Challenges of a Working Student


Case Study Analysis: Challenges of a Working Student

This study will focus on obstacles a working student faces concerning the challenges to

achieve success academically at the university level. In the case of Miriam, certain obstacles are

illustrated to demonstrate her endeavor as she strives to reach her academic goals. The obstacles

include the pressures of succeeding academically and working to support her family. More

specifically, Miriam has revealed a concern with some major factors which include excelling

academically and the limitations concerning proper time management.

The Challenges of a Case Study

This case study details the challenges of a working student at the university level. The

purpose was to elucidate the different aspects of being a working student. Miriam was a nineteen

year old hispanic female. She comes from Central America and her family relocated to the Unit-

ed States five years ago. She is the eldest daughter in a family of seven. She struggles to maintain

a 3.0 grade point average. Mariam is in danger of losing her financial aid eligibility due to poor

academic performance. Many aspects of Miriam’s life impact her college performance.

These things include: working full time, family responsibilities and her academic performance.

This case study was a straight forward research involving face to face interviews with

Miriam and interviews with her family and instructors. Before Miriam’s initial interview an

evaluation of the available research was reviewed pertaining to this case. The first interview with

Miriam was just over an hour, addressing various topics including her relationship with her par-

ents, the expectations of her family, her academic struggles and the limitations concerning time

management and working full time.


During the initial interview, Mariam disclosed that she was struggling to maintain a bal-

ance between her academic responsibilities and working full time. A few days after the initial

interview with Miriam an interview took place with her parents and two of her instructors sepa-

rately. Miriam’s instructors shared information pertaining to their academic expectations. Miri-

am’s instructors expressed that she had a lot of potential and they expected her to become an as-

set to the university. They revealed that pressure on a low income student can be daunting at

times. After meeting with Miriam’s parents and instructors, a follow up interview took place with

Miriam pertaining to her own concerns and expectations, along with an assessment with possible

alternatives addressing her situation.

Research explains that some students who work full time find it difficult to balance acad-

emics and personal responsibilities. Some find themselves inadequately unprepared for academic

demands and expectations. Low income students who work full time tend to struggle more acad-

emically than student who do not have to work to sustain themselves to their families. Re-

searchers demonstrate that college students who work full time do not do as well academically as

non-working students and it may take them longer to graduate (Rishe, 2003).

Constraints Surrounding a Case Study

A case study is an efficient way to gather important data concerning a need to elucidate

certain social aspects. However case studies also have their limitations. Case studies give way for

certain biases and personal opinions to interfere with the case outcome. It is important to keep in

mind that each case study focuses on a particular situation or concern therefore making each case

different (Cronin, 2014). The data collection is an important element in a case study. The re-

searcher therefore has the responsibility to provide an honest unbiased assessment. This


transparency should evident to the reader. Although a case study is considered subjective is not

entirely unfavorable. It’s this subjectivity that makes the case study somewhat vibrant, rich with

detail and full of useful data (Marrelli, 2007).

Although researchers state that there is evidence that low income students that work full

time have a lower graduation rate than non-working students, the data does not explain whether

the act of working full time hurts or helps a student’s academic performance. There are several

unexplained factors. For example, some students may choose a major that is harder or easier in

curricula than other students. They may be admitted to the university with average SAT scores.

Students with language disadvantages may perform poorly in academics. However, this does not

clarify the whether working full time while being a student has a positive or negative effect on

the academics at the university level (Maarrelli, 2007).

Additional limitations of the case study are in correlation with the data collection.

Through an interview with Mariam, certain information may be withheld, such as: the role and

influence of her parents. Negative parental influence may not be as easy to address. The student’s

cultural traditions and beliefs vary depending on family background. A supportive and healthy

family background can be a positive influence. A weak family support system on the other hand

can be extremely detrimental to the academic success of a college student.

Critical Factors in the Case of Low Income

Critical factors in this case are associated with academic performance, time constraints do

to working full time and pressure from family expectations. Miriam disclosed in her interview

that she struggles with the undergraduate level academic responsibilities and coursework.


Researchers suggest that there was not enough support for students who work full time and who

struggle academically. According the U.S. Department of Education student advisors should pro-

vide additional support to students who work full time to keep them on track an on towards the

road to graduation (2014). Researchers suggest that universities should seek to improve the per-

formance of all students to improve graduation rates and time of completion. Others argue that

since the university generates so much money from students who take longer to graduate that

they should provide more support for their student in order to help them maintain their

eligibility for financial aid or for athletic participation. It is important to observe that most of the

responsibility for the student’s success in the classroom is their own individual responsibility.

The student has to honestly evaluate their priorities and develop self motivation skills.

One of the most important aspects that differentiate working students and non-working

students would be time availability. Comeaux & Harrison (2011) explain that, working students

have hurdles and challenges to overcome to perform at a level which brings them academic suc-

cess. According to Comeaux & Harrison (2011) working students spend roughly 40 hours a

week working full time. Students who do not work full time do not have to

spend as much time away from their academic responsibilities. Unlike working student, they

have the opportunity to spend more of their time focusing on homework and studying.

According to Gayles & Hu (2011), work related activities have affected the students

academics by requiring a great deal of time from them. Researchers suggest that some students

become too concerned with making money and don’t spend enough time on academics, therefore

not performing well in school. Although, some working student do well in academics since it is a


requirement for them to be passing a certain number of classes to be eligible to participate in


Gayles and Hu (2011) explained the fact that working students need to develop effective

skills to balance both working full time and academics otherwise, one will become more of a

priority than the other. Making their lives much more challenging than a student who does not

work because they don’t have to worry about paying their way through school for example.

Working full time requires a lot of time away from school thereby creating a constant tug of war.

Another contributing factor is the understandable need to participate in social activities (Miller &

Kerr, 2002). The student may often feel overwhelmed by school performance and family obliga-

tions. This makes it difficult as the student realizes that adequate academic preparation may be

lacking in their lives.

Description of the Theoretical Framework of the Case

This case utilized Grounded theory method. The emphasis of this method was to collect

data and integrate the information into broader areas or categories. The purpose of this method

was to search for the correlation between these categories therefore being able to understand the

issues and defining a treatment plan. The research that is being presented allows for generaliza-

tions that can later be applied to other situations. This allows for a statistical generalization from

samples to populations to be explored as a basis for a grounded theory (Mejia, 2010).

The pressure for student academic success is not lost on the fact that college education is big

business (Whirly, 2003). In the case of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s


academic progress requirements for students athletes it has become tougher and more challeng-

ing for a student athlete to stay eligible (Wolverton, 2008). As the interview with Miriam’s in-

structors revealed their expectations of Miriam to impact her own success lies within her abili-

ties. According to Watt & Moore (2001), it becomes problematic for working students to find an

efficient way to balance academics and full time employment. Parents tend to put a large amount

of pressure on student to help with familial responsibilities. With this added pressure, students

become less focused on academics and more focused on living up to their parent’s expectations

(Watt & Moore, 2001). A working student that has the burden of worrying about expectations

will not be able to focus on academics. Not only will they not be able to focus, but they may also

spend more time working to meet the parents expectations, which will also take time away from

academic performance.

Initial Needs Assessment

A needs assessment is a way to find gaps among current and the desired condition of a

situation. Case studies are important to move along the development and implementation of

performance interventions (Marrelli, 2007). In the current case, further research and

analysis should take place. In this case study, the two major issues that were addressed were

working students and the ability to complete post-secondary academic courses with success

and the other critical issue was time management.

There are several other factors that may contribute to a working students success in the college

milieu. These areas may include issues associated with family background, socioeconomic con-

ditions, the student’s lifestyle, and motivation. Although critical issues were explored, these fac-

tors in a combination with other factors may contribute to the reasons for a working student to


fall short of their goals. In conclusion, working students face many challenges, the point is to

identify and comprehend why these challenges are critical to an individual’s success. This case

illustrates critical issues that need to be addressed for future working students to




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