College students struggle to balance jobs and school

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Franklin Rodriguez, a senior, applied to four to five jobs since his freshman year. For him, it was difficult selling himself to employers.

“The hardest thing when applying for jobs and internships, for me, would be the process of making resumes,” Rodriguez said. “I have always been awful at talking myself up.”

Rodriguez, majoring in psychology and sociology, found a job at a hookah lounge, which he called an interesting experience. But he felt worried about finding a job in his studies even in the future.

Rodriguez is not alone as other college students struggle to find a worthwhile job in college. Sometimes, finding a job may consume their time.

CUNY’s Office of Institutional Research, based on data for the fall 2014 semester, reported 30.3 percent of undergraduate students at senior colleges work more than 20 hours per week for pay. It is slightly up from 30.1 percent the year before.

Nicole Smith, an economist at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, recommended students get a job or internship relevant to their field.

“Maybe you can find some way to marry what you learn in the classroom and what you’re doing in the office,” Smith said.

Smith co-authored a recent report titled “Learning While Earning: The New Normal.” It found, over the past 25 years, more than 70 percent of students work.

Smith said this new normal may force students to choose between their grades and pay.

“We have been trying to push that as the new normal. We want people to recognize students have so many burdens and pressure on them,” Smith said.

Michele Jackson, a senior majoring in political science and philosophy, is one student who struggled balancing both a job and her education.

“[Working at Uniqlo] took away from my studies. I was forced to work mainly on the weekends, which would have been the only optimal time I had to complete my work,” Jackson said.

Jackson now works at a law firm and intends to apply to law school. However, she did not forget her job as a sales associate at Uniqlo.

“It was my least favorite job because I felt as though my wage wasn’t worth the amount of work that was required, both explicitly and implicitly,” Jackson said.

She said her former employer did not provide her a work schedule ahead of time but often got it the day before.

“My managers tended to wait until Sunday to post the schedule for the upcoming week. It was very difficult for me to plan anything outside of work. I felt as though there was little I could do or say to change my predicament until I quit,” Jackson said.

At least 17 percent of workers in the U.S. experience the same, according to an Economic Policy Institute report released earlier this year titled “Irregular Work in the U.S. and its Economic Consequences.”

Companies like Starbucks pledged to end this practice because of its controversy, but it still exists not only in the service industry, but also other ones as well.

Rodriguez now works part-time as a carpenter. He recommended students in their first year at Queens College should utilize the college’s resources, like the Office of Career Development and Internships, to get a job in the future. Although, they need to know what their interests are first.

“The pressure can be a lot in finding a career, but just try different things and find a job that will make you happy,” Rodriguez said.

Brandon Jordan

Brandon is a senior majoring in Political Science and Economics with a minor in Business And Liberal Arts. He covers labor and activism at CUNY. He also likes to cook, bake, run and make puns, sometimes not in that order. You can follow him on Twitter @BrandonJ_R and email him at brandon[at]

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