I would like to address a stereotype that I have encountered since I was 17 years old. There are people in my life that never pursued a higher education, which has worked out perfectly well for them and is something I would advise incoming college freshmen to consider, especially if they’re not sure what they want to do.
But there are also myriad people in my life that not only have received their bachelors, but are working on masters degrees or medical degrees. These people are full-time students, taking several classes at once, and they are also full-time workers.
I would like to address the stereotype that a full-time student is not the same as a full-time paid worker.
First off, let’s look at hours spent doing schoolwork. We can use my courseload as an example, even though I am on the lower end of the full-time student spectrum. I took four 3-credit courses this semester. I spend 44 hours per week doing regular studying and going to classes. The mathematical breakdown is below. You can check with my librarian as to how many hours I spend here, she knows me by name.
10 hours in class per week
Patho: 2.5 hours (Tuesday, 1-3:30)
A&P: 2.5 hours (Thursday, 1-3:30)
Micro: 2.5 hours (Monday, Wednesday, 1:15-2:30)
Holistic Health: 2.5 hours (Wednesday, 9-11:30)
34 hours spent studying per week (Rounded down to nearest hour)
Patho: 12 hours
A&P: 10 hours
Micro: 8 hours
Holistic Health: 4 hours
Hours spent commuting per week: 6.5 hours
Monday: 2.25 hours
Tuesday: 30 minutes
Wednesday: 2.75 hours
Thursday: 30 minutes
Friday: 30 minutes
In terms of time spent academically and traveling, I am working more and traveling nearly as much as I was when I was working full-time. The above reflects a typical week at school for me, and doesn’t include when I’m studying for exams. Of which I had 9 this semester, so you can add at least 6 or 7 hours of studying for each exam, but I would estimate that’s conservative.
Additionally, when you’re a full-time student, people assume you’re available as long as you’re not in class. This just isn’t the case. I study from about 8AM until 4PM every day. It is a full-time job. I “take a break” to go to class and learn more. Then I go home, get my son, get dinner ready, complete all domestic chores with the help of my terrific partner, get Will to bed, either fall asleep or study more. The only difference is that I’m not getting paid.
And if I was to take less time to study, as many have suggested, I would not succeed in my classes at a level which medical schools would be interested in me. And I want to master the material. So, studying half the amount of time that I do would result in half the quality of my work, knowledgebase, and grades.
And on top of all that, this is not easy material. It would be one thing to be taking intro classes that aren’t furthering my professional knowledge, but these are mid- and high-level science classes that actually require a ton of work to master.
Secondly, even though I am not making money (besides a part-time job), I am making an equitable contribution to society compared to people who work paid full-time jobs. No, I am not paying into the public fund, and I can’t wait to do that, but I am making other marks. First off, I am going to be a healthcare provider for the public. I plan on one day giving back to the community in the form of contributing to public and individual health, education, and the existing body of scientific work regarding medicine that is available. That might sound like small shakes right now, but in seven years it’s going to mean the difference between saving lives and not saving lives.
On top of that, on a micro scale, William sees Mom and Scott working very hard but in two different ways. Scotty goes to work, Mom goes to school, they both are contributing equally to the family, but in different ways. It shows William that schoolwork and studying is important, because even if he never goes to college, it is still important to know how to A) LEARN! and B) pursue one’s dreams.
Thirdly, there’s a somewhat altruistic part of going to school full-time as opposed to working full-time. While I would love to be making a ton of money right now, I know it takes baby steps to get where I want to be. And there is literally no incentive for me to be doing this other than my own drive to succeed. This is not a free ride. I am taking out minimal loans, I do not go out and party or even hang out with other students outside of school, I still have a ton of bills to pay, I have a car loan, I have daycare and the costs of raising a child, we still have things we need to pay for. I am not sitting on a mountain of cash.
As an adult student, I get funny looks from many other adults in my family and life when they see me going back to school as an undergraduate, (Especially after being accepted to a Masters program in Climate Science and not going…) They don’t understand why I would not be working full-time and making $15/hour doing something that is soul-sucking and not even close to what I am capable of doing. But some adults, the ones who wished they had done what I am doing, understand. They understand that to reach a very lofty goal, one must make sacrifices and endure the criticism of others.
And that’s where I am at. Yeah, I’m going to get three weeks off for the holidays. But I don’t get any vacation days, I don’t get sick days, and I don’t get personal days during school. I am going to school full-time this summer, and so after this break, I am not going to have another break until next holiday season, (Except spring break, where I will spend 40 hours working at the hospital on my volunteer duties.)
So I understand that I am not making $40k right now, and that I am putting myself further into debt and (in the words of my father) “wasting the most important 10 years of saving of my life,” but…
In ten years, I am going to be a doctor, and I will figure out the student loans in the same way that I figured the out the last time. I will have a beautiful family, a supportive husband, and a career which fulfills not only my intellect, but also my soul.
Cheers. My last final is in four hours. Ooh rah.