For many students, the stress of studying we’ll all feel in the next few weeks isn’t the only weight they’ll be carrying. In June 2011, a Canadian survey found that 56% of undergraduates in Canada are employed while they study. On the other hand, Ontario reports show that unemployment in people between ages 15 and 24 continues to grow. For example, in 2009 a report found that the unemployment rate among that age group was 20.5%, and in 2010 it had risen to 25.5%. No doubt the unemployment statistics are a cause for concern for graduates looking for jobs, but how do they react to these statistics? Over half of undergraduates are choosing to work while they study, either to boost their résumés or to save up some money. But these motives beg the question: Does having a part-time job interfere with grades? The Globe and Mail covered the same phenomenon among high school students. They found that over 65% of students who are able to work do. The declining grades they discovered among these students were a reflection of their choice, they concluded. But maybe high school students are too young to have mastered the skill of balancing multiple commitments without a trade-off in quality. Multitasking is part of young adulthood, we might say, and juggling a part-time job with school eventually gets easier. For some, that’s the point at which the stress sinks in. Is the money is worth the compromise? Maggie O’Neill, a third-year English major at the St. George campus, says that even though she is juggling four courses this semester and preparing to tackle five the next, the income is indeed worth the work. “I pay all my own bills and often eat out,” she says. “I also enjoy the occasional retail therapy during the stressful midterm season.” Would she continue working if she didn’t need to worry about paying for food and other bills? “Yes, I think so,” she replies. “I like the sense of independence it gives me, and I love my coworkers.” Nevertheless, the stress does sometimes set in once she leaves work. “I do feel like it has an effect on my stress levels,” she says. “I used to work full weekends, but decided that it took up way too much of my free time. Luckily, my work is very accommodating.” She also echoes a sentiment familiar among students: “The less time I have to get work done, the more productive I am during that time.” Cella Lao Rousseau, a second-year student, holds down two jobs and a full course load. “Losing sleep from working two jobs isn’t a big deal for me,” she says. “As shallow as it sounds, having nice things gives me a little extra happiness, so I couldn’t care about the stress.” Rousseau also finds time for volunteering and a social life. She adds that she would continue to work even if the responsibility of paying bills was eliminated. “Not working shows a lack of drive and character,” she says. On the other hand, some students find it too stressful to work during school. Eliza Yuzon, a third-year psychology major, believes the compromise isn’t worth it. “But I have to get money somewhere to pay my phone bills and food while at school,” she says. She also says she would probably not be working if she didn’t have to. Her sentiments about stress are also different from those of O’Neill and Rousseau. “If I’m not working, I think about how my stress level at school would be down because I could focus more on school,” she says. But Yuzon also mentions that her part-time job aids her studies in a way: it helps her break the study routine. O’Neill, Rousseau, and Yuzon all say they haven’t noticed a decrease in their grades since they started working, but they admit that their attention is divided between work and school. In spite of the independence that comes from having an income, perhaps one of the reasons for the rising unemployment rate is that it’s sometimes just too hard to balance both. Perhaps some students assume it would be too hard and don’t even consider the option. The others stick it out at their jobs solely to spend time with their “work families”, or for the freedom of the paycheque. But much of the time, students simply have no other way to pay the bills.

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