Opinion: Is it possible to work and study at the same time?

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By Emily Hull

I would not have made it to final year if it had not been for employment – nor, would I have been able to live Dublin had it not been for the income that employment gave me.

From my own experience, I know that it is feasible to work while studying. But, I also know that with the journalism degree I am studying for, it’s possible for me to work as there isn’t long class hours like there is for other degrees.

Luckily, my timetable doesn’t read ‘nine to five Monday to Friday’, with the expectation of staying in the library every evening after that. Depending on the year of the degree, I am in three to four days, for 10 to 15 hours for the entire week and working always over thirty hours a week during the college year. On mid-terms and holidays I’ve taken on more hours and hit 50 and even 60 hours. Then again, I’ve always needed to.

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Startup Stock Photos

Like many students across the country, my university registration fees – which are now at €3,000 a year – are neither covered by the SUSI grant system, or my parents. I live exactly 233km from home, I pay my fees, my rent, my bills, and for everything else I need.

So it has never been an option for me NOT to work.

If I had been unlucky in the sense that I was enrolled in one of the many degrees that requires its students to be in lecture halls all day long, and then study in the library every evening for hours – what would I have done? Would I still have worked? Why, of course the answer is yes.

Graduate Programme Manager with the Jameson International Graduate Programme, Sinéad D’Arcy said: “There is no doubt that students who take up part-time work during third-level education receive a valuable insight into the professional world. What is important is finding the right balance between part-time employment and studies, so that a job is never allowed to come at the expense of academic success.”

Sinéad explained that while working alongside studying can prepare a student for life after university, what can’t be overlooked post-graduation is a student who has a strong academic record.

“As an employer with a proud history of hiring and retaining the best graduates through our Jameson International Graduate Programme, we look for candidates who have demonstrated commitment throughout third-level, complemented by passion, entrepreneurship and a determination to succeed. If they have managed to balance academic responsibilities along with a part-time job, we see that as a real achievement, but it is by no means the be all and end all.”

For me, and many others, working has always been a necessity – but for some, all they want is a bit of extra cash, or some experience in the working world. Whatever the reason, it’s essential that your work does not overwhelm you so much as to hinder your grades.

In the past three years of college, working as a waitress in a busy café bar has definitely taken its toll on me physically and emotionally. Often, I would work twelve hours shifts with one half an hour break and by the end of the week I’d be too tired to get out of bed at 7am on Monday morning for a 9am lecture, let alone study. Stress from work would add to the stress of assignments due and it would take its toll – leading to sickness, physical injury from carrying heavy trays in work, rushed assignments – and ultimately affect my grades.

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Christiane, a career adviser at DIT Career Development Centre said: “Working during college can provide students with an opportunity to develop professional skills that employers will be seeking upon graduation such as communication. However, all the benefits of working while in college can unfortunately be reduced, if not eliminated, by the cons of working too much.”

Christiane believes the key is balance, and it is something that I have come to learn myself.

Now, a few months in to final year in DIT,  my focus is on my academic work. The big picture had me always putting college first. I knew that if I worked as much as I could from 1st to 3rd year that I could finance myself and get by until my grades really mattered in fourth year.

As for the students in the lectures and labs from nine to five situation – if you have to work you will find a way to schedule it in – whether that be working the weekend and taking extra shifts some evenings during the week, and extra shifts on holidays – you can do it.

Deferring a year isn’t the end of the world. If it’s what you have to do to get enough to money to finish the degree you have given up your hobby or your social life to achieve – then take that gap year. Work now so that you won’t have to work this hard ever again.

Because that’s what were hoping for, right? Hoping that if we spread ourselves thin over working and getting assignments in, and getting to class NOW – that we won’t have to do post graduation, or when we’re 30, or when we have a family or until retirement.

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