Working in college is all about preservation and determination

By Sydney Minor

It was Thanksgiving break. I was almost done with my first semester of college, and I
was ready to come back and stay on top of my work. I was driving back to Columbia from Greenbrier, Arkansas, on November 26.

As a freshman going to a university 6 hours away from home, if I want any extra money, I must work for it. When I felt comfortable working last semester, almost all campus jobs had filled up, so I decided to apply at Spencer’s in the Columbia Mall. I was almost immediately hired as a seasonal associate, working about 12 hours or more a week while staying on top of schoolwork.

Being a seasonal associate, working Black Friday is mandatory, but being a college freshman, the occasional vacation home is imperative for my mental health. I left Arkansas at 6 in the morning that day, pulling over in Leslie, Arkansas to take a quick nap so I would focus on driving and not falling asleep.

Eventually, I made the trek back to Missouri in one piece. I was just entering the city limits of Ashland when I had 27 minutes left before I arrived at the mall. I would show up to my shift early and grab a snack before working for 10 hours in a small shop. This plan was thrown out of my head as someone from the right lane abruptly cut over directly in front of me without a blinker, causing me to slam on my brakes, decelerating from 75 to 30 in a span of what felt like 5 seconds. The car in front of me then swerved into the left turn lane and I calmed down enough to step on the gas.

As I began gaining speed, a Chevy Colorado was attempting to pass me, and they ended up rear ending me going 75 mph. My head reeled back, and I instantly was sent into a panic attack. Writing about it now, I feel phantom pain in my skull.

My parents and I came to an agreement before I left for college that they would send me a monthly allowance of $100 for gas and other things I couldn’t buy at the convenience store on campus with my dining plan. I was stuck in the mindset that my parents shouldn’t have to send me money because they could save that to move into the house that they always wanted to but couldn’t because of my college expenses. That’s why I got a job in the first place.

Not that I needed money, but that I hated being dependent on people who needed to finally save for themselves. I was doing well financially my first few months at Spencer’s. I was saving most of my check every two weeks, making sure to have at least $200 in my checking account for my subscriptions and gas money.

After being hit on the interstate, my life was turned upside down. My head hit the
headrest with so much force I had a concussion, and I couldn’t really think for myself. My car was drivable, but my parents begged me to bring it to a shop to get it fixed so I could drive it all the way back to Arkansas for Christmas break. The shop ended up taking about 3 months to get my car back in working order, free of cost to me because the Chevy admitted fault. I did not quit my job at Spencer’s, however, but then my hours got cut and more and more of my coworkers left the store. I didn’t have a car, so I had to Uber to and from work, and I only
worked 2 days a week. At $11.15 an hour, all the money I made went into Uber simply because I was too young for a rental vehicle. This caused me to use up all my hard-earned Spencer’s money that I was putting back to save for an apartment junior year.

Here I am at ground zero. This semester I’m taking 16 credit hours and I just got hired for Campus Dining Services and I am still working at Spencer’s. Two jobs, 5 classes, and an ever-growing pile of assignments.

I felt like I had a good understanding of my personal finance situation until I was
spending more money than I was making. This forced me to reevaluate what to spend my money on and forced me to pick up a second job as my first job still is not giving me the hours I would like to work. I completed the FAFSA for sophomore year in October last year when my mother was working two jobs, as compared to when she was only working the one job the previous year.

I did not qualify for the Pell Grant for the upcoming school year. This means I’ll have to gather more loans than necessary. To decrease my amount of student debt, my goal is to save for an apartment for junior year, and to save enough money to begin making payments on those loans.

It feels like I’m drowning in working towards that goal and the goal of completing my degree for my future. has an article about working college students that offers some words of encouragement that keep me going: “It’s really a matter of trying to get people to understand you could be shooting yourself in the foot and making yourself worse off by not completing degree,” Lindsay Ahlman, associate director of research at the Institute for College Access and Success detailed.

In my research, I found that most full-time students are working 20 hours a week or
more. This helps my psyche in recognizing that I’m not alone in my struggle, however meek it may seem, and that true success will be reached when I finally walk across that stage in 3 years.

Minor is a sophomore at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

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