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Why Teenagers Should Graduate First Before Securing Full-time Jobs

Updated on August 28, 2019
Rhylee Suyom profile image

Rhylee Suyom has hopped in three different worlds: the academe, the corporate, and the media. He enjoys being with nature and his family.

Work, Sleep, and Schooling


Why Teenagers Should Graduate First Before Securing Full-time Jobs

Work can be defined in many ways depending on how one sees its true significance and purpose. Kahlil Gibran defines work as ‘love made visible’ or the opportunity to embody, share, implement, test, and do all that one knows (knowledge) so that these information, ideas, thoughts, or even inferences can become a reality useful to all men by doing these with love. Work, is also defined as the one thing people must do to earn payment, salary, wage, or remuneration so that he or she can pay for bills, save some, and perhaps enjoy what life has to offer. Most people view work as a combination of both definitions, but the problem lies in the question on when the right time is to have a legitimate work and under what conditions. For this purpose, this short paper is written to show the negative effects of having more than 20 hours of work per week before earning a college or university degree.

Scope and Impact of Working Long Hours for Education

In a 2015 article written by Chicago Tribune’s Gail MarksJarvis titled “Working during college doesn’t always pay, study says,” a few relevant pieces of information and findings were presented urging students and parents to promote student loan over working long hours to pay for school tuition and expenses. Georgetown University’s College Board data for school year 2014 – 2015 alone showed that the average costs are set at $46,300 for private colleges and $23,400 for home state colleges. However, the University director Anthony Carnevale declared that low-income students cannot pay for their college tuition by simply relying on their work. Carnevale continued that “earning $15,080 a year is below the poverty level and can't come near covering the annual costs of tuition, fees, housing, food and transportation.” He also mentioned that low-income Hispanic and African American students who are usually afraid of taking school loans suffer from not completing internship which would have helped them in securing better paying formal full-time jobs; and some even resort to dropping out. Carnevale showed that the problems are the types of jobs these students can take, the amount of money they can earn, and the amount of work time. All these constitute the work-and-schooling dilemma.

Using Georgetown University’s data, Carnevale found that “40 percent of undergraduates work at least 30 hours a week while also taking out loans to pay for college and that 85 percent of students who depend on their parents for financial support work at least part time.” A McDaniel College 2006 study revealed that “students who work less than 15 to 20 hours typically report higher grades in college than those who don't work.” With most jobs available for students belonging to food sales and services giving them a mere minimum-wage payment, the annual income of $15,080 will not be enough to cover the college expenses even for home state alone. Similarly, those who have 30 hours or more of work get “maxed out” and reach their limitations sadly often leading to dropping out of college.

In a previous report written in 2001 by Steven Greenhouse for the New York Times titled “Problems Seen for Teenagers Who Hold Jobs,” interviewees stated their challenges with a 30-hour week job while being a full-time student at a nearby college in Connecticut. One interviewee stated that working as a cashier at a supermarket eats up much of his time that “he does not have enough time to study for big tests.” Another interviewee mentioned that working in a New Jersey mall as a waitress “often hurts her grades and causes her to sleep through first period.” Supporting the McDaniel College 2006 findings show that “when teenagers work more than 20 hours a week, the work often leads to lower grades, higher alcohol use and too little time with their parents and families.” Data from studies conducted by the National Research Council, University of Minnesota, Temple University, and professors of Stanford University show similar negative effects when more the 20 hours of work as given to 16 and 17-year-olds. The conclusions state that working long hours often give students less or not enough time and energy to do homework(s) and to participate in “intellectual development gained from participating in school clubs and athletic teams.” The same group of studies claim that this age group of young working students often resort to copying their older co-worker’s alcohol drinking habit more than others in their age group. Temple University psychology professor Laurence Steinberg noted that he and other researchers have concluded that there is a significant decrease in academic performance and school activities engagement when students can have more than 20 hours of work. He said that the best allowable span of time would be 10 hours of work or less.

The effects of long hours of work and having less sleeping time have also been noted by teachers and parents. A teacher named Joan Tonto who participated in the studies conducted by the aforementioned universities recounted that one student-worker named Alicia that the latter is usually “tired when she comes into school, and by the sixth period she’s too tired to work on problems in class” yet when confronted about her case, she only retorted to saying that she is making a lot of money. With an alarming report of 70 teenage deaths involving work-related accidents attributed to little or poor supervision and training, federal regulations have now become stricter barring 12 and 13-year old from securing most jobs available for teenagers. 14 and 15-year old are also prohibited from having more than three hours of work and working after 7 p.m. on school days but allow the states to decide on restrictions for 16 and 17-year old. Parents support these regulations and claim that most kids who earn extra while studying often spend their money on cars, cosmetics, and nightlife which often take a toll on their grades. Although praising the positive effects of regulated work hours for her son Jason, Laura Stifel mentioned that any parent must stop their child from ever going to work once their work takes a toll on his or her grades. Parental oversight is what she sees as the best prevention for student-worker grade-related problems. The International Labor Organization’s recent study claims that 53 percent of 15 to 19-year old Americans work in any given week. With this high percentage of teenage workers, there is an alarming concern to help them focus more in college, securing internship, and graduating.

Health-Related Issues due to Work While Schooling

There are some health-related issues attributed to working while schooling. First of these is called sleep phase syndrome or the difficulty from falling asleep to trying to stay asleep. In a 2010 survey and study conducted by Dr. Leon C. Lack titled Delayed Sleep and Sleep Loss in University Students, the results show that 50 percent of the 211 freshmen psychology participants are sleep-deprived and have complained of experiencing sleep phase syndrome. The conclusion of the study also showed that students with delayed sleep have lower academic performance than others with enough sleep. The paper suggests that if the case goes unchecked, university students who have delayed sleep phase syndrome may have “chronic sleep loss and lowered academic performance.” Second, in a related 2012 research conducted by the Departments of Health and Nutrition in Brazil, the findings reveal that working college students usually have poor quality of diet. The six –month observation study showed that the 43 university students age 18 to 25-year old have “risk of poor quality of diet, with high intake of sodium and sugar and low consumption of fruits and whole grains. This poor quality of diet can result in an inadequate nutritional status that may increase the risk of obesity and chronic diseases” (Gorgulho, et. al., p. 5807). If students spend so much time working and studying that they do not have enough time for healthy meals, their health will surely cripple both their work and school performances. In fact, this is the possible danger related to the next literature.

In a 2017 article written by New York Times Meredith Kolodner, the first out of the six reasons students may not graduate on time is working overtime. Using answers from her interview with Seton Hall’s professor of higher education Robert Kelchen, Kolodner wrote that according to Prof. Kelchen “students who are worried about debt sometimes work more and then reduce their work course, but by working instead of studying, they may find it more difficult to graduate on time” She added that a pressing dilemma is observed in a study from Georgetown University Center in Education and the Workforce which revealed that only “45 percent of students who work for 25 hours per week are able to keep their grade-point averages above 3.0, however, the percentage goes down as the hours go up.” Sadly, hopeful students who think that they can beat the 45% result may still be at risk of job burnout according to a study conducted by Huang et. al. in 2000. The case which comprised of 225 working college student-participants wrote that “optimism and stress were significantly correlated with risk for job burnout. Moreover, path-analytic results indicated that optimism remained a strong predictor of risk for job burnout.” This therefore proves that working while schooling is a lose-lose situation. Even if the working students may get high grades, in the process of sacrificing sleep and rest, their health can be compromised. Similarly, the combination of mingling with older co-workers who have bad habits of drinking alcohol or spending money on cars can take a toll on students’ focus to graduate and schooling.


There is real danger in knowing that students should learn how to set their priorities and concentrate on the things which they believe matter most. Serving two masters is a biblical principle which extends beyond the spiritual realm but also in personal decisions such as earning a degree first or working while schooling. Suffice to say, student workers should remember that schoolwork is already legitimate formal work. Having work outside of schoolwork which may be viewed as the source for funding for school work may be a great idea but the measly income it can provide will never be enough to support the financial demands of college and university expenses. While others may argue about there are positive effects of having work while studying, it is safe to say that the data and findings of the chosen studies show that the negative effects outweigh the benefits. With more obvious reasons not to work but to concentrate on the academic requirements and other school demands, it is best that teenagers focus all their guns on a single target --- graduation.


Greenhouse, Steven. (2001). “Problems Seen for Teenagers Who Hold Jobs.” The New York Times.

Grogulho, Bartira. Et. al. (2012). “Quality of Diet of Working College Students.” Brazil: University of Sao Paulo. pp. 5806 – 5809.

Huang, Edward C, et al. (2000). “Optimism and Risk for Job Burnout among Working College Students: Stress as a Mediator.” NeuroImage, Academic Press,

Kolodner, Meredith. (2017). “6 Reasons You May Not Graduate on Time (and What to Do About It).” The New York Times, The New York Times,

Lack, L. (2010). Delayed Sleep and Sleep Loss in University Students. [Accessed 30 Nov. 2018].

MarksJarvis, G. (2015). Working during college doesn't always pay, study says. [Accessed 30 Nov. 2018].


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