University of Washington Alumni Association
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Columns Votes - December 2006
Comments on Working and Going to School
Working every weekend to finance my own education made the whole experience more “real” to me.
Appreciated the experience of going to school more and met people working that I would not have by just attending school.
Having to work I did feel that I missed out on a lot of the college experiences. I made sure that my daughter was able to not miss out on the college experience...
Although I had no choice, I really believe the integration of work and school paid off in the future. I finally landed a well-paying summer job at a major Seattle corporation during the summer between my junior and senior years. That job culminated in a 35-year career.
Working a part-time job during college allowed me to graduate debt-free, and as an added benefit, helped keep me out of trouble!
I worked hard to pay for college and worked hard at school to be certain my work for pay was worth my time. There was still plenty of time for socializing.
Working to pay for college took me away from the campus more than I wanted. In retrospect, I would have enjoyed the college experience even more by being on campus longer and getting more involved in on-campus activities.
It was very difficult to work nights, weekends, and holidays while maintaining a passable grade. In fact I had to add one additional year to my college career in order to graduate.
I do not feel I had a real college experience. I worked 40 hours per week six days per week. I had to catch the bus as soon as I got out of class for the two hour commute, getting home after midnight. All I could manage was to keep afloat and stay in school. There was not a moment to savor learning or to really fall in love with any single topic. Though I did want to go to Grad school I never found an area that interested me enough and I think that may have been because all I could do was keep from drowning.
I always worked while attending college full time. I was also active in student affairs, NROTC and belonged to a fraternity. I considered it part of the total package of my college experience and education as a business (marketing) major.
I was actually an employee of the UW while I earned my master’s degree. So I was able to take advantage of the tuition benefits while supplementing w/ my own income when necessary.
Because I had work study money, the library was able to hire me and so I got practical work experience while I earned my master’s degree.
Work study money rocks because it gives many students a chance for their first real job experience and a solid job reference for the real world if they worked hard!
In the 1950s it was possible to earn enough during the summers working in the woods and in sawmills to cover the next years university costs.
Paying for my first two years of college out-of-pocket while working full-time was very difficult and caused me to drop out until I was considered independent for financial aid purposes. When I went back to school at age 26, financial aid plus part-time work made my experience much better and allowed me to be to be a better student. I followed my BA with a master’s degree (also from UW) and was successful because I could work part-time and use financial aid for the rest of my costs.
Believe it or not, tuition is not that expensive, and if a person really wants to do well and pay for it, they can do it. It’s the cost of living that hurts people, and not the tuition. I worked full time and went to school full time and I graduated cum laude. When you pay for it yourself, you appreciate the experience more and you work harder at it.
Education is a privilege. Working and going to school helped me appreciate that privilege even more. First by working at a job that paid little more than the minimum wage, I knew I needed to graduate to have a better chance in succeeding in a career that would support me well above the minimum. It also forced me to manage my time very carefully. It was hard work, but I appreciate it all the more now.
Being responsible for my own education and living expenses as an undergrad (I started at UW when I was 17) benefited me tremendously as a PERSON, but made me much less likely to participate many opportunities as a STUDENT.
I was envious of the people whose parents were able to afford their educational costs, but in the long run, I think that working 20-30 hours a week during school better prepared me for a career.