ECC students and staff discuss juggling a work and school balance


Many students suggested staying organized with folders and notebooks to help avoid stress during the semester.

Victoria Crowe, Staff Writer

Many college students continually deal with stress, especially those who are working a full or part-time job while in school. In this article, working Elgin Community College students discuss how they handle the stress and anxiety that a work and school balance can bring.

Umana Uddin, a second-year student, has been balancing her studies and a part-time job for about four years.

“Usually in the middle of the year and during finals, it starts to get kind of challenging to balance both school and work,” Uddin said.

She offered some advice to fellow students who are in a similar position.

“Work the least amount of hours you can to get the money that you need, but always put your education first,” Uddin said. “This job is temporary but failing a class can be permanent. I handle stress by getting things done as fast as I can.  Procrastinating is the reason why I get so stressed out in the first place. I try to manage my time and get any school work done [during] any free time I have.  Making time to go out, even if it’s just for a little while when I need to get things done, can help me let go of some of the stress I have.”

Third-year student Sandra Torres also emphasized working less, if you can, to focus more on your studies.

“Don’t be afraid to work [fewer] hours to focus on school,” Torres said. “Take care of yourself in the process, and don’t lose focus of the reason you’re working and the reason you’re going to school. Self-care is important. Your mental health should be your top priority when coming to work or school. Both can be exhausting but worth the struggle.”

ECC’s wellness professionals always have students coming to them for help and guidance.  Vincent Cascio has been working in the mental health field as a therapist for six years but has been a wellness professional at ECC since the department opened about four years ago.

“Often, students take on more than they believe they can handle in a semester,” Cascio said.  “Some students are working 40 hours a week at their jobs while trying to handle a 15-credit hour semester, and that may not always be realistic.  It’s important to be mindful how much time you can put into studying and what your financial situation can allow.”

Cascio mentioned that time management is the key to this balance of work, life, and school.

“It’s important to set realistic expectations on what you can and cannot accomplish,”  Cascio said. “If you are honest with yourself, you’ll be able to determine what you can handle and what sacrifices you will be willing to make in order to be academically successful.”

Cascio also mentioned the importance of asking for help and knowing who your support system is, so you can lean on them during a particularly challenging time.

“It’s always good to know when you have family and friends that are willing to help you out when you’re in a bind or if you just need to vent frustrations,” Cascio said. “Tap into your resources on campus. Students have access to free tutoring and assistance to look over their papers before turning them in. If you’re dealing with some emotional challenges or just need a fresh perspective on things, come visit us in B120, and we can help carve out a new pathway for you to follow.  Everyone here at Elgin Community College wants you to succeed and we all want to help make sure you get to where you want to be, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Wellness professional Mary Grimm who has been with ECC for almost three years advises students with these struggles to set boundaries early because it is more challenging when you decide to change them later on.

“Establish a set schedule for yourself with your goals in mind, and get in a routine with that schedule,” Grimm said. “Also, it is important to take breaks, so those must be accounted for in your schedule. Allow yourself time each day to relax, reflect and check in with yourself.  Finally, don’t wait to meet with Tutoring, Student Life, TRiO, the Write Place, Disability Services, or Wellness Services. Meet with someone, talk with them; find out how you can receive assistance while you are in college.  There are so many resources on campus. Take advantage of them!”

It’s important to know that there are resources all over campus that are here to help you succeed and guide you down your path here at ECC. A healthy work and school balance can be important and beneficial, but there are staff and professionals here to make sure that students are also taking care of themselves personally in the midst of all of the chaos life can bring.