College students are often struck by how quickly they can fall behind in their new academic environment. Balancing school work and a social life while coupled with the newly found freedom of living away from home is often a formidable challenge. Add a part-time job to that mix, and the burden can become overwhelming, affecting all aspects of a student’s life and his physical and mental well-being.
The first evidence that a student’s tightrope act of balancing school, work and play might be en route to a free fall often becomes evident when midterms hit and the results are less than stellar. While poor grades are disappointing, they are hardly the only negative effect of taking on too much; they may, however, be the most tangible. Those poor grades may also be a warning sign that all is not right with a student.
On the Job
While work-study positions often encourage students to fill down time with academics, the real world is much less forgiving. Employers expect their staff to be on time, prepared and pleasant. They may accept an occasional miss due to finals or a massive amount of academic due dates, but their concern is — as it should be — their business. Cut shifts or job loss can result when students fail to sufficiently perform the tasks of their paying job.
In school, you can fail; in work, you can get fired. Perhaps that’s why students often neglect their personal relationships before putting in a shoddy performance in the classroom or on the job. The very people whom they swear are the most important in their lives are those who may receive short shrift. The balancing act can jeopardize a student’s relationship with her close friends, family members and significant other.
Students who are also employed are probably working to help pay for college. Those same students may likewise be on scholarship, which adds even more pressure to excel. Poor job performance can result in job loss; poor academics can result in scholarship forfeiture. Either can mean that a student can no longer afford tuition and may risk her college education.
In trying to be all things to all people, students often neglect the person with whom they should be most concerned: themselves. Those students who work hard at school and jobs and then squeeze in time for a social life and family obligations often do so at the peril of their own health. Late nights, poor diet, alcohol and drug use, and a lack of exercise are a good combination for bad health.
The stress of a student’s balancing act can bring on a host of mental and physical maladies and can exacerbate existing conditions. Anxiety, depression, substance abuse and eating disorders are just a few of the unintended consequences of trying to maintain an impossible schedule. And as they strive and fail, students may take additional hits to their self-esteem, feeling like they just cannot measure up to impossible standards. When they do attempt to unwind, they sometimes self-medicate with alcohol and prescription drugs, and the results can land them in a hospital or worse.
- University of Florida: Stress and College Students
- University of North Carolina: Impact of Stress Factors on College Students Academic Performance
- ACT: Student Readiness Inventory -- Balancing My Social Life
- Idealist: Working Full-Time and Studying Full-Time: Is it Possible?
- MDRC: Opening Doors: Students’ Perspectives on Juggling Work, Family, and College
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