On Working and Taking Classes
Aug 19, 2021 • very tired matt • ~ 2 minute read • 498 words
I’ve been doing a few new-student events and have been asked:
should I work full-time and take classes?
To be concise: if you can, don’t do it.
This summer, I’ve been taking three summer classes (over two summer sessions) while I’ve been working full-time at Adobe. Last year, I took two summer classes (over two summer sessions) while working full-time at Amazon. And, I’ve always been juggling a non-trivial amount of ACM work. This has lead to two very unenjoyable experiences.
First, let me knock some things out of the way. This is not at all required to graduate in time for a typical four-year undergraduate degree at UCLA; you can get through any major with no summer classes at all. I’m in a special case where I’m double-majoring, came in with few credits, and am taking (the upcoming) fall quarter “off”*.
From a worker bee-esque perspective, this never affected my work; I rarely did schoolwork during my “work hours”**, and when I did, I always made it up later. I still got my work done (and quite a bit more) at both Adobe and Amazon.
But, let me tell you, it was absolutely awful.
Of course, I suffered academically; not only in grades, but in my learning and enjoyment of the class. This has been particularly bad this summer. Two of the classes I’m taking (Physics 1B/1C) were not “designed” to be taken in summer. It is a suffocating workload.
There’s been obvious downstream effects. It’s negatively impacted my sleep, made me significantly more stressed, and has made me miss out on so much — including writing!
At the end of the day, this was a trade-off, and I wanted to have it all. I wanted to keep my double-major; I wanted to take fall “off”; I wanted to graduate on time. There are times where you realize where your limits are, and where you can’t push any harder. With where I’m at right now, I think I pushed a bit too hard.
It’s not worth it.
I’ve always struggled to answer the question, “what do you regret”. Recently, I’ve added quite a few answers to that list, and this is one of them.
If you’re thinking of doing it, please heed my advice and don’t. You won’t know it, but you’ll be happy you didn’t.
I’m a bit wary of sounding dramatic — each of these posts tend to be. But, given how common of a question this has been, I wanted to put it in writing while I’ve been going through it.
I also see that I’m speaking from a place of significant privilege. At the end of the day, this was a decision I could make, which is not the same for everyone.
*I’m working an internship in fall, and likely taking one class.
**I mean to discuss this sometime at length, but “work hours” is a bit of a poor descriptor for my time at Amazon.