Multiple jobs ... killer classes ... it's no sweat for some college students

By Amy KuperinskynnBeep.nn"Hey, it's Crystal and it's summertime so I'm incredibly hard to get a hold of."nFor Crystal Coombs, 22, of Cape May, September means it's time to take off for a few months and hit the books ... and change her voicemail. nn"I work two jobs during the summer so I can focus during the school year," said the senior anthropology major recently as she prepared to return to class at Richard Stockton College.nnFor Coombs, also president of Delta Delta Delta sorority, spending summer days as a hotel chambermaid and her nights working at a restaurant was worth it, because she knew she'd have the school year to recuperate.nnYet many students also sustain jobs throughout a full schedule of classes. Some do it for the money, others because they like to keep busy. Either way, balancing a couple of jobs and a full class schedule ignites a multitasking burn that sears each day, hour and 10-minute chunk of time into focus. nnCoombs said she was "lazy" this summer, pointing to the fiery drive of a fellow sorority member, Rhiannon Napoli: "She's in four places at one time." nBefore the semester started, Napoli, a 22-year-old communications major, went from paperwork and phones to Heineken, Grand Marnier and Dos Equis. Despite the college cliche, the transition reflects nothing on her capacity for consuming alcohol. Instead, Napoli worked both an office job and as a sort of hype-person for shots and cocktails. nn"I didn't anticipate needing to do that," said Napoli of the gig that had her dressing in a short skirt and T-shirt to sell shots in bars from Brick Township to Cape May. But the promotion work paid well and Napoli's the type that likes to be busy. nnIn her other job, which she's held for her five years as a student, Napoli works in Stockton's Office of Student Development. Though it doesn't pay as well, it's a career builder of sorts. The job also affords a steady and flexible source of income.nnNapoli anticipates pursuing a graduate degree in psychology, studying student organizational theory. nn"It does give you a lot of experience for grad school, since I want to work in a college setting," she said. nnPlus, when Napoli doesn't have many projects, she can do homework between answering phone calls. That is, unless the school has another job it suddenly needs filled. A few weeks ago, Napoli found herself dressing up in an Osprey mascot outfit to whip sports fans into a frenzy. nNapoli's past, non-avian roles have included working at Dante Hall Theatre of the Arts in Atlantic City, at Boardwalk Hall as a stagehand and for her parents' tie-dye business. Her work schedule during summers has always included two jobs.nn"Most of the time I've had three," said Napoli. nnDuring a semester, though, there are deadlines, both at work and in class - with many coinciding in what could appear to be a conspiracy of exams, papers, projects and group work. nn"Frequently the combination of trying to schedule work hours and trying to schedule the right courses at the right times leads to students' being forced to go to school an extra semester or two or more,"said Peter Vogt, Monster.com career coach and author of "Career Wisdom for College Students." In that light, it would seem that a heavier load doesn't pay off, regardless of bringing in the bucks. nn"Their grades often suffer as a result, as does their physical health and their psychological health," said Vogt. nnBoth Coombs and Napoli are fifth-year seniors. While the Stockton pair said they were able to stay afloat without getting too bogged down, Vogt noted that isn't true for every multitasking student-employee. Still, a moderate mix of work and study can prove beneficial, and often, more productive than an abundance of leisure time. nnVogt pointed to a 2006-2007 study published in the Journal of College Student Retention that focused on balancing work and academics. Results showed students who worked 10 to 19 hours per week performed better academically than students who work more than 19 hours or less than 10 hours, or not at all. nnSpecifically, on-campus jobs not only provide money, but also impose some real-world discipline while also allowing students to compile glowing references for any future employers in jobs or internships. nnNo one keeps track of how many students work multiple jobs. A 2000 study found that about half of all college students held some kind of job, with about a quarter working more than 35 hours or more per week.nnAt Rowan University, a cadre of public relations majors have spent a year organizing next month's conference for the Public Relations Student Society of America, all while holding down jobs in various campus offices. nn"They are supreme student multitaskers," said Barbara Baals, assistant director at the Rowan University Office of Media & Public Relations. "They know how to get things done." nAmy Ovsiew, 21, works in the Rowan Office of University Publications as a production assistant. She logs 12 hours per week during the semester and interned there during the summer after she totaled her car and was unable to commute to a Philadelphia internship.nn"I love it," the public relations major from Piscataway said. "It really gives me a chance to (work) in a professional environment." nnThe schedule is not always a smooth one, not when she's also trying to carry a 15-plus credit course loads. nn"There can be times, definitely, that I feel I can be under pressure," she said, but a campus boss is more likely to be understanding, even telling her, "'don't come in at all during finals,'"she said. "If I had a very strict job I probably wouldn't be able to work as much as I do."nEven with such less-than-real-world leniency in play, jobs like these provide strong links to careers, students said. nn"This whole experience means that I will be ready for the real world when I get out and I graduate," said Rosie Braude, 21, a senior public relations major and French minor from Dayton who works in the Office of University Events at Rowan. nnChristian Halpin, 19, of Marmora, Upper Township, is a freshman mechanical engineering major at Stockton. Before school started, he applied to work a light, two-week shift during the initial rush at the campus bookstore. Doing so netted him $200 at $7.15 an hour. But a schedule of 17 credits won't allow him much more free time beyond a possible tenure as an assistant community advisor there during the spring semester (which won't pay, only offer free housing). nn"The reason I'm quitting the job is because I have homework to do," said Halpin, keen on securing a transfer after two years to continue his studies at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.nDuring the summer, the Ocean City High School alum made about $3,000 working a at $9.50 an hour job at a T-shirt shop on the Ocean City boardwalk. All to save up for the school year. He'll do the same next summer.nn"What really helps is if you step back and prioritize," said Nicole Galvin, 21, of Jackson, one of the PRSSA conference organizers and a senior public relations major at Rowan University. A journalism minor, Galvin has worked for the university's Office of Alumni Relations since she was a freshman, event-planning, filing, working cash bars at events, answering phones or writing copy for reunion booklets. nnThe key is, if a task comes to mind, do it. Don't just write it down and reshuffle, she said. nn"Think, 'What is top priority, what's the closest deadline, really?'"nnStill, the best remedy to a full plate for some students is the best remedy in mostly any situation. nn"We are always laughing," said Braude. "While we have time to do a lot of work, there's time to have fun, too." nn"I think that's one of the great things about college," said Napoli. "Your social life and your work life are so blended that it doesn't always feel like work." nnTo e-mail Amy Kuperinsky at The Press:nAKuperinsky@pressofac.com

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Date Published: Saturday, September 15, 2007 - 13:48