THE BLOG
09/23/2014 02:56 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Dear Professor, Some of Us Work 40 Hours a Week

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Or 42 to be exact.

I hesitated writing this piece because I personally roll my eyes when people complain, but the tension around my neck is too strong and my eyelids feel too heavy not to keep going.

I'm writing this with my neck in pain, after finishing an assignment I shouldn't have been doing at 1 a.m. the morning it was due. And it's not that I did it that late because I'm "such a procrastinator, lol." It's because you assigned it today, but I wasn't able to work on it until 10:30 p.m. or so.

And it's not that I worked on it at 10:30 p.m. because I was "at the beach all day, lolz." It's because I had just got done working a 12-hour workday.

I'm writing this in the hopes that you become more aware of the new American reality: nearly 20 percent of undergraduate students are working at least 35 hours a week, according to a 2011 report by the U.S. Census Bureau. And if you don't change your habits for a minority (because you won't), do it for the 71 percent of undergraduate students who are working at least 10 hours a week, which honestly isn't that bad, but still be mindful of them.

When you sent me that email at 6:23 p.m. on Tuesday night asking me to do some last-minute reading for a student presentation that was going on, I honestly got really pissed off.

That's what syllabi are for; to work as a scheduling map for students who have other things going on. It shouldn't be my fault that you forgot to assign that reading to us last week in class, but it ended up being my fault. I got five hours of sleep; I'm guessing you got more. You looked really happy and energetic in class today.

I'm not asking for pity or for you to assign less homework. That wouldn't be fair. You're a professor, I'm guessing, because you love to teach and help people develop skills, and I thank you for that. At the end of the day, this is college, where education comes first and you shouldn't have to reorganize your priorities because of two students in your class. All I'm asking is this: stop it with those emails.

Don't get me wrong. I love getting emails from you -- the ones where you share interesting articles, funny jokes and pictures -- just not the ones where you assign things less than 24 hours before they're due. I just don't have time to be as flexible with my education as other full-time students might be. To give you an idea, this is the way my schedule works.

I go to school 13.16 hours a week, work for 42 and, according to the standard credit-to-homework ratio, should be spending at least 13 hours a week on homework. Monday through Friday, I'm either working or going to class from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday is my homework day and Sundays I work but only four hours. I use the rest of the day to cook for the week, do laundry, and do the homework I didn't get to on Saturday.

And I'm not alone. Rachel Scott, a student at the University of Southern California majoring in broadcast and digital journalism, works at least 40 hours a week when you take into account what she does as a news writer for a local news station, a campus ambassador for Chipotle and as an executive producer for the campus news station.

"The biggest change that I've noticed is that I have to be a lot more organized," says Scott. "I have a lot less free time, and I have to really organize when things will get done. Google Calendar is my new best friend."

In other words, I don't have time (I'm really not exaggerating) for Saturday brunches, midnight runs to Jack in the Box or procrastination, really. I schedule my sleeping into my schedule, to make sure I get at least six hours of sleep a night. Ever since I started working this much a year ago, I've become hyper aware of my health, so that means making sure I get enough sleep and eat on a regular schedule. So why don't I just drop one job, you ask? Or maybe two?

Because college is really expensive and I like to eat. That's the other American reality: college tuition is increasing at a rate higher than inflation, and Americans love to eat. I only like to eat, not love it, so hopefully that saves me some money.

To be fair to you and self-critical, no one is forcing me to do this, not even the financial aid office (well, at least not directly). My financial aid package doesn't require me to do work-study, so if I work, it's because I chose to go out of my way to help out my parents and myself. And I won't quit any of my jobs because I've honestly worked too hard to get to where I am now. The day my grades start slipping or my health degrading is when I'll consider quitting, though my parents have made it clear they would like it to happen now.

So I ask you to help me help you. I'm currently working to save up enough money to pay for whatever my scholarships and loans won't cover next semester so that you can get paid.

Because I've spent the last 800 words complaining, I want to end this on a positive note. Not everyone can say, "Dear professor, I work 42 hours a week doing what I love to do."