I know many college students whose parents have given them the wonderful blessing of saying "college is your job" and providing them with the financial resources they need to solely focus on college. When they need money, they can ask their parents. Of course, their parents may not always oblige, but it's a blessing nonetheless. However, on the flip side of that, there are many college students who cannot rely on their parents to fund them while they get their degree, and for those of us in that situation, we work.
When it comes down to it, making enough money to pay your bills and buy yourself groceries ends up coming first most of the time, because...well...survival. This means that while other people are utilizing study groups, going out to eat together after class, and holing up in the library for days at a time, you're working. Whether it's going to work before classes or after, going in at early in the morning or getting off late at night, or spending the whole time at work on your feet, the extra time and effort that goes into being a working college student can be draining. Not to mention the feeling you get when you get your paycheck and watch it all disappear as you pay your bills for the month and buy essentials like groceries and toiletries. It makes it all seem like working so hard isn't worth it, especially when the work you do seems like it should merit much more compensation.
In terms of grades, it's much harder to maintain a good GPA when you're working. Many of us spend as much time at work or more than we spend in the classroom or studying. Time management can be a nightmare when you have to merge your school and work schedule seamlessly and leave time to do laundry, study, eat, shower, and commute. Thankfully, many students are able to find jobs that work around their school schedule, but even then things can come up that interfere with your carefully planned schedule. It's extremely hard to choose whether you're going to miss work or school when you have to do things like make a doctor's appointment; and even harder when you have no choice, when the event is scheduled by someone else. Sometimes we even have to choose to miss out a great scholastic opportunity or attending an important family event because missing that amount of work would completely ruin our budget for the month.
Although there are many pitfalls to working, there is a positive flip-side to all that hard work. When you walk into a job interview, and your resume shows four (or more) years of work experience, you'll likely be highly competitive against other applicants who may not have worked as much as you, or at all. Those who didn't have to work might have a high GPA, but it's likely that with a solid GPA and work experience you'll be more qualified. The skills and knowledge you gain through employment throughout college will make you a better candidate for jobs in the future, and if you look at it that way, it's just another part of your higher education, right?
Seriously though, working as a college student is hard, regardless of eventual payoff. The best part about working is the people you meet, whether it's customers or coworkers, and the networking you can do throughout those four years. Working means learning to be a part of a team, and the people you see everyday will hopefully become your friends, or you might even consider them to be as close as family. If you're lucky enough, that's what gets you through, and it may even make you miss your workplace once you leave.
All in all, I personally think college would have been completely different if I hadn't worked throughout. I have learned so many things from working while in college that are invaluable to me and will sick with me throughout my personal, academic, and corporate life. I know many others who feel the same, and although we all struggle, I know we will all be better for it in the end.