Partying every weekend, roommates that become lifelong friends, and cozy study sessions in the library are all things that often come to mind for Mandisa Lau when she initially thinks of attending a post-secondary school. For some, this is, in fact, a reality but what many fail to mention is the hefty price that comes with it.

Everything from school schedules to work schedules to hang out plans gets written down in Lau’s agenda, who is attending the nutrition and healthy lifestyle promotion program at Humber College.

“I have to carry that thing around. That thing is my life. If people ask to hang out with me I don’t know unless I look at my agenda,” said Lau.

Some students find themselves in a position where they don’t have to work because their parents and OSAP funding is assisting them. This allows them to go through school without worrying about how they are going to pay for it. According to CBC In 2013, the average student would have to labour for 1,711 hours to pay annual tuition costs of $17,324.

Aurorita Mahbub, who is studying media information and technoculture at Western University, is very grateful towards her parents for lending a serious helping hand when it comes to paying for her school tuition.

“My parents are helping me out...The reason why I’m not working is because I feel like it might be too much for me to balance school and a job simultaneously. I am just trying to focus on one thing at a time,” said Mahbub after returning back to her room after an evening class. The hallway of the dorm room was dimly lit with fluorescent lighting. She sat in the black desk chair in front of the desk covered with notes, books and couple pens in a cup in the corner underneath the whiteboard. On the whiteboard were a list of assignment and reminders, written in different colored markers. The sound of voices echoed faintly in the background as her floormates either got ready to settle in for a night of studying or for a night out partying.

For Mahbub, the concern is that she won’t be able to keep up with the demands of school and work at the same time. However, she also feels that maybe now that she is almost through her first year of university she might be more open to taking on a job next year.

“I definitely think that working would cause a drop in my marks, not even just a slight drop because I feel like I would be so overwhelmed. Especially in the first year,” said Mahbub decisively as she fiddled with a yellow highlighter.

“Maybe next year because I’ll be more accustomed to the way things work, I’ll be better at managing both.

Life coach, Priya Ali, who works with people of varying age groups and paths of life has worked with clients who are trying to manage both work and school at the same time. Ali got her first job at age 13 in a library as a library page to make some extra spending money. After working many different jobs, she established her own personal and executive coaching practice in 2007.

“It’s [work] causing a lot of stress for kids because they’re not having the ability to just focus on school if they have to worry about paying the bills for school. It takes away from their academic performance and their experience of going through school” noted Ali thoughtfully.

Aurorita Mahbub, media information and technoculture student at Western University (Aria de Lima/RSJ)

“School is not all about academics, it’s about the whole social experience,” she added.

Ali suggests deep breathing and sometimes meditation for people who are dealing with stress and in some cases anxiety. She also says sometimes it’s helpful to take a second to focus on what it is you are trying to create for yourself. Additionally, focusing on what isn’t going right like being late or not being able to pay the bills is usually not helpful because it tends to cause people to get more agitated.

_ “School is not all about academics, it’s about the whole social experience”_

Lau spends most of her time studying, in class or at work but with the free time she does have she likes to take a little time for herself. Today her class was canceled and because her work didn’t know she was available she had a little free time in the afternoon.

“I like to go to the gym or hang out with friends or just have time for myself. When I just sit at home and watch Netflix I feel like people take that for granted. I can’t even sit down and watch a full episode because I have to do homework, I have to study, there is always something going on,” she said.

Although working while in school can take its toll, there are positive effects of taking on a  job while attending classes. It also plays an important part in obtaining a post-secondary education because it helps students make back the thousands of dollars they are spending on school.

“I think it gives a balance for when you come out of school. You’ve got to have time for whatever’s employing you and then whatever else you have going on in your life. I think too if its a job that compliments what you’re studying that helps to get some more experience but also keeps you in the workforce and keeps you current on what’s going on,” said Ali.

Lau works for a healthcare center where she spends time plating food and bringing it to patients. She said when you first start working it can be stressful but you get used to it. However, she admits that sometimes working with her co-workers can be a little frustrating.

These days of frustration sometimes leave her wondering why she is working there. Although she says that this isn’t her ideal job, it’s providing her with experience within her career field and money to pay for her tuition which she is paying for herself.

Infographic on the number of minimum wage hours needed to afford university tuition in Canada.