Cost of Living Series: UM student balances college and work


Ole Miss freshman, Jordan Parnell, excels in her studies, while also working two jobs. Photo by Angelica Pecha.

Angelica Pecha
Oxford Stories

College kids get a bad rep. These young adults are often criticized for partying, eating leftover pizza for breakfast, and for choosing a Comfort Colors T-shirt over a business suit.

While some of these descriptions may be true, the same critics forget how multi-dimensional the life of a college student is.

A study from The Huffington Post shows that, in addition to managing schoolwork, nearly four out of five college students “work part-time while studying for their degrees.”

With sky-rocketing college tuition, many students are forced to take out student loans. Around 44 million students have student loans, totaling $1.4 million in student loan debt, Student Loan Hero reports.

As soon as high school seniors become college students, they are expected to become independent and handle money while thriving academically.

Ole Miss freshman Jordan Parnell is financially and academically inventive. The Brandon native describes herself as “broke and exhausted.”

Parnell is a radiology major who dreams of being an ultrasound technician. This requires classes like anatomy, chemistry, physics and physiology. To fulfill her dreams, Parnell has become the ultimate working student, working two jobs.

On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Parnell works the register or makes milkshakes at Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she takes five back-to-back classes, or 15 hours. As if she is not busy enough, Parnell spends four hours a day making jewelry for her jewelry business.

Parnell began working at 16 so she could save for college. Since then, she has not taken a break. She works hard to pay her sorority dues, food, life essentials, phone bills, and gas to drive home on weekends. She also helps pay tuition, housing, loans and books. “I just get one big bill I just call ‘school,'” she laughed.

When she isn’t working at Five Guys Burgers and Fries or doing chemistry homework, she is making necklaces for her business, JP Jewls. Parnell makes necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings. Necklaces and bracelets are beaded, while rings and earrings are made of wire.

Parnell started making jewelry when she was a sophomore in high school. Jewelry ranges in price. Bracelets are $6 to $7, chokers are $15, and long wrap necklaces are $25.

When business is good, she makes a few hundred dollars a week. JP Jewls was especially popular during football season, as girls requested red and blue beaded jewelry.


JP Jewls sells a stack of 3 bracelets for $20 and one bracelet for $8. Photo by Angelica Pecha.

JP Jewls is another thing Parnell has included in her budget. Parnell buys beads and pendants at online wholesale stores and waits for good sales at Hobby Lobby to buy wires, pliers, tweezers, and other tools. Production costs around $5. Parnell puts in about 2.5 hours of work to make a long wrap necklace.


“It makes me feel accomplished when I see someone wearing one of my pieces,” said Parnell. Pictured white and gold arrowhead necklace ($20), paired with metallic black square choker ($15). Photo by Angelica Pecha.

It’s sometimes difficult managing work and school. “Classes at Ole Miss are not made for having a job at the same time,” she said. “This is a statement almost all college students can relate to. College kids are doing it all and receiving little credit for their strides.”

Although impressive, her balance of schoolwork and work has been detrimental to her sleeping habits. She does homework, projects, and studying at night after work. “I don’t get any sleep,” she said. “My sleep consists of short naps and a lot of coffee. I nap during the day and stay up all night.”


Photograph courtesy of Jordan Parnell, taken via Snapchat. The Brandon native takes all five of her classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Parnell is money savvy, something many college students are trying to learn. She said her mom is “money smart,” but she taught herself how to manage money.

Her secret? Keeping an organized planner.

Parnell has a planner she relies on religiously. She records her bills, what needs to be payed that week, and what must be payed that month. At the end of every week, she records how much money is in her account. Each page is full of sticky notes and highlighted marks.

“If it starts to look like I cannot pay my bills, I back off on what I spend that week,” she said.

Parnell shared a few of her favorite college spending hacks. What she says about money is simple: “Don’t spend it.”

Parnell recommends eating peanut butter sandwiches with white bread only costing $1. Taco Bell is another personal favorite. “You can get two tacos for $2 and some change,” she said.

Shopping in sales shops and thrift stores is another inventive way to save money. Parnell found her favorite shimmery champagne colored formal dress at a thrift store. Not only are the clothes one-of-a-kind, they are not too expensive.

In the next five years, Parnell hopes to pay off her student loans, be financially stable with a job making an everyday income, have a good credit score, and purchase a car without a car note.

She isn’t planning on slowing down any time soon. After graduation, she wants to live in Miami and work at hospital doing ultrasounds. She hopes her younger sister will live with her in the warm Florida sun, and said she will support her sister while she attends community college. Eventually, Parnell hopes to become a working mom with two kids.

Urban Dictionary defines “college kids” as people who, “spend(s) many of their days lounging around eating low level foods like ramen noodles and mac and cheese, and recovering from drinking binges.”

The reality is that many college students manage both a job and schoolwork. While some college students lounge their days away, Parnell takes care of herself financially, all while being a full-time college student.





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