Amelia Smith’s friends will often gather at her off-campus apartment on Sunday afternoons to hang out. She has to kick them out early, though — Smith has to go to sleep at 5:30 p.m. to prepare for her eight-hour overnight shift.
After a year of working as a student consultant at the TECH Center, Smith, a sophomore financial planning major, asked her manager if she could work the overnight shift: 11:30 p.m. to 8 a.m. Student workers are allowed to work one overnight shift per week, she said. Many student workers take the overnight shifts to make more money and catch up on their schoolwork during slower hours at work.
“My managers don’t want to make it difficult for students, and it’s also unfair to other students who want to work overnight shifts,” she said.
During overnight shifts, student workers make substantially more per hour than during day shifts. Because Smith can only work a maximum of 25 hours per week, she said working one overnight shift helps her cover her rent.
This semester, Smith enrolled in afternoon classes on Monday so she could get more sleep after her overnight shift.
Last semester, she had to take a 9 a.m. class — just one hour after her shift ended. Smith said she’s not usually a “caffeine person,” but under those circumstances, she brought coffee to work to keep her going through the morning.
“By the time maybe 3 [p.m.], I crashed from the caffeine,” she said. “Then I would walk to 7-Eleven to buy energy drinks so I could be up again. It was just a mess. It just made me sick.”
Smith’s main responsibilities at the TECH Center are managing break-out rooms and helping students with computer programs. Not many students study at night, she said, so she often spends her overnight shifts doing schoolwork, making it easier to balance her job and her academics.
In addition to work and school, Smith is involved with student organizations. She is one of the founders of Temple’s Student Alumni Association. As a business student, she often wants to attend student professional organization meetings and events, but she said most are held on Monday, when she has to work until 8 a.m.
Smith said working overnight affects her studies sometimes, but she still prefers it to working during the day. She doesn’t usually tell professors about her overnight work.
“I talk to the professors, but never blame it on the work,” she said. “I just say that I need extra help, because I don’t think [working overnight is] something that completely impairs you from focusing on school.”
Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a psychology professor, agrees that college students don’t have to discuss their personal lives with professors. But to be a good professor is to understand why students have trouble finishing their schoolwork and to help them succeed, she said.
“Recognize that [working overnight] is a limitation, and do your best to always be at your prime,” Hirsh-Pasek said. “You should look for jobs that do not impact your sleep. If you have no choice, do what you have to do.”
Despite the challenges that come with working overnight, Smith said she still wants to keep up with the job next year.
“I’m a strong college student,” she said. “I can do anything.”
Quang Do can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.