Home degrees Being a student is my top priority, but debt doesn’t care

Being a student is my top priority, but debt doesn’t care

Some students have a choice to work part time during school, most of us don’t

by Claudia Latino
Students are balancing their schoolwork with their part-time jobs. (Green Chameleon / Unsplash).

Post-secondary education is the ticket to landing a job in the field of your choice. Whether you want to pursue a career in health care, teaching or engineering, having a post-secondary degree is the bare minimum required to even be qualified. Unfortunately, college and university programs are not government-funded, which makes this ticket to success very expensive. 

When I was looking at different colleges and universities to decide where I wanted to go, I wasn’t even comparing campuses — I was comparing the tuition costs. According to Statistics Canada, the average tuition cost in Ontario for national students during the 2019-20 school year was $6,463 (per year) and $29,715 for international students. 

A bachelor’s degree in most programs is typically four years. I knew that if this was the path I was going to choose, I was going to have to pay high tuition fees every year of those four years. 

I was 17 years old when I got my first part-time job at a local breakfast restaurant in my hometown. Being a server, I was able to save my paycheque and use my tip money as spending money. It worked well when I was in high school, but I knew if I worked there while I was in university, the hours would not work in my favour. I had to look elsewhere. 

In my first year of university, I had to create a plan that would allow me to work at my part-time job while attending classes, learning the material, completing my assignments and giving myself at least one hour a day to study for any upcoming tests. I got a job at another local restaurant in my town, this time working the dinner shift and allowing me to complete my work in the morning. My boss was very understanding, allowing me to only work on the weekends. It’s something that I’ve always appreciated.

I remember looking at my school planner, filled with different time slots of when I had to do what and where I had to be at what time. I loved colour-coating every little thing, making my agenda look like a unicorn had vomited all over it. 

How was I going to get all my school work done while being a loyal employee at my part-time job? I wanted to make sure that I was staying on top of all my classes; I’m not the type of student who just wants to pass. I want to excel in my courses, to make sure I’m learning and understanding the material thrown at me to the best of my ability. 

Looking at my schedule, I was starting to realize that being a college or university student is an unpaid, full-time job. This kind of education is an investment and if I was paying for it, I realized I had no choice but to make school my top priority. But debt doesn’t care, so I had to work at a part-time job that would help me pay for this massive expense. 

Balancing school and work was tough. It still is tough. It feels like there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. It makes me feel better knowing that I am not alone, but it’s unfortunate that so many students have little to no choice. 

Faith Akinola, a fourth-year undergraduate student studying English and media at the University of Toronto, has been balancing school and work throughout her entire undergraduate career. She recommends students working part time plan out their days in advance. 

“Doing a weekly schedule keeps me organized and relatively less stressed because I can actually see what I need to get done and what I have and haven’t completed yet,” said Akinola. 

For students who are struggling to manage time with their school and work schedule, Ryerson offers many support groups to help them get organized. Madelyn Steed, manager of the Ryerson Academic Support Centre, wants students to understand that the centre is a place for students to go to when they need help. 

“If you have a job that allows you to predict your hours for the entire semester, I highly recommend that you sit down with our seven-day weekly planner available on the ASC website and chart out all of your responsibilities,” said Steed. 

Time management is a very important skill to have. Debt doesn’t care how stressed I am, how many assignments I have or even how little time I have to unwind and take time for myself. Like many other people, working at a part-time job during my undergrad is crucial in order for me to pay for my education. 

“I don’t think many students have a choice about working part time while pursuing a post-secondary education,” said Steed. “I think it’s important that students find a position that doesn’t add additional stress to their ultimate goal of graduating with an undergraduate degree in their preferred field.” 

My goal is to bring awareness to my fellow colleagues that being a student and employee is not easy. Make sure you are getting the support you need from resources that will help you succeed in both your academic and work life. Remember to check-in and remind yourself that you are doing the best you can. You can’t control how expensive a post-secondary education is, but you can control how you will manage your time in order to work and be a successful student.

This article may have been created with the use of AI software such as Google Docs, Grammarly, and/or Otter.ai for transcription.

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