College Desk Column: The College Student’s Balancing Act

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College Desk Column: The College Student’s Balancing Act

To work or not to work.  That is the question that many college students, including myself, face.  Throughout my three years at Otterbein University, I had gone in and out of jobs (no, I’m not that bad a worker) trying to find the perfect balance of work and school.  The problem is, there are so many things to account for that it can be a pain trying to find what works best.  Although I’m still trying to find what works well for me, hopefully I can help shed some light on this sideshow balancing act of school and work.

The first thing that has to be taken into consideration would have to be the money.  Money, as everyone knows, is used for everything.  Need gas?  Spend money.  Need food?  Spend money.  Need XYZ?  You know the rest.  So in order to get all this money you need to work.  I realized that when I started to work at my first job (A sub sandwich shop with firehouse themes) I was raking in the dough.  I was able to pay for the things I needed and still have some extra money to do with what I wanted.  Of course, I realized saving money was key.  What many college students worry about is having enough money to pay off their student loans and debts.  I didn’t want to be in my 50’s and still paying off my exercise walking class (that’s right, walking class).  So with every paycheck I would put a little something away.  Of course some people need more money than others.  Some people get scholarships, grants and money from their parents.  And there are others who need to support themselves.  For me, I had a few scholarships under my belt but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t like a couple bucks in my account.  I worked with this in mind for a while but then a new semester came and a new schedule.  This is where the second thing to consider comes in.

The author at her 1st job college job.

Time.  You have to think about how much time you have to play with.  The classes that I needed to take happened at weird times of the day.  I would have some two-hour classes and practicums that would take up the whole week and so the only time I had to do homework would be the weekend.  This left little to no time to work.  That paired up with the fact that people are more likely to get hired if they can be flexible which I wasn’t unless I didn’t want to get my school work done (a preposterous idea I know) then I couldn’t find an employer to hire me.

You also have to consider the amount of time you need to relax.  There are those people who like to pack their day with school and work with no down time to relax.  These people are usually in the situation where not working is not an option.  I admire those people who force themselves to go out there and work their fingers to the bone.  I’m not saying that I’m lazy, but I need to wind down after school or work otherwise I run out of steam and can’t do either properly.  This is why I advise people to consider the amount of time they spend doing the hard work and compare that to their recharging time—AKA the time it takes those to get their energy back. Some people know how to get through the day without much of a break while others need something to prevent them from going crazy from a work overload.  Again this varies from person to person so you need to find what’s right for you.

Lastly, if you do decide to work in college you need to find a job that’s right for you.  I know, it’s hard to find a job you like, but if you’re working somewhere that causes you nothing but dread (you know what I’m talking about) then you might not want to work there.  Think about it, that bad mood from work will go on afterward and just ruin the rest of your day.  Also, if you start off with some classes and then have to go to work that you hate, you’re going to dread it the whole day.  Sadly with this consideration, you don’t have a lot of freedom to choose a great job.  I will admit that sometimes you have to put up with a crappy job, BUT if at any time you just can’t take it anymore, the money and/or time just don’t seem worth it, or it’s interfering with your studies—the whole point of college—then you need to leave.

Having a job in college can be a great learning experience.  You learn how to deal with people you work with and how to treat other people who work. It also gives you a head start on saving up (which can be great when some people’s loans can be between 20-40 thousand dollars!).  You also have to realize that if working at the time is hurting you (in school work or life in general) you should reconsider what is more important.  I hope that my advice helps some people out there.  And again, all of this depends on the person.  Some people prefer some things over the other.  Whether it is the money, amount of time, or the job itself, you need to take everything into consideration.

Katie is a contributing writer for Think Outside The Box Inside The Box Media and a junior at Otterbein University majoring in journalism with a minor in public relations. Katie is busy with her own balancing act of working while being a full time student. Longer Bio   


  1. Well said. Time management and scheduling appropriate “downtime” are two things I’m still far from mastering.

  2. That’s very insightful Katie. The balancing act is a constant dance, and one that I’m still trying to learn the steps to! I usually end up making up some of my own. Thanks for the thoughts!

  3. It’s great that you’re so thoughtful about the choices you make. What a great skill to have for college life and beyond.


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