I am a student from a low income family. My mother has made me balance school and work from the minute I turned sixteen. I worked at my old job for three years saving up for college while I was in high school. My mother taught me that if I want something, I will have to work for it. I knew I would have to pay for college if I wanted to attend. So, I saved a lot of money to make sure I could pay for textbooks, parking passes, tuition, materials, etc.

I got a new job last May before I knew that I would be living on campus. Once I moved into my dorm, the rules of college survival changed. In addition to all the expenses I mentioned, I now have to save up to pay for loans, pay for my own car insurance, phone bill, and groceries. While independence seemed like a great life as a teenager, the reality is that it is stressful and can feel overwhelming.

While I have been able to keep my off-campus job from last May, I realized that I would need more money from a job that would provide more weekday and school flexibility. Then, I was introduced to work study. Thankfully, the people who introduced me to work study and the work study staff were beyond amazing with getting me through the process of getting the funds. After I was set up to apply for work study jobs, I went to a work study job fair and found the perfect job.

Throughout my second year of college, I have been balancing two jobs and being a fulltime student. My experience with both of my jobs has been amazing because the people I work for and work with have been understanding and wonderful. They push me to be a better me and to succeed, and I have been presented with opportunities I would never have been able to experience if I had not been working there.

While my experience has mostly been positive, I have also reached a point of burn out. I am currently working two jobs, am a full time student, work in a research lab, volunteer, and have extracurricular activities. It is not easy to balance all of these things and maintain a high level of energy and constant motivation. I know that I am not the only one who has to deal with an extremely full plate, so my reminder to my fellow low-income first-generation students is that you are not alone. Some of us may not have the same privileges as our peers, but we grow from these heavy plates. We are developing more resiliency, better time management skills, a stronger appreciation for the progress we make toward our degree or final destination, and much more.

Independence has its perks, but remember that it is not always all fun and games. Remember that it is okay that some of us have to work what feels like three times as hard to achieve a better future. Remember that these experiences and the hard work will pay off in the end.