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How being a full-time student and employee affects mental health

Isabella Santoro

Anchor Staff Writer

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It’s hard to admit, but being a full-time student in college and a full-time employee is one of the most stressful situations that one can juggle. Trying to handle both takes a tremendous toll on people who attempt it. It affects not only their physical health, but their mental health.

Imagine having to work a job full time at least 40 hours a week, and then go to school. Classes can be up to four hours long and are usually not under two. Then, know that students to be considered full time at Rhode Island College, need to take four courses each semester. That can be as little as eight hours or as long as 16 hours per week. Then it’s expected of students to do work out of class for assignments, exams and group work, which in my experience takes at least eight more hours per week. That’s roughly 24 hours, or a full day, just for school work.

With work, extracurricular activities and sleeping, that leaves extraordinarily little time to do much else. Time management for students can be extremely difficult and according to Seattle Pi, “Having left high school's rigidly structured schedules behind, students often struggle to balance academic, personal and work commitments after arriving on campus.” College students have a challenging time managing areas of life. They are so used to the controlled setting of a high school that it’s extremely hard to adjust to the freedom that colleges grant with respect to time. In high school you have set times to work on projects, homework and assignments. Most are only allotted certain hours for work, seeing as most high schoolers are underage until senior year. Colleges grant more work, less time to finish it and do not take into account how many students must work to pay for their education.

When a student has trouble managing school and work, it can take a huge toll on their mental health. Many fall into depressive episodes, develop anxiety disorders, etc. According to the Clay Center, 73% of students have a mental health disorder. This report from 2017 shows that nearly three-fourths of all college students have a mental health crisis during college. This can be due to stress, over working, or anxiety about grades and finances. The list goes on and this doesn’t account for students who already had disorders prior to starting college.

One of the main worries students have are their grades. This can cause anxiety, often so much that students can develop anxiety disorders from the stress of worrying about their grades. If a student is also working full time it is much harder to keep their grades up as they are focused on working as well. Personally, I have noticed my grades dropping slightly now that I work full time. In college, it’s important to worry about your academic standing because employers look at how well their prospective employees do in college. If their grades don’t show that, it is harder to get the job you’d like. Even more worrying to a young adult is higher-paying jobs require at least a bachelor’s, if not a master’s degree as a prerequisite to said position.

Depression is huge among college students. Statistics show that from 2020 to 2021, 22% of students reported being depressed, which is nearly a quarter of all students. Depression affects at least 6% of the workforce and according to the CDC, depression affects performance 35% of the time. Knowing this, we can understand that developing depression by working full time and going to the school full time can affect a student, making their grades lower and their school performance worsen over time. This can also affect their workplace performance and relationships, ultimately leading them to either get fired or quit, which leaves them with no money and therefore no way to support the costly life of a college student.

One way to help students care for their mental health is to have colleges lower the credit hours necessary for a degree. Rhode Island College, for example, requires 120 credit hours just for a bachelor’s degree. By slicing that to 100 hours, students will not feel as much pressure and stress and that takes off four courses as well since each course is four credit hours. Another way for students to feel like they are able to graduate on time and leave college stress free is dropping the amount of general education courses needed. Two science courses are not necessary and neither are two language courses. Taking less of these courses will allow a student to focus on their chosen degree and not stress about general courses that will not benefit them.

Everything comes full circle. If you don’t get a degree, you won’t get a job, but if you don’t get a job, you won’t get a degree. Mental health is important for students. Without the awareness of how college and working affects it, I fear that less and less students will be motivated to pursue their chosen careers.

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