Learning to Survive and Surviving to Learn

I wake up early, makeup smeared and a computer to my side. I think the same thing I do every morning: “I’m too young to be this stressed.”  But I have to brush it off and repeat the same day I had the day before.

School all day, work all night. To students like me there is no free time. We either try to jam another shift into our schedule or spend hours in the library. And for what? This is the time to focus on our education, while also experiencing college and all of its late night parties and caffeine-fueled study nights. The last thing students working for a better future should be doing is working 30 or more hours a week.

And yet here we are, sleeping four to six hours a night, reading assigned passages on the bus to and from work, writing essays on our phones and living paycheck to paycheck.

A 2015 study from Georgetown University Center on Education states that in the U.S. nearly 14 million people are working while attending an extended learning program.

Our generation is not only expected to go to a four year college right after high school but we are now also expected to face the ever rising tuition and housing costs that come with California colleges. From 2010 alone, there has been a 42 percent increase in tuition costs at SF State, and students are the ones left to bear the burden.

We either take out loans and fear for graduation day, because that beautiful diploma also comes with a big, fat bill, or we sacrifice hours in our week to work, often for survival.

Most students have heard the phrase: “for every hour of class per week you should dedicate two to three hours outside of class studying.” Therefore, a three unit class that meets twice a week for about an hour and a half means a student would have to spend about six to nine hours a week studying. And that’s only for one class. At SF State, for someone to be considered a full-time student they must be enrolled in four or more classes.

Total study time for full-time students would be roughly 24 to 36 hours. That may not seem like much until you compare it to how many hours there are total in the week while also factoring in other variables.

In a single week there are 168 hours. Subtract the hours we need to study and we’re left with 132 hours.

If we’re taking care of ourselves we sleep roughly eight hours a night, leaving us with 76 hours.

Let’s also group together personal hygiene, cooking and eating into one hour. Let’s say an hour total for getting ready in the morning and an hour for each meal.

After study time, sleeping and taking care of ourselves, we are left with 54 hours: still seems doable. At first, this seems like plenty of time to dedicate to social interaction, hobbies and relaxation – until you factor in a part-time job.

Those extra 54 hours in a week disappear quickly for students like me who work. We’re down to roughly 10 hours a week where we are free to do things. All this doesn’t even take into account other factors such as travel time to and from work and school. According to U.S. News & World Report, 83 percent of SF State students live off campus and commute to school.

The amount of stress this puts on students like me takes a toll on our bodies, our academic performance and our mental health. I’ve seen friends depriving themselves of sleep to finish assignments because their nights are reserved for working. I’ve seen friends take on two jobs, resulting in them cutting back on classes. I have personally taken trips to hospitals with splitting headaches and for my anxiety.

We’ve all heard the phrase: “If it’s putting a strain on your school work, why don’t you just quit?” But for many like me, quitting our jobs means no food on our tables and no home to live in.

The expectations put on my generation, and many generations to come, are soul crushing. Sometimes I don’t even know how I do it, until I realize I have no other choice.


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Learning to Survive and Surviving to Learn