Thanks to one of the blogs I follow, I found this article from The New York Times about how terrible part time work is. And after relying on working three part time jobs to get by for a year and a half, I fully understand how these employees are feeling. While the news reports that the unemployment rate is going down, that doesn’t count people who are “underemployed” like the woman in this article who worked as an interior designer for years and years, only to be working part time as a cashier in her fifties.
For part of my undergrad career, I decided to be a part time student. In my mind, I would spend more time working and would be able to pay for school easier. That wasn’t the case. At Undergrad U, part time students cannot receive ANY financial aid, including scholarships and grants that a student might normally qualify for. This meant that whatever tuition I couldn’t pay out of pocket, I was taking private loans for. This made it all to easy to forget about that expense until after graduation. Also, as a part time student, I couldn’t live on campus. While I lucked out and found super cheap (and super disgusting) subleases, that’s not always the case. In my area, off campus housing was usually more expensive than on campus housing. Another thing was that I wasn’t allowed to be an active member of a lot of the clubs I had been a part of. I also couldn’t work at one of my campus jobs because it was for full time undergrad students only. Once I returned to full time status, I kept working at my previous job and was working almost the same amount of hours that I had been while I was a a part time student! That was definitely not easy and I had to get creative with scheduling…both for work AND classes. As much as that sucked, I was much happier being a full time student!
Working part time jobs was also not a very pleasant experience. Yes, I had worked part time jobs before attempting to juggle three at once. But I had worked those while I was a student, so my job wasn’t my priority at that time. The reason I took on three at once was because I had just graduated from Undergrad U, hadn’t received any “real” job offers (even though I had applied to over 50 jobs!), and was on the verge of being homeless (a big thank you to all my friends with couches). The article made some valid points with the downfalls of part time work – less pay, less hours (obviously), and inconsistent scheduling. One of the jobs paid minimum wage and the other two were commission-based. That, along with the inconsistent scheduling, meant I had a VERY inconsistent pay check. The scheduling was honestly the worst part. Some weeks I’d have tons of hours, other weeks I’d be sitting at home and remember why I hated daytime TV. Also, I didn’t get my schedules until the Friday before the week of the schedule…that meant I had to wait to the last minute to plan EVERYTHING…hair appointments, doctor’s appointments, hanging out with friends, AND the hours I was supposed to work my other jobs. What’s worse, if I requested off one DAY or even part of a day (“Hey boss, I have a doctor’s appointment Tuesday afternoon, could you schedule me for morning only?”) my boss would definitely NOT schedule me for Tuesday (okay, fine, whatever) but also would schedule me LESS for the whole week because “I had less hours to give”. UMMM…WHAT?
While working part time is often necessary, being a part time student at a traditional four year college is something that can be avoided. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be part time students ever…there are definitely ways that it can work! However, you need to make sure you’re aware of the differences between part time and full time student status! In the end, going part time cost me a lot more than being a full time student would have.