Work and Study: A Dilemma for University Students 

Photo from QLTS School

“One cannot get a job without having job experience. At the same time, one cannot have job experience without getting a job.” This is one of the many jokes or - sarcastically speaking - the dilemma with which many of the university and college students are dealing during their life at university or universities.  



University life is, perhaps, one of the most exciting, demanding, confusing and worrying part of the life of young adults. The transformation from the childish and playful life of a high school student to a more matured and more independent person in society usually occurs during life at universities. A transformation which bends and molds the mindset of young adults with realistic life lessons and more difficult life choices as well as confrontations. The inevitable stage of receiving and handling more responsibility.



Over the span of mostly four years, university students are tasked to have an in-depth look into their own major or skill, which will prepare them for the upcoming working life. However, one realistic issue that frequently bothers college students is that theory and practice do not come as a set. In many aspects of university life, university students usually receive the theoretical part of the study. The practical part, such as being involved in internships or part-time jobs, really depends on the students’ ability for creatively finding one and obtaining one as a way to gain work experiences, a precious investment for their upcoming career life journey.



However, it is itself a tradeoff, which may hold back some college students. The tradeoff between maintaining good grades in class while diverting some of the time to working. This tradeoff does vary greatly between students, their knowledge capacity, their background and their income. But one thing is sure. In this era of easily accessible knowledge through the help of the internet, theory alone can be a limitation. Yet, practice with the combination of theories can surely further reduce that limitation. 



Grades and work experiences, which one should be prioritized?



Due to the countless variables, finding a clear and direct answer is almost impossible. Both are nearly as equally important. Grades and work experiences compete with one another to occupy the time period of life at university. Without good grades, some scholarships might be unreachable. Without work experiences, applying for jobs can be a bit more challenging.



The advantage of prioritizing grades is that you are likely to obtain good academic skills in terms of education, manner, higher analytical thinking as well as the ability to understand an array of facts and knowledge in a broader spectrum. In return, good academic skills may offer you scholarships in the sense of financial aids or further and higher academic studies. Good grades may also position you among the outstanding students within and around your institutions. Socially, in a general terms, students with good grades are often viewed and regarded positively. Being able to be well-educated means that a person can become more polished in terms of social manners, lifestyle and critical thinking. Even though getting good grades and being well-educated do not always correlate entirely with one another, at least these two things usually complement each other.



Obtaining and maintaining good grades, especially in the demanding universities, require a lot of dedication. This type of dedication may pose a challenge for some students to be able to free enough time and energy for working. While the social demand is increasing, especially in this multi-skill era, good grades alone are not always enough.



In Cambodia, many university students try to involve themselves in various internship opportunities, which allow them to slowly be engaged in a work atmosphere. This engagement calibrates the university students to be accustomed to the social environment outside their schools. Being able to experience working from the early years of the university studies is generally a good sign to see. Working may expand students’ perspective on society and how society functions on a larger and more complex scale. Working encourages students to be even more responsible about themselves and others around them since this is where their income is generated. Generally speaking, unlike studying, working offers you a longer, enduring title and status inside society. For some university students, having the opportunity to work can be a huge excitement. Students with talents are often recruited by companies, institutions or organizations. For some students, in some circumstances when working can provide them a good amount of income and publicity through their talents, it can distract them from their study. In a sense, gaining work experience early on in life is a preferable thing. However, if a student invests too much time at their work to the point of not maintaining a good academic performance, the general outcome might be less beneficial when it comes to a future career. Academic study benefits the students with fundamental knowledge. This fundamental knowledge does help assist students in strengthening their work capacity. There are, of course, times when the importance of having a job outweighs the importance of maintaining good academic grades due to various income reasons.



Trying to balance out work and study has become a constant challenge among university students in Cambodia and perhaps in many other parts of the world as well. For simplicity sake, the optimization between work and study could be one of the safest path to walk on, which may guarantee more successes than failures. 



No hard decision is comprised of a clear and clean path. Every hard decision involves predictions, errors, compromises and pure luck. Saying one is always better than the other could be an unjust way to view the entire picture. All in all, striking a balance between these two would always offer an optimized result.


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