A balancing act: Maintaining good grades, social lives while employed in college

Kerri Keller, K-State Career Center executive director, said the Career Center receives a lot of inquiries on how to find a job while being a student (Saya Kakim | Collegian Media Group)

Many students begin college not thinking about working while continuing their education. Other students may realize they will need at least one job to pay tuition and other expenses.

Kerri Keller, Career Center executive director, said the Career Center receives a lot of inquiries of how to find a job while being a student.

“Ideally, students would like to gain experience in their industry or in their career interests through part-time employment,” Keller said. “However, lining all those things together is very challenging especially in area that is not a large metro area.”

The Career Center defines “internships” based on the 2017 Wildcat Internship Survey results.

According to the survey, an internship is an “educationally-related work experience that integrates knowledge and theory with practical application and skill development in professional settings.”

Keller said having purposefully educational experiences which include meaningful duties relating to career interests can help students in the future.

“The main thing in an internship is that students are receiving some supervision from someone in a professional kind of field to which the student is aspiring,” Keller said.

Katherine Wist, junior in agricultural communications and journalism, agrees with Keller. Wist said being able to experience internships helped to shape her future career.

I think working while in school will help me as it has given me a chance to multitask while still deciding what I wanted to do and now the job I have is giving me real world experience for my future career,” Wist said.

While in school, Wist has worked up to four jobs for a total of 40 hours a week while being a full-time student. This school year she only has one job as an intern and works approximately 17 hours per week.

I think it is important to have work experience during your college years to gain that experience of balancing, or trying to balance, two important things like school and work,” Wist said.

Balancing school and work can be tough and not always be in the best interest of the student. Wist said there are times when she feels that her grades are impacted on certain assignments, but the impact is not usually enough to hurt her overall grade in a class.

I usually prioritize work and school over anything personal to stay on top,” Wist said. “There are times I have to put myself first for self-care so that I don’t go totally crazy, but I have to adjust the balance and know how I work and the ways I need to balance the two.”

Ashley McKenny, senior in agricultural communications and journalism, works about 15 hours a week and agrees that balancing school and a job can be challenging.

Finding a balance between work and school is a little difficult at points,” McKenny said. “My class schedule this semester does allow me to have the time to still be able to get school work completed.

McKenny had internships and jobs that will pertain to her future career throughout her academic career. She said this has allowed her to make connections to people in the industry while still taking classes as a student.

“I do think it teaches you important life skills and allows you to learn a work/life balance before getting to the real world,” McKenny said. “There is not much difference in my grades from when I was working less or inconsistent hours. If anything, as I have gone through school I have learned how to study, get homework done for school better and have been able to easily incorporate work into that.

Cindy Diederich, assistant director of human resource for the K-State Student Union, echoes the same sentiments when it comes to balancing work and class.

Union supervisors understand that school commitments are the first priority. However, students are also learning valuable time management skills and self-discipline through their student employment,” Diederich said.

Students employed by the Union average 10 to 15 hours of work per week and are limited to 30 hours per week. That number is decreased to 20 hours per week if they are an international student.

Upon graduation, student employees are better prepared for the professional workforce than students who have not maintained a job while in school,” Diedrich said.