Balancing Act: Avoiding Burnout As A Working Student

If being broke was a joke, I'd be pretty dang funny.

No money, no sleep and untold amounts of stress nicely sums up everyday life for the typical college student. Today's society demands a college degree, but for those like myself, that degree costs more of my sanity than my money.

The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) calls yesterday's non-traditional student today's traditional.

CLASP published a report based on National Center for Education Statistics in January 2014, revealing that 39 percent of students nationwide were employed part-time and 27 percent worked full-time. Closer to home, the U.S. Department of Education found that half of all students at the University of Texas at San Antonio took out some form of student loan in the 2013-2014 academic year.

The average loan amount was $6,533.

We don't get much of a break on the tax front, either. The Free Application for Federal Aid mandates that a student must claim the parents' income until 24. And you must file your taxes as an independent contractor or that you pay all your own living and school expenses.

Things are indeed different nowadays.

When people talk about college, they think "students live in dormitories, frolic in the quadrangles, and enmesh themselves among the great books under the tutelage of the greatest intellects," Josh Freedman wrote in Forbes.

The true student of today, Freedman explained, in reality looks quite different.

"Only 14 percent of all college students — or 25 percent of full-time students — live on campus ... For new first-time, full-time students in the class of 2009 at four-year institutions, only 39 percent completed a degree in four years," he noted.

So is it even possible or practical to attend college?

Audrey Magnuson, director of career services at UTSA, tells students the first step for the working college student is to recognize the number of hours put into each work and school. The full-time student should only work part-time — 20 hours or less a week.

Personally, as a student and night bartender, my perfect mixture comes from working throughout the summer and Christmas holidays, stash away all my cash and when the semester starts, I only work two days a week.

Magnuson's biggest advice for working students, however, is to put to use the endless amount of student resources before disaster strikes. She said many times students come to her after it is too late and their grades are suffering.

From scholarships that go untapped to study groups and tutoring at the Tomas Rivera Center, students should take these resources since they're paying for them through their tuition, Magnuson said.

Finally, never forget a bit of social time. Everyone needs a break and you working students are not the exception. A vacation or even a staycation is needed every now and again.


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