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Earning while learning: is it worth it?


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Jobs: good ones, bad ones - most of us have had them. 

Jobs when you're a student probably weren't designed for enjoyment, for many of us - the sole purpose of earning whilst learning is to keep those little numbers in our bank account ticking over. "Working until 4am cleaning up sick, lost shoes and mopping up jaeger" probably won't be our first thought when filling in those horrible 'future aspirations' sections of the thousands of application forms that seem to head our way as a student. 

Luckily, and I realise that this is not the case for many people, I am in a position where my parents can always afford to pay my rent. I never have to doubt the roof over my head - however, for many people, student jobs pay the rent. Quite literally. Being a student is expensive: books, travel, groceries and admission to clubs and societies are all things that we have to purchase. That's a massive amount of your loan gone before you even start to think about nights out, new jeans and that train ride home to see your mum, do your laundry and have a roast. A little more than £1,000 for twelve weeks, more often than not, just doesn't cut it. 

Most of us work at some point during our educational careers, and I was no exception. 

By the halfway point of my first year, running out of money and thinking that ten contact hours a week was a walk in the park, I got a job in my student bar. It was coming to the end of first year, my essays had been submitted and it was socials galore at the Student Union, which meant that I was more than content spending many a happy hour pouring pints and toasting paninis, and even happier an hour going back into the student bar, spending the money that they had paid me just hours before.

I enjoy working. That wasn't my first job, or even my first bar job. Supermarket work, restaurant work and bar work are all part time jobs that I have enjoyed... well, the paychecks, certainly. However, there's a photo that regularly makes the rounds on social media, more often than not, being shared by A Level students. It reads: 'social life, successful at work, enough sleep - pick two'. Like most people, I giggled and shared this when I was 17, with absolutely no idea how real it would become in my second year.

Personally, I found that working for cash was just one pressure too many. With essays and novels coming out of my ears, and career experience opportunities that I felt like I just couldn't miss alongside a shift pattern that meant I was regularly working beyond 3am, something was going to give. Unfortunately for me, it was the wrong thing. 

My grades were slipping. I could feel it in my lectures and I could certainly see it on my feedback sheets, and I just was not willing to let that happen anymore.

With fees standing at £9,000, there is now more pressure than ever for students to make the most of their time at university, and I don't mean in the 'shots, shots, shots!' way, I mean in the, 'getting a 2:1 or a First' way. 

It seems that I'm not alone in feeling the pressures of part time work. Over the last five years, the number of students working whilst in education has dropped by more than 8%, a statistic that's in keeping with the gradual decline of working students over the past 15 years. According to the Institute for Public Policy Research more than 75% of students do not balance a job with full time study, a harsh contrast to just 60% in the Netherlands. 

What are we supposed to do? With our money rapidly running out, a media telling us that we're lazy and a holiday that we really want to go on, a job seems like the only option. But equally, with graduation quickly appraching, a media reminding us how few jobs there are and one particular job that we really want, not getting a job seems like the only option. 

Personally, I think that your summers are your best friend, but these are still tricky games to play. You gave up your job at uni so that you can come out with a glittering degree, but, this means that you have to spend your summers, Christmases and Easters scooping popcorn or stacking shelves to be able to afford your pizza and paper when you leave home again. But, this causes its own problems. At the end of it all, if you come out with a first, which future employer or grad scheme, if any, is going to be interested in your two and a half years at the Croyden Odeon? None of them. 

After all of that work, it will always be Johnny with the work experience at daddy's firm that gets the job over you. 

There is a tricky balance that needs to be struck when it comes to holiday time: unpaid internships should be, according to the rest of the world, partnered  with part, or even full time work, just so that you can afford to work all of the hours that god sends at uni in order to be paid pennies in a job that you were doing for free in your student summers.

Oh, and you're also supposed to be able to squeeze in the odd turkey sandwich or family holiday as well. 

From someone who's still trying to figure it all out; good luck. 

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