Why do students work and how do they cope with the additional stress?

Many students combine work and study. Being one of such students, I was interested to find out why others make this decision, and how they cope with additional stress.

The first interview with Shab, a third-year student majoring in English and Creative Writing.

Why did you choose to work while studying?

I chose to work while studying so I can have some savings to lean back on after I’m done my undergrad, most likely so I can do a graduate program or go travelling.

How many hours per day do you work? How many days per week?

Eight hours a day, three or four days a week.

Is it hard to have additional obligations outside of lectures and homework? How do you find balance?

Finding time for obligations outside of lectures and homework is almost nonexistent, but I try to make a small chunk of time every week to see my friends.

How do you deal with additional stress?

Whenever I feel extra stressed out, I rewrite my calendar and try to find some amount of free time where I can relax by myself without thinking of school or work.

Have you ever experienced burnout? How did you cope with it?

I experienced burnout for the first time last semester. The best way for me to cope with it was to take whatever time I had set for my friends and use it for myself, most often to go and sit by the lake or to go for a drive.

The next interview is with a student who wished to remain anonymous.

Why did you choose to work while studying?

I knew that if I had more things in my schedule, I’d be more productive. Also, it's helpful to start making money so I can pay off student loans quicker. I'm always looking to develop my skills as a professional and as a person. This environment is good for learning new things, and there's a lot of training provided as part of this job. That was a really big perk for me.

How many hours per day do you work? How many days per week?

Usually, between six and eight hours a week. And only for this semester, just four days a week.

How do you deal with additional stress?

[Additional requirements] make me plan ahead better and use the time that I have more carefully. To manage stress, I like to play some simple games or watch Netflix, but sometimes that's not the best because I get really distracted doing that. So, I like to go for walks. That helps me do something active and think about something besides school if I have music or a podcast.

Have you ever experienced burnout? How did you cope with it?

I feel that in relation to school a lot, and that's when I go for walks and take breaks or do something fun with my housemates or friends. Or if it's in a job, I would maybe talk about it with some of my trusted coworkers or ask my boss for some support or changing tasks or pace.

Does the combination of work and study affect the amount of your sleep?

I’m very committed to my sleep. When I don't get enough sleep, it's usually because I procrastinated, like watch[ing] too many Netflix episodes. I know that sleep is really important for learning, so I try and get at least seven or eight hours of sleep every night.

...

As part of this research, I decided to do an anonymous survey. I chose the most detailed responses, but thank you to all who contributed.

Respondent 1

Why did you choose to work while studying?

I need the money for my car, basic necessities, and to save for grad school. Plus, some of my work is good experience (e.g. research assistant position) for grad school/my future career.

How many hours per day do you work? How many days per week?

My jobs are flexible but about four hours, four to five days a week — sometimes up to 20 hours a week though.

Is it hard to have additional obligations outside of lectures and homework? How do you find balance?

Yes. Getting jobs on campus has helped me save time (i.e. don't need to drive to work). I am very organized and plan every single work and school-related thing in advance using Google calendar. My bosses are very understanding so I’m able to reduce my hours during midterms. To be honest, I’ll say other areas of my life suffer because of my work and school commitments (such as diet, exercise, socialization).

How do you deal with additional stress?

Seek social support, take days off when I can (having a whole day to just relax and reset helps me so much), self-care (I also include things like cleaning and meal prep to be self-care, so I will especially do these things if I know I have a busy week coming up).

Have you ever experienced burnout? How did you cope with it?

Yup! Honestly, I had to temporarily reduce some of my commitments. I broke things down into small doable steps, prioritized, asked for extensions, had my mom help me with meal prep, for example, to reduce stress from daily tasks, caught up on my sleep.

Respondent 2

Why did you choose to work while studying?

I needed to keep earning money during the school year to pay tuition and to save money for life after uni. I also want to boost my resume.

How many hours per day do you work? How many days per week?

I work eight hours, two to three days a week.

Is it hard to have additional obligations outside of lectures and homework? How do you find balance?

It is difficult but I enjoy it as it gives me a mix of academics and work life. I also get a lot of personal growth from having a job and feel more independent. When school is very busy it is difficult though (such as when term papers are due).

How do you deal with additional stress?

I usually take breaks to spend time with my friends or significant other. Or I like doing spa-type activities like baths or face masks.

Combining work and study is not always easy. Personally, I struggled with it last year because I took on too many obligations. These conversations gave me a choice of strategies that I might try to cope with stress. I hope that some of the ideas will be helpful for you too.