Salvador Dali's "Sleep" (1937)

The "Working Student:"
Building a better person for the future;
But when is stress too much?
"When no one seems to understand"
Some tips on how to survive

By John T. Jones
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

The alarm clock just went off.

You're still in the bed, too tired to get up and cut off the annoying sound. You just lie there hoping that something will stop that alarm.

Then you lean on side of the bed hoping to find a shoe to throw at the alarm clock.

Soon you realize that you just need to get up and get ready for the day. You sit at the edge of the bed and stare at yourself in the mirror.

Many college students attend classes and participate in after school functions when they are impaired by chronic sleep deprivation. The sleepiness they experience has a profound effect on their school work, their health, safety, and productivity.

Students frequently fall asleep in their morning classes or while performing other duties, such as driving. As a result, many public school districts across the nation are asking if students and taxpayers are best served by early starting times.

(Some parents, politicians and students have
organized to delay the time schools start. Check out messages on the "sleepnet" internet site on this movement to protect students from student deprivation. One result of such concern was the National Sleep Awareness Week of 2001)

At the university level the need of many students to earn their way with jobs contributes to stress and sleep shortage.

Kalondra Atkins is a senior at
North Carolina A&T State University, and she is one of those students that have to work two part time jobs to get by.

Ms. Atkins explains that working two jobs can be very stressful and make her unaware of what's going on around her. She says she forgets lots of things that are important to her. She doesn't have a lot of time to remember things and she forgets the important of being sharp and aware of her surroundings. Being a college student and working two part time jobs can be very hard and make someone very unaware.

Clarence Odom, a graduate of North Carolina A&T who had to work a full time job to pay for school, says that when he had to take on a full time job it was hard to adjust his classes around the job. He says he had to make a decision that resorted in him taking an extra year to graduate.

Mr. Odom explains that working and going to school is the hardest thing that a student can do. He says that his grades dropped and that it was hard to accept that there was nothing he could do about at that time.

He says the hardest thing was the struggle to get up everyday and be prepared for class. He says he hated the fact that he wasn't ready for class sometimes, and that some of the students that didn't know him looked at him as a slacker. The students that knew his situation helped him as much as they could with homework and daily class activities. Mr. Odom says that it wasn't the work that made him slack. It was the time that he had to put in it.

"I didn't have time to do my homework and other assignments because of working a full time job."

Mr. Odom closed by saying that when students who have to work while in school stay strong that can create in them a better and more responsible person for the future.

College life can be very stressful. Sometimes parents, faculty and others tend to idealize their college experience and remember it as that idyllic time when they had few worries or responsibilities. For students currently attending college, however, the process is often stressful and frustrating.

College students have to worry about lots of things such as making good grades, making a career choice, relationships, and a need to perform. Still, before we condemn stress, we need to understand that stress is only harmful when it is excessive. The challenges of life tend to be stressful and an attempt to avoid stress completely would lead to a rather boring existence.

For tips on how to manage stress in college, consult
Survival and Success in College: Stress Management.

Finally, to all you working students out there, keep on doing what you have to do.

Times are hard and times are going to get harder, but if you made it this far, you are going to make it all the way. When it feels like no one understands that you have no time to do your assignments, try to explain that time isn't your friend at the moment.

Tell them that when you got off work at one or two o'clock am, you where tired and fell asleep as soon as you got in that night. How could you do the work at that time?

Those of us who are "working students" can experience less sleep, lack of energy, incomplete assignments, and sometimes lower test grades. Those are among the prices we pay as students who must earn our way.

NCAT Journalism Magazine

Copyright ©2002 John T. Jones
All Rights Reserved
Citation Permitted Only With Credit