One of the main things on a college students mind is money. Do I have enough for rent? Can I afford food that isn’t ramen? What’s the cheapest beer in existence? And of course, “Oh f—k, tuition is due soon.” While some students are relieved by their financially well-off parents who provide them with the necessities of college life, even more students aren’t as fortunate. However, there are some ways around this.
FAFSA and private loans are where most people look first to handle tuition and housing expenses. Scholarships are readily available if you put in the effort to find and apply for them, even though they often don’t work out. When all else fails, you know what you have to do. It’s time to get a job.
I started out paying for college and living expenses with a temporary job, about 15 hours a week and exclusively on weekends. It helped a bit but barely put a dent in my dorm payment. By November, I added on a second job across town that required an hour bus ride both ways and 20 hours a week. I had free food from work and my housing was covered. Nice. I got into the routine of starting my days with an 8:50 a.m. class, bussing straight to work and returning to my dorm right around 10:30 p.m.
Then it was time for homework. I’d brew a pot of coffee and get to work, finishing and passing out sometime between late night Adult Swim reruns and infomercials. Days never seemed so long and no amount of espresso could counter the lack of sleep.
I didn’t bother getting to know anyone in my dorm because it’s not like I had time to hang out anyway. I rarely went out on weekends since I had work in the morning. By the end of freshman year I had minimal loans, solid grades, and some money in my savings, but I missed out on a crucial year of making friends and getting to know the community I was now a part of.
When I returned for sophomore year, I wanted to focus on enjoying college life. I left my job across town, and found a new one on campus. In an effort to meet people, I began attending some student orgs and joined a club sports team. It was nice to finally have a social life and it was worth every grueling hangover I fought through in mornings. It wasn’t pretty, but I managed.
I’d fit schoolwork in whenever it was possible; during bus rides, work breaks, the first few drinks of a pregame, which may have not been the best idea, but you couldn’t convince me otherwise. My grades started to slip as I divided all my time between social activities and work. I’d willingly trade any free night for studying for a shift to help cover the upcoming weekend’s alcohol budget. “The college experience,” as it was described to me, was exhausting and quickly leading to a burnout.
By junior year my savings began to dry up and my class schedule allowed for several free afternoons. Seeing a prime opportunity for some extra cash, I picked up job number three. The paychecks were gone shortly after they arrived due to rent, tuition, parking and other expenses. I quit my club sport, stopped going to student orgs and dedicated every free moment to studying or sleeping.
The social life I spent so much time in making and maintaining wasted away, as did the friends I’d made. I felt an overwhelming sense of loneliness that rarely subsided. I started bonding with coworkers on a friendlier level; my work life became my social life and everything seemed to even back out for me. I had money in the bank, my grades picked up and I only had a few more semesters left.
I eventually formed close bonds with my coworkers, to the point they became good friends, and I finally had the close social circle I always saw everyone else in. It may have taken four years, but college was finally what I was always expecting it to be.
“Why don’t you try getting an internship?” my mother would ask me every time I visited home. After finally managing my life and time in a successful way, the last thing I was interested in doing was unpaid work. Then it hit me. How do I even make a resume? Do I even have anything worthwhile to put down? “That sounds like a problem for later,” I’d think to myself, continuing on with my current life strategy.
Having a series of random service jobs may have left my resume unimpressive by the end of my college career, but I gained so many other important traits that have helped me grow into a mature young adult. I gained a strong work ethic, developed excellent time management skills, realized the morning hangovers were no longer worth the late nights and found the ambition I needed to move forward in my life and career goals. The manageable amount of debt is also a plus.