For college students, balancing classes and social lives free from parental influence can be hard. All students know the struggles which come with independence, but many also know the difficulty of balancing a working life on top of all that.
According to a study done by the National Center for Education Statistics, 43% of undergraduate full-time college students were employed in 2018. With numbers as high as these, a multitude of students exists with a variety of different jobs at Mississippi State University.
MSU students work at all sorts of different jobs. Some work off-campus at restaurants, coffee shops and stores, some work in Columbus and some students also work on-campus jobs. Whatever the job is, many MSU students are working hard to either pay for their college bills or to have a little bit of extra spending money.
Josie Chance, a freshman agriculture education, leadership and communication major, works part-time at Chick-fil-A while also balancing her school schedule. She held a job during much of high school and knew she wanted to work going into college.
"I worked all through high school, so I already had a decent balance of how to handle working while trying to manage a class load," Chance said.
Contrary to what some might think, Chance said having a job actually helps her to get her homework done. Because of her busy schedule, she plans when she will complete her homework for the week.
"My schedule is going to be busier because I have a lot of stuff going on, but I prefer that … I waste less time," Chance said.
Chance also noted working in college is very beneficial but not for everyone.
"I think that going to college is a big change for anyone, so if work is something people are going to struggle with, it might not be the best idea for them," Chance said.
Having a job during college is not for everyone, but for Josie Chance, it is what keeps her on top of it as well as helps her to manage her resources and money.
Will Moak, a junior majoring in chemical engineering, has worked at Starkville Nutrition since the first semester of his freshman year. Moak agreed with Chance that juggling a job and classes is not for everyone. However, for Moak, being part of the Starkville community has been incredibly rewarding.
"The most rewarding part is the friends I've made at Starkville Nutrition. It was good to give an out, to be able to go to work, make a little spending money and just be able to talk to people and meet customers and get to know local people … The main reason you're here if you're in college is to get an education … I would encourage students to try it, but it's not for everyone," Moak said.
Many students like Chance and Moak work jobs off campus, but other students work jobs that are on-campus and often disregarded. This is true for Ellie Holt, a sophomore psychology major who works as a Resident Assistant (RA) on campus.
Prior to becoming an RA, Ellie thought it would be an easily manageable job.
"Before, I didn't think RAs did anything. Once I got into it, I saw that it was a lot. I think people just do not see the work that RAs do," Holt said.
On top of being on duty every week, Ellie is responsible for assembling a monthly bulletin board as well as monthly programs. She also said quite a lot of paperwork is involved with being an RA. RAs are also heavily involved with the housing department and interviews for future RAs.
Being an RA is not just paperwork and written work, it also requires a level of emotional depth when dealing with residents and sensitive issues they bring to their RAs.
"It (being an RA) takes a toll on your mental health that we had not predicted. Residents will come to you with anything. I know some of the RAs in my building have had residents come to them with self-harm issues, suicidal thoughts — and that takes a huge toll on their personal mental health," Holt said. "Parts of the job like this get overlooked. You can refer someone to the health center, but it's up to them to take it."
All of the jobs mentioned take hard work and strength to balance school life. So many students work and often times their workload is overlooked and ignored. However, the contributions of students to the Starkville community and to MSU's campus cannot be missed.