It can be overwhelming to be a financially independent student

Columnist Ciara Mims. Photo courtesy Ciara Mims

It’s tough for full-time students who are financially independent.

We’re expected to be rock star students, but still have to work more than 20 hours a week to keep the bills paid. Imagine this: You’re a full-time student with a 15-credit hour workload, you’re a student leader involved in three or more organizations, and you’re responsible for more than $700 worth of bills a month. That’s my reality.

According to a study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, 43 percent of full-time undergraduate students were employed in 2017.

That means students with at least a 12-credit hour workload were challenged with balancing academics, their job and ultimately their finances.

The NCES found, “In 2017, some 7 percent of full-time undergraduates were employed less than 10 hours per week, 8 percent were employed 10 to 19 hours per week, 17 percent were employed 20 to 34 hours per week, and 10 percent were employed 35 hours or more per week.”

The largest percentage of full-time undergraduate workers worked 20 to 34 hours a week. That’s 20 to 34 hours a week that students can’t dedicate to their studies, their craft or even internships. And how can I hone my craft and make strides in my industry if I’m always exhausted from work?

Not to mention, life sometimes throws curve balls that only make matters worse. For instance, a week before rent was due, I had to replace the battery in my car. The week rent was due, I had to replace a tire on my car and get another plugged. And the electricity bill that accompanied rent was through the roof. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.

I felt overwhelmed.

Working while being a full-time student isn’t  a burden just for Florida A&M students,  however. Zanteria Nelson, a junior psychology student at Florida State University has had struggles of her own. She works a minimum of 25 hours a week, is an active member of the Enchanting Epsilon Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho and Devoshbeauty, is enrolled in 14 credit hours, and is responsible for roughly $700 in bills a month.

“I feel like I never have free time to do anything,” Nelson said. “If I’m not a work, I’m at school.”

Nelson uses her planner religiously. But even with good organization and time management skills, she still has a hard time balancing it all.

“No matter how well you are with time management, you still never have time to do anything,” Nelson said. “Between organizations, work and school, you don’t have time for yourself.”

This isn’t a cry for help. It’s a harsh reality that many full-time college students are faced with. It’s tough, but hopefully it’s worth it.