little amount of time to accomplish other priorities on their schedule, including sleep. While the average human should be sleeping at least eight hours every night, working college students only get a full-night’s sleep about one or two times a week, says Zachariah Ezer, author of the article Not Enough Hours in the Day: Work Study Students and Sleep. “Binge drinking, less sleep, and lower academic performance were significantly associated with working 20 more hours per week,” Miller, Danner, and Staten have concluded. With this added pressure of completing every task, every event, and every assignment on their schedule, leaving them no time for enough sleep or a mental break, the mental health issues of these working college students result to be worse than the mental health issues of unemployed college students.
As full-time college students are working more than they should per week, causing their mental health to impair, these mental health issues are causing a decline in academic performances, lack of self-care, and suppressed emotions. Juggling back and forth between academics, school, work, a social life, self-care, and other activities leaves students with a full schedule. The more hours college students spend time at work throughout the week, the more likely it is they are forced to face a tighter budget of time for everything else. Authors Miller, Danner, and Staten state, “This age group in our study shows that students who work longer hours in off-campus employment tend to be less involved in campus life, less likely to interact with faculty, ands more likely to have lower grade point averages (GPAs) than are those who work fewer hours.” Spending less time on course effort, sleep, socializing, and other priorities formulates a snowball effect of not having time to study as often as unemployed students, not having time for professors’ office hours, and even some cases, not having the motivation to continue school.
However, others are too busy preaching the benefits of having a job while attending college full-time without mentioning the adversity that comes along with it. Also, others believe that it is not the jobs that students have that is causing their mental health to impair.
There are many reasons why employed college students suffer from mental health issues, yet studies show that college students are suffering from mental health issues for other reasons. Author Elizabeth Scott explains in her article, “Common Causes of Stress in College,” from Very Well Mind, that reasons like academics, socializing, and living more independently while being home sick, are the main reasons why college students stress. However, Scott forgot to mention the stress from employment and working while going to college full-time. For example, Scott casually mentions how academics cause stress when she says, “With challenging classes, scheduling issues to coordinate, difficult tests and other academic obstacles, coupled with the most independent nature of the college learning structure, many new and returning students find themselves studying long, hard hours.”
It is completely understandable how author Scott is finding her reasoning; on the other hand, the difficulties of having a job while handling these academics is worse than not having a job. Being unemployed while going to college full-time means that students would have more time on their hands to deal with their challenging academics, along with longer hours to study and longer hours to sleep. For the working college students, they have to deal with more stress because it is more difficult to find time to study, and with the lack of studying on top of the lack of sleep, this leads to a decline in their academic performance, causing them to stress even more. According to authors Rebecca Mounsey, Michael A. Vandehey, and George M. Diekhoff in their article, “Working and Non-Working University Students: Anxiety, Depression, and Grade Point Average” of Midwestern State University, “One concern about work is that it has the potential to be detrimental to a student’s grade point average (GPA).”
Working longer hours in off-campus employment does not just affect the amount of time that students can study for their academics, but it also means that these college students spend less time getting involved on campus, causing social dissociation. Being on campus, college students have a choice to get involved in extracurricular activities, sports, clubs, programs, events, and everything in between, but with employment taking up most of their time, students do not have that choice. With working college students’ social life depleting between classes and their job, students are barely around to hold positions on campus; for example, leadership positions, networking positions, or scholar positions that make it easier to pay for college.
Another issue that argues against the cause of mental health issues of working college students is the social challenges. Many believe that another aspect that is causing students to stress in school is their social life, as in, building their network, making new friends, developing in a new environment, living independently, and being away from home. Scott says, “Finding and living with a roommate, balancing friends with school work (and often part-time jobs), and dealing with the dynamics of young adult relationships can all be difficult, and these challenges can lead to significant stress.”
This causation is true, but it is not the only reason why college students are suffering from mental health issues. Employed college students have to juggle their social life like non-employed college students do, but working college students have the disadvantage of trying to squeeze their social life in their schedule wherever they can. Unemployed students do not understand the advantage they have of having more time on their hands to figure out these hardships and cope with them because college students who do have a job and do not have as much time on their schedule have the disadvantage of figuring out a more difficult way to cope with their every-day obstacles, such as social challenges. Author Rainesford Stauffer starts off her article, “College vs. Paycheck” of NY Times, showing the difference between her employed life and her non-employed friend’s life, “When I said I would miss the biggest party of our first year of college, my friend was dumbfounded. I had to go to work, I explained. ‘Just skip it,’ she said, brow furrowed as she struggled to process my misguided priorities.”
Furthermore, many studies like to preach the benefits of working while attending college full-time, but not many are in favor of emphasizing the disadvantages of working at the same time as going to college. For instance, author Miriam Caldwell claims in her article, “Reasons for Working Your Way Through College,” of The Balance, that working during college can avoid debt, provide valuable job experience, teach students time management skills, improve students’ grades, and provide employee benefits.
Point well taken, but the benefits of working while attending college full-time should not diminish the mental health issues that students battle when managing employment and college at the same time. There are pros and cons to every decision, but mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, and many other issues are ignored when students have to make long term decisions, like whether or not they get a job during college. Due to articles like Caldwell’s, persuading students to get a job, as in, “It can seem overwhelming to take on a part-time or full-time job while going to school, but it is possible to do this,” students forget to lay out the pros and cons before they make that decision of getting a job, or that decision of how many hours they should work if they already have a job. Mental health issues are the last objective that articles like this one advocate to their readers.
Lastly, it is agreed that working at the same time as going to college full-time is not the only cause of students’ mental health issues, but neither are just the obstacles of academics and socializing. The main objective is that with the added priority of employment along with keeping up with their academic performance, extra curricular activities, time management, sleep schedule, and social life, working college students suffer worse from mental health issues than the students who do not work at all. With less time on their hands, lack of studying, and lack of sleep, employed college students are the main students who suffer from mental health issues. On the other hand, others are always emphasizing the benefits of having a job while attending college but forget to recognize the adversity that comes with it, like mental health issues. With the working college student perspective battling their mental health issues the worst and most, opposing studies do not realize that they are either wrong, or they are wrong of omission; either way, they are wrong.
Meanwhile, full-time college students get a job in the first place because of the pros that come to mind without realizing the cons. One of the main reasons students get a job is because they need one to survive, pay off rent, and buy groceries while also paying for their college tuition. In the article, College Students and Time Use: Do Working and Nonworking Students Spend Their Time Differently?, author Heidi D’Amato expresses, “The students who fall into the ‘middle’ of the income distribution, who are too wealthy to receive full financial assistance and too poor to have families pay for their enrollment, are the most likely to spend a significant amount of time working off-campus to pay their college expenses.” Paying off their college tuition plays a big part in why students work so much along with the financial obligations that stress college students to get a job and work long hours, endlessly threatening their sleep time and mental health. Another reason why college students get a job and work long hours is because they need experience for their career that starts after they graduate college. Many professional jobs require some type of experience, and without experience, it is difficult to be accepted for that job. For example, in the article, “Working while in college might hurt students more than it helps” on CNBC, author Anthony P. Carnevale illustrates, “Especially in a tight labor market, recent college graduates need directly applicable work experience to land a good job straight out of college. But the reality is that in a paid services job, a student does not learn much more than how to show up on time.” College students believe that they are thinking ahead of the game and preparing themselves for their future, but that is not always the case. Furthermore, many students want a chance to build their resumes, so as a result, students will overwhelm themselves with priorities and activities to fill their schedule, leading them to forget how important it is to take a break for their mental health. When employed college students forget how to balance their schedule, they also forget to understand why they are attending college in the first place, and that is to get a degree.
Ultimately, the mental health of working college students is continuously being negatively affected by the added responsibilities of an acquired job. With the added pressure of balancing academics, employment, extracurricular activities, a social life, and self-care to maintain a lifestyle, leaving them no time for enough sleep or a mental break, the mental health issues of these working college students result to be worse than the mental health issues of unemployed college students. Authors Miller, Danner, and Staten emphasize that 57% of college students work while attending college, and that Fur and Elling reported that 81% of students who worked 20 or more hours per week believed that work “frequently negatively impacts academic progress.” Yes, there are benefits like earning a paycheck, gaining experience, and building a resume, but one thing that is unrecognizable to these working college students is that the academic performance, emotional state, and amount of sleep they possess is being jeopardized by the excessive workload throughout the week. Employed college students do not realize they are going to be working for the rest of their lives until they retire, so they should take advantage of the time they spend in college because who knows when they will get it back. Students attend college to get an education and earn a degree, but when these students forget to balance their schedule and forget to take a break for their mental health, then the remainder of their time results to be very limited for the academics, study sessions, social life, and other priorities. When universities begin to be concerned about assisting working college students, then this pressured class of students can improve their academic ability, sense of well-being, and financial obligations.
Stauffer, R. (2018, August 28). College vs. Paycheck.
Miller, K., Danner, F., & Staten, R. (n.d.). Relation of Work Hours with Selected Health Behaviors and Academic Progress Among a College Students Cohert.
Ezer, Z. (2017, March 30). Not Enough Hours in the Day: Work Study Students and Sleep. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
Carnevale, Anthony P, G. U. C. on E. and the W. (2019, November 21). Working while in college might hurt students more than it helps.
D’Amato, Heidi (2015, May 12). College Students and Time Use: Do Working and Nonworking Students Spend Their Time Differently?
Scott, E. (2019, April 12). The Many Stresses of College and How to Manage Them. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
Caldwell, M. (2019, November 20). Here Is a List of Reasons for Working Your Way Through College. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
Mounsey, R., Vandehey, M. A., & Diekhoff, G. M. (n.d.) Working and Nonworking University Students: Anxiety, Depression, and Grade Point Average. Retrieved April 14, 2020.