Working students give advice


By Mia Wise, Staff Writer

According to a U.S. Census report from 2011, 71 percent of undergrads were working while in college. With such a high number, it is interesting to see how students balance their jobs and school.

Mason offers a multitude of jobs to students. There are positions offered in different offices and other places on campus. Junior Stephanie Crespo is currently working two jobs on campus one with event services and the other bartending through Sodexo.

“I basically set up for events at Mason, primarily in our event spaces at the Johnson Center, the Hub, and Sub 1. Sometimes we help set up events outside these spaces, such as the North Plaza or Center for the Arts. I basically pick up whatever shifts I like based on my availability, which varies from week to week. As a bartender, I basically just set up the bar, pour and mix drinks for people. Then when it’s time to close, I take down the bar. I work 4-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and if there is an additional event that needs a bartender I will usually work that event depending on my availability,” Crespo said.

Illustration by Mary Jane DeCarlo

Illustration by Mary Jane DeCarlo

As a full-time student, working while taking classes can be overwhelming. Having a job on campus has allowed Crespo to control her schedule, which is important to her as she is balancing 17 credits, volunteer work on two research projects, and two jobs.

“It’s pretty easy to schedule shifts around my classes. I never really liked taking late classes, so working at 4 p.m. everyday was not a problem. Working while taking classes teaches you a lot of time management skills and of course, money is very rewarding. I basically have zero free time and it gets in the way with friends sometimes because you barely have anytime to hang out with them. That’s why time management is so important,” Crespo said.

Junior Esprit Blatchford-Rodriguez also has a job on campus as a research assistant in nanotechnology and nanomedicine.

“Since my position is a ‘student position’ it is understood that my academic career takes priority when it comes to creating my weekly work schedule. I did plan in advance and schedule classes I needed in the most strategic way possible to ensure I had an adequate time allowance to work with,” Blatchford-Rodriguez said.

While on-campus employers are sympathetic to student employees’ needs, there are off-campus jobs that allow students to control their work schedules. Seasonal work can also be beneficial to students because they only have to work during busy seasons.

“I worked as a cashier at Cox Farms’ Fall Festival and Fields of Fear in Centreville. The hours I worked were totally up to me when I set my availability before the season started. Since the Fall Festival and Fields of Fear events are seasonal and held in the fall, I only worked for a few months, which was about half of the fall semester. I could have gotten another job or worked there longer by selling Christmas trees, but I chose to take some time off and focus on school. I’ll probably work there again next fall, but I’ll definitely work less hours next time,” freshman Julia Craig said.

While Crespo, Blatchford-Rodriguez, and Craig have worked different jobs, each of them said that time management is important when balancing school and work.

“They should make sure they have enough time to do their school work on top of the hours they’re working. If it doesn’t work out, they should try cutting the amount of hours they are working or taking a lighter load of courses. Unless they have a job where they can work on assignments while they work, I would highly recommend dividing up their time in the most beneficial way to them,” Crespo said.

Craig also stressed that mental and physical health are important when balancing school and work.

“My biggest advice would be to make sure you make time to take care of yourself and do things you enjoy! If you’re getting sleep-deprived, your grades are slipping, or you’re otherwise really negatively affected by juggling school and work, you need to cut down on either your course load or your work hours,” Craig said.

There are students whose course loads may be too intense to work and that’s okay, not everyone needs or wants to have a job. For those that do and are worried that they won’t be able to handle both, Blatchford-Rodriguez suggests a planner and optimism.

“I keep a detailed calendar, and I schedule everything from breaks to study sessions, but it is also important to be fluid and make adjustments as needed. Remember that life is a series of small adjustments, even though things may have to change the end goal can remain the same. The path between now and then is an adventure and one that you should try to enjoy so you don’t stress too much,” Blatchford-Rodriguez said.

Photo by Mia Wise