Students sacrifice classes to afford college

George Washington University students work a food booth at a university event. (Courtesy of Facebook/The George Washington University)
Overcoming the pressures of work and school

wtopstaff | November 14, 2014 10:44 am

Tiffanie Reynolds, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Scotty Scott would love to spend her day studying and writing papers for her classes. Instead, she works two jobs to earn enough money to afford books and loan payments for this coming school year.

On top of working 40 hours a week as a paid research intern and part-time at a dog day camp, the American University senior also juggles classes, school work and a social life. It’s not what she wanted or planned as part of her college experience, but after enrolling in college after the 2008 recession, she realized she needed to start earning her own money earlier than she expected.

“When you actually get there it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, I got some scholarships, I got financial aid,’ but I’m sort of screwed because there’s still a lot more,” said Scott.

She is part of the 38.8 percent of college students who are working along with attending classes, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Working in college used to be a way to just earn extra spending money, but it’s become the gateway to gaining internship experience in the field and, students hope, a job by the time they graduate.

That’s what kept Jack Herron, a second year grad student at George Washington University, going to his job while studying full time as an undergrad at the University of Georgia. He had to drive a commute as long as 1 hour 15 minutes from the university to his job as an import assistant at a supply chain management firm in Atlanta.

Classes during his freshman year were easy enough to balance, but in his sophomore and junior years he started to feel the strain. He had to decide which one was more important, and follow a detailed schedule to get all of his work done.

“I had weeks that were literally planned down to half-hour time blocks,” said Herron.

“You have an hour and a half to work on this paper, and then you had to switch to working on a paper for a different class.”

Time management also is what kept Scott afloat as she started taking higher-level classes. Going into her sophomore year, she quickly realized that last-minute papers wouldn’t be enough for the grade she wanted.

“The difference on a paper between a B and an A is time management,” said Scott.

But, for both Herron and Scott, their job experiences and work with college groups earned them their internships. The skills Herron gained working as an import assistant were exactly what a non-profit organization was looking for in an intern.

Scott utilized her university resources and job-searching skills to get her research internship.

This trend of college students looking for jobs and internships earlier has increased competition and taken some employers by surprise. Tom Moore, co-founder of Responsible Outgoing College Students, an organization that helps college students in the D.C. area land jobs and internships, couldn’t believe the young ages of the students who attended job fairs put together by ROCS.

“Sometimes they fool me and I think they’ve graduated or about to graduate, and they’re like, ‘No, I’m just a freshman,'” said Moore. “It just blows my mind.”

Scott has money saved for college loans, and Herron made the money to pay for his apartment in D.C., but their futures are still uncertain. Both can only hope their resumes will help them get jobs or additional internships once they graduate.

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