This school year started out uncertainly. Most students didn’t have a plan and others decided to live at home with parents while a handful of students had already signed leases for Fall 2020.
There are two options when paying for apartments as a student; pay all $3,600 per semester per tenant, or $600 per month per tenant (if your landlord allows that option). Many students use their refund check from the school to pay, but that’s only possible for people who receive a refund at all. The other option is to hope you find a job that pays more than New Hampshire’s minimum wage and work 32+ hours a week, as well as pays weekly instead of bi-weekly.
How does all that affect us as students?
Well, the stress of trying to fit homework in on a working day can be overwhelming. Your one day off from work could help you get some homework done, but what if you have two or three classes that day? Time management is key, but sometimes there isn’t much time to manage.
I spoke with several students to see how they’re able to attend class, get homework done, and work a full time job. Some of these students go to school in Massachusetts and some go to school right here at NEC.
Nick Ashley, who is a full time student at Worcester State University, works 40 hours a week minimum. “Overtime is available, so sometimes the hours are more,” he told me.
Since he attends school and works in Massachusetts, he makes more than minimum wage workers do in New Hampshire. But Nick explained that he gets paid bi-weekly, so it affects how much money he spends and how he spends it. “I pay my bills that I have first and then I try to stretch the rest of the check for the next two weeks.” Nick also takes five classes at Worcester State. They’re all online except for one lab every Tuesday.
“Personally, working full time and balancing school is hard and I’m not too efficient at it,” he explained, but he believes that it’s possible if someone has good time management skills. His motivation, however, is that working full time is the only way he can afford school.
Nick’s job is flexible with his school schedule, so he doesn’t need to be at work until his classes finish for the day. “I usually do my homework after work on the week days or on Sundays.”
Nick decided to commute this year and is happy to be living at home, “I am saving money by not living at school,” he said. “But I feel stressed everyday. Working full time while going to school full time is not fun, but it is necessary.”
Ailene Alcantara is also a student at Worcester State University. She works two different jobs. One at a clothing shop in a mall and the other in the food nutrition department at the hospital by her school. At the mall, she works 32 hours but at the hospital she works 24. Ailene works a total of 56 hours a week. Again, since Ailene goes to school and works in Massachusetts, she makes more than minimum wage; $13.75 at the hospital and $20.00 at the mall.
At the mall she gets paid bi-weekly and at the hospital she gets paid weekly. “Bi-weekly does affect things in a way. Until I get my next paycheck I must save for my bills and emergency funds.” Ailene is also taking four classes this semester, but most of them are online so she explains that she can effectively manage her time.
In between classes, she spends her time at the library, getting work done. She even wakes up early on the days that she has late classes to start some assignments. When she gets off of work, usually around 6:30pm, she will finish whatever she has left.
Ailene lives in her own apartment 45 minutes away from campus, “It does make it harder to have to work more in order to pay my bills, but it’s manageable and I honestly think I work better when I know I have no time on my hands to waste.”
Ailene clearly has a lot on her plate with being a full time student and working 56 hours weekly. “I do have times where I’m super stressed, but I’ll make some time to workout and de-stress. Otherwise I’d go crazy.”
Randi-Lee Drew is also a worker and a full time student at New England College. She works 20 hours a week and her job pays her more than minimum wage at $11.00 an hour. She also gets paid bi-weekly, which changes the way she pays her bills. “Because the pay period is in the middle of the month, I’ll get paid my second check after my rent is due on the first.”
Randi-Lee takes five classes this semester, but she can only work part time to be able to get her work done. She puts school first and her grades are very important to her, “I have to stay up very late after work in order to get work done, sometimes until one or two in the morning.”
Randi lives in her own apartment near campus and is happy have her own space, but she sometimes wishes that she still lived with her parents so she didn’t have to stress about working as much. “I am constantly stressed working and going to school. I never really know if I’ll be able to complete my work on time, but also be able to complete it to the best of my ability in order to receive good grades.”
The last student I spoke with was Jalene Cuffee, who is also a full time student at New England College. She works about 35 hours a week and makes more than minimum wage at $15.00 an hour.
Jalene gets paid weekly instead of bi-weekly, “I find that getting paid weekly makes it way easier to budget than getting paid bi-weekly.” Jalene is taking five classes this semester and is able to work full time while doing so. She told me that, it’s a struggle but she manages to juggle both things.
As a nanny, Jalene is able to work on some of her homework while with the kids. She picks certain days out of the week to be homework days so she can get everything done.
Jalene has her own off-campus apartment and she expressed that she’s happy to have her own space. “I feel stressed from work and school because I feel like I have a lot on my plate, but it is definitely manageable.”
Life as a full time college student can be a bit overwhelming, especially during our third and fourth year, when we no longer want to be in the dorms and must work to pay the bills. With everything we’ve gone through this year, it felt “normal” to come back to an apartment last August.
I guess, in a way, we are preparing ourselves for what’s to come after graduation.