The Truth About Being a Student Worker

Five days a week, I am a full-time UCF student. In order for me to do that, I'm also a customer service associate five days a week. I'm a student worker, like nearly half of the population of full-time students around the U.S. Unfortunately, most of us working these long hours are disproportionately lower-income and part of minority communities. For some of us, pursuing higher education can sometimes feel like a luxury. But social commentary aside, it’s hard! Student workers are facing obstacles on the day to day and getting through them isn’t anything that should go unnoticed.

Time management is probably the hardest one of all. Part-time jobs are mostly on a shifting schedule, so your hours can change every week. There are times when I have gotten scheduled during a class time, even if I’ve let them know of the conflict beforehand. On top of that, schedules may not be sent out with much time in advance. Juggling tasks with this uncertainty is in no way impossible, but planning to work isn’t so much actually planning as it is just doing it when you can. Especially if you’re working nearly 40 hours, trying to eat, sleep and get in some exercise. 

All that sounds tiring, doesn’t it? It absolutely is. Another major downside of being a student worker is what feels like chronic fatigue, and in some cases, pain! Being at a job and standing for eight hours a day will take a toll on your back like nothing else. Then it’s on to sitting at a computer for the remainder of the day, taking a toll on your eyes and your mind. Add in customer interaction for most of us, providing unwavering support despite any way they may treat us, and there’s a full day of expending energy nonstop. In order to participate in any of these activities, you have to be able to give 100%. The thing is, there’s no way to push that, and trying to will take a toll on your health, both physical and mental.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Working will test you and your priorities as well. A common feeling among my working friends is guilt when we can’t take another shift at work or when we can’t pull a double when we’re asked to sometimes. Because you’re getting paid, working can feel like a priority. Despite any sort of unfairness, you have to go back, as you were hired to do so, and it is your obligation. And if your situation involves working to pay for school yourself in order to pay for rent and utilities, then there may be no other choice. But putting school first is a conscious choice to make. 

overhead shot of a desk with someone writing in a notebook and on a video call on a computer Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

I'm blessed to have my job. But I'll be the one to point out that it shouldn’t be this difficult to try to get an education in this country, and there shouldn’t have to be so many student workers focusing on things other than furthering their education and career. Making education more accessible could mean making the lives of thousands of students more manageable, eliminating all of these day-to-day nuisances that we deal with. That’s a battle that is far from over, though. So for now, a very special shoutout to all our student workers: we love you, and we’re proud of you.