Maybe our parents never went to college, but today, many of us think of college as a given, not a question. Adolescents are rarely asked, “Will you be going to college?” They are typically confronted with, “Which college do you want to get into?” or “Do you know what you will be majoring in?” While there are some less common situations, like my own, where you may now go to college directly after high school, here I am: a full time college student and a full time employee. College students have to face enough challenges as it is, but you haven’t really struggled (I mean really struggled) until you have experienced working full time and furthering your education full time. The thing is, while I didn’t get to attend after high school, I knew I wanted to but I was also supporting myself. Four years ago I was offered a promising opportunity with a great company, a position I was not at all qualified for. I did not want to lose that position to return to school, and how would I pay my rent? Finally, two years ago I started online college classes through my local community college and have been able to get my degree and keep my job. This came with a price, however, and unfortunately I missed out on a lot and put myself under a large amount of pressure. Continue reading to see what my top 10 struggles have been while being a full time working-college student.
- Time. This may be one of the largest struggles. While college is time consuming as it, I mean the hours needed to study and comprehend everything you just listened to for the past two hours, there just are not enough in a day! But imagine that time needed times two for full time employees! Lucky for me, right now my job is slow. It’s never been a job where I had to carry a full workload, therefore I have quite a bit of downtime to study and get ahead. But if it was more fast-paced, I think I would be failing many, if not all, of my classes.
- Retaining Information. Some people have very photographic memories and others need to work at that more. Me? I need to work at it. I have always been good in school but it requires me to study often. My retention rate, however, has always seriously lacked. I have to read and re-read, but not too much or I zone out. Well, since starting college two years ago and working full time, it has been worse. There is school and work and life, and it’s very difficult to retain this paragraph I just read about how one hormone increases and another decreases at this time of every month!
- Focusing. Retaining also brings me to focusing. When I get off work or it’s the weekend, I have to yank myself up from the couch and binging on Netflix in order to study. When you have very little free time it is difficult to use that wisely. I can sit and stare at pages all day but my mind wanders to wishing I were doing something else.
- Experience. Oh, the college experience. Yes I hate I missed out on that! You see the life on television about how many friendships are built here and how much you learn about life in general. But when you work full time and you are a full time student, chances are you are taking all or mostly online courses. I take everything online. This means I will never have that whole “college experience” and truthfully, I wish I did. I don’t have the ability to sit in a classroom and feel nervous because I am wondering who will like me and who will become my new best friend. I don’t get to sit in my chair and anxiously stare at the clock as I listen to the professor drone on with today’s lesson. I don’t get to write notes to the girl behind me or raise my hand with a question. These are things you don’t think about until you realize you aren’t experiencing them like other people.
- Online Classes. Again, all of my classes are online. This requires a bit more work on my part and a better understanding. A lot of things I have to figure out on my own. Sure, we can contact our professors through email, but a lot of it we just have to put in the extra effort.
- Communication. We can contact all of professors through email and forums. This is fine but it is not the same as raising your hand, asking a question, and getting an explanation and possibly a demonstration as you might in a classroom setting. It can also take quite a bit longer depending on your professor’s availability and response time.
- Stress. Oh my gosh, the stress. A job is stressful. College is stressful. Two times the stress, great. If I am stressed from my day at work, the very last thing I want to do is sit down and open a college textbook, but, such is life. Vice versa, if I have a test I need to study for, I want to study instead of “waste” my time at the office. As an adult I am able to handle my stress pretty well, but I have moments where I completely break down because I so badly need a break from life! I have had times where I am studying and I just start bawling my eyes out because I feel the information is too hard and I am so exhausted from working and coming home to study and I never have time for myself. I know I chose this and it was the right choice, but we all have a breaking point and I have hit mine numerous times.
- Involvement. Similar to the college experience, you do not really have the involvement factor either. I do not go to events on campus and I have no affiliation with groups, clubs, or other students. I would like to but I do not have the time. Maybe some in my position would but I work half an hour away in one direction and literally my school’s campus is half an hour away in the opposite direction! I can’t spare that kind of time. My sister is involved with so many things at her college, including a sorority, one thing I always swear I would have never done even if I had gone to school on campus. Truthfully, I probably would have at least tried to get in. My resume might look bare because I don’t have extracurricular activities on there and I really can’t even go to internships, at least not right now. I am hoping that overall my future employers will notice that I was working a full time job and still pursing my education and will be impressed enough by that.
- Finances/Aid. I am throwing this in here because I feel that my current job is very good money. That said, college is expensive, even at my local community college. I get very little financial aid and pay out of pocket for the rest (loans are not my friends and I am proud to say I have abstained completely). I do feel sometimes that if I did not work, or at least made less money, financial aid would cover more but then, who would cover my bills? What about my car payment? How would I pay for my wedding? It’s a lose-lose situation.
- Graduation. Graduation is coming very soon! I will not be walking across the stage though and this saddens me a bit. While I could take the day off from work, I have thought about this and felt that if I were graduation with people and friends whom I knew, it would be different. Since I have not actually been able to build friendships and relationships during college, I don’t feel the same excitement about graduation therefore, it will be any other day, just mail me my diploma.
The main point I am focusing on is that I will be graduating with a degree and that is a big accomplishment. Some may argue that I should feel even more proud of myself because I was able to do this while working full time and I even maintained really good grades. I am just happy to finish another chapter of my life and build off it. No matter what, focus on improving yourself and know that one day this will pay off! I may have had what an average college student has, but I make good grades and I have my own accomplishments. I was one of 13 students (out of roughly 14,000-15,000) recognized this year in the Who’s Who Among American Colleges and Universities, a huge honor which can qualify me for scholarships and a letter of recommendation. It will be a great addition to my resume, one that, I hope, my future employer will be impressed by.
© 2017 Faith Engen