Vargas: Being a working student pays off in more ways than one


Alani Vargas, Columnist

I remember walking into my very first job interview. I was nervous, of course, but I was prepared. I recall being so hopeful and excited after I was hired: I was starting a new job, then starting my freshman year of college. It was a little scary, being a step closer to becoming an “actual adult,” but it felt nice to have it all come together. Almost two years later, being secure in a necessary job is a godsend.

Coming from a low-income household, I knew I needed to work so I could have the ability to provide for myself and pay for college. I was fortunate to receive scholarships and enough financial aid to attend Northwestern, but there are more expenses in college life than just tuition. Having some steady income helped to mostly take care of these expenses. Plus, I liked the idea of no longer relying on my mom for money, mostly to unburden her but also to give back to my family.

There’s no doubt that the responsibility of an added job is at times difficult. At my last job, I had to go to work at 5 a.m. every Saturday, work an eight-hour shift on my feet and then come home to do class work. I got home at late hours on the weekdays, couldn’t just chill on a Saturday morning and was never around to eat dinner with my friends. My school work has suffered — not greatly, but enough for me to know that my best work just isn’t possible sometimes.

Despite these challenges, I am grateful for the experience I have received from my jobs. Unlike many of my friends, I have been through many job interviews, acquiring knowledge about the job-search process that others my age may not yet have. I still get a little nervous during job interviews, but I love doing them. I always feel prepared and have yet to be disappointed by my results. I know that when my dream job presents itself, I’ll be more than ready.

Cartoon for WEB-01
Cartoon by Lisa Chen/The Daily Northwestern

More importantly, I’ve learned some very valuable human traits during my job-search journey such as how to maintain professionalism with co-workers and bosses. The balance between work, school and other aspects of life taught me how to juggle my responsibilities, but also what my limits are regarding what I can take on. The times I’ve faced hardship in my time as an employee have boosted my character. I know some people who crumble at the tiniest things or feel like they have so much on their plate, which may be true, but my experiences as a student and part-time employee have taught me to hustle through and be persistent. Yes, I have a million things to accomplish, but I won’t let it defeat me.

The road to paying for college might be getting easier as well. The recent changes to Northwestern’s financial aid announced earlier this year were phenomenal. More aid and fewer loans will be given to students in need, ensuring that all incoming freshmen are without loans. Although this might not have an effect on me, this change in such a prestigious institution like NU gives promise for the future of funding for college. To think that students like my younger siblings would only require half the loans than I will is impressive. And with 80 percent of students paying at least some of their higher education costs, it’s nice to think that more students will get a bit of a break. Although being a working student helps pay for a college career that is nowhere near as cheap as it used to be (the tuition at NU was $2,400 in 1970), being a working student pays off in more than just monetary ways.

Alani Vargas is a Medill sophomore. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.