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  • Rei Pham

Working While in College

Let me tell you, having a job while managing your studies at the same time is not an easy feat. Here’s my story on working while going to college at the same time.

Coming from a low-income family, I started working at a very young age (8th grade to be exact!). I also worked throughout high school, tutoring younger students and working at a boba shop, so I understood the importance of hard work. I thought that I understood how to manage my time well in college. Why not, right? I’ve done it for so long! Boy, was I wrong.

I started out with one job, 2 dance teams, and a 16 unit schedule. I was scheduled 12-16 hours a week, which was perfectly fine and manageable because I was used to it. Then came my spring semester of my sophomore year, I landed a second job teaching AVID at a local high school. Another 12-16 hours there which… Okay a little hard but I got this. Before I knew it, I was taking 18 units, working 3 jobs and was scheduled for 46 hours a week, rushing for a sorority, 3 dance teams, and competing in a pageant. I was drowned in my own heap of responsibilities and expectations I brought onto myself. I did not get to study as hard as I could have, sleep as much as I could have, or even smile as much as I could have. Life definitely took a toll on me this particular year, and I started to neglect my own body.

I began to notice how restless I was. “I’m so tired” became my most used phrase to greet my friends. Even my family noticed how much weight I lost and how frail I became. My dietary habits worsened, and my eating schedule went from 3 meals a day to 1 meal a day and maybe a bag of chips. I barely had time to study, much less sleep. At this point in time, I realized that I am only one person with two hands and two legs, that I cannot handle everything I have going on. However, as a struggling college student, I needed the money to pay rent, books, and my various involvements.

At the end of my second year of college, I had a huge reality check when I realized that although I was involved in a lot, my participation in each were only mediocre. I finally made the decision to focus on what is important to me and prioritized. Sometimes, cutting down on your involvements does not necessarily mean that you are a quitter. It just means that you decided to narrow down your focus and give your 100% to them.

Working in college is more about managing your time wisely than it is hard work. Although balancing a job and schoolwork may be challenging, I hope that you are able to learn something from my personal story. I have no doubt that you will be able to handle both if needed and you will excel at them!

Good luck to you and keep an eye out for more college-related articles coming your way soon!

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Rei Pham


Rei is a Psychology student at the University of California, Merced. As a Vietnamese immigrant, she understands the challenge of balancing both Vietnamese and American cultures. She is passionate about equality for minorities and wants to introduce the world of possibilities for first generation Vietnamese-Americans. Rei hopes to inspire the youth by sharing her stories in obtaining higher education and the resources available for them to achieve their own success.

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