From wrapping burritos to reading books

Lee-Anna Bardun

Students balance school and work

Ashley Ramsak, junior hospitality management major, works at the Pita Pit in Acorn Alley four days a week. Lauren Crist | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Jen Cechner is taking 18 credit hours this semester. It’s a pretty heavy course load to manage already. But on top of her hectic class schedule, she also works two jobs.

Cechner, a senior human development and family studies major, says she doesn’t mind the work. On her weekends, she works at Chipotle. During the weekdays, she works at Direct Care with adults who have mental retardation and developmental disabilities. It’s typical for Cechner to work 35 to 40 hours a week.

“I don’t mind it. I like to be busy,” Cechner said. “I feel like I’m being productive, and I like being productive most of the time.”

For some students, working and going to school is a necessity. Bills have to be paid, which means money must be made. Ashley Ramsak, a junior hospitality management major, has to work to pay for her schooling.

“To pay rent and bills and car insurance, I need a job,” Ramsak said. “And, I pay for my education, so it’s a must.”

Many students are in the same situation, trying to support themselves while paying for their education. Ramsak found a job at the Pita Pit, which just opened in Acorn Alley.

“The economy’s pretty bad right now; everyone’s trying to find a job,” Ramsak said. “It took me like all summer just to find this job.”

Ramsak works five- to six-hour shifts four days a week and tries to cram all her schoolwork into the three days a week she has off. Her shifts tend to be all over the place: 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., 11 p.m. to 4 a.m., and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Right now she is managing, but she said she expects things to get harder later on.

“It’s probably going to get difficult more towards exam time,” Ramsak said. “But it’s definitely hard especially when you’re really tired, and you can’t really concentrate in class.”

A lot of students simply don’t have the option of taking it easy for a semester. Some students like Cechner, are playing catch-up in order to graduate. Cechner said she is a bit behind, since she is a transfer student and also switched majors.

Dr. John Schell, a psychologist at the University Psychological Services, said students juggling a large workload need to find some balance between work and school.

“It’s important for students to have realistic expectations for themselves,” Schell said. “It’s about maintaining a positive perspective and working through things so they don’t pile up.”

Schell said it’s also important students make time for themselves aside from school and work. They should allow themselves time to exercise, eat healthy, get enough sleep and have some down time.

But making time can be one of the most challenging factors when juggling school and work.

Cechner said it’s about “finding little increments of time.” It can be difficult to get everything done in a day.

“Going straight from school to work, those days are rough,” Cechner said. “I wish I had weekends where I could sleep in all day.”

Having a social life also gets a little tricky.

“I have to go to bed earlier; I can’t be up with my roommates socializing,” Ramsak said. “Definitely, in weeks to come, I won’t have any social life.”

The late-night college party scene becomes very unrealistic to students who can’t even find enough time to sleep.

“There are some nights that I’d rather go out and do stuff, but I have to go to bed because I have to be at work in the morning or I have to work late,” Cechner said. “But, I just fit stuff in I guess.”

Finding the motivation to study is another problem for students who work. Putting in long hours at work and going to classes can leave students physically and mentally exhausted.

“After I get home from work, I’m so ready to just be done for the day and relax and not do anything,” Cechner said. “It’s really hard to get motivated to do homework or do research stuff at the library.”

Cechner said it can be overwhelming at times, but it’s been a pretty positive experience overall.

“It’s taught me a lot to have a job and go to school,” Cechner said. “You get a lot of time– management skills.”

It’s a lot to handle for most students, even ones like Ramsak, who considers herself to be very independent. The hope is that, sooner or later, the hard work will pay off.

“At this point, I just want to graduate and be out in the real world,” Ramsak said, “But I know, once I’m out there, I’ll be wishing I was back here, even though I’m super stressed out.”

Contact student life reporter Lee-Anna Bardun at [email protected]