College coursework is a student’s primary job. However, many students find it helpful (or necessary) to work while attending college. With the cost of education rising alongside the cost of living, holding down a job while in school is increasingly common among today’s college students.
Some parents are concerned about a job negatively affecting academic success. They don’t want their child burdened with job stress on top of school stress. However, experts say there can be many benefits—aside from income—of holding down a job:
- Broadening connections on campus and in the community
- Developing new skill sets and gaining practical job experience
- Establishing efficient time management techniques
- Expanding a resume and becoming more attractive to future employers
- Building character and work ethic
- Fostering ownership of education by contributing financially
- Making friends
Dr. Laura Perna is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “Understanding the Working College Student: New Research and Its Implications for Policy and Practice.” Her research shows that for students with good time management, working a modest number of hours per week (six to ten) won’t sabotage a student’s academic performance. In fact, some research shows students do slightly better in school when they work. As the saying goes, “busy people get more done.”
To learn more about jobs and college students, I went straight to the source—college students themselves—and asked for their opinions on working while in school. Below are two essays, written by two of our hard-working Radi to Write interns, that offer valuable advice to students (and their parents) as they consider taking on a job in college.
Say “YES” to a Job by Brooke Stier
Scholarships or not, college is expensive. So I jumped at any job opportunities that came my way throughout my four years at CSBSJU. I started off having one job, that grew to two, and that quickly grew to four. Trust me, this is definitely not something to brag about – having four jobs is not for everyone, and it is not something I’d ever recommend. I often find myself overwhelmed with the amount of time commitment I have to give each job, on top of my regular course load, finding time to sleep and study, and trying to have a social life. However, even with all of that said, I absolutely would recommend students to have a job during college. Here are a few reasons why:
MONEY. Hard earned money which can be used to pay tuition, books, groceries, gas, nights out with friends, you name it.
Connections. I cannot tell you how many friends and new people I have met just based on the job that I had on-campus. And it was not necessarily my coworkers but it was also the interactions I had with other students while I was working.
Time Management. Having a job forces you to become organized with yourself. You will need to learn how to multi-task, set certain hours aside to do homework, plan a couple hours a week for hobbies and friends.
Appreciation. Having a job will make you learn to appreciate all that your parents did for you growing up (and probably still do for you). You are making your own money now and you will have to be smart about what you spend it on, how much of your check gets allocated to loans or gas or weekends away with friends.
Although I am biased toward having a job while in school,
I understand this is not for everyone. I do not think everyone needs to have a job.
There are various reasons why one might choose to not have a job such as:
Financial means. Perhaps you are fortunate with great scholarships, or your parents have enough to support you through college, or you saved up enough yourself working in high school.
No time in your schedule. Maybe you have too many other commitments, or you are holding a heavy course load.
Not interested. Maybe you just have zero interest in having a job while in school, and that is fine. Although if this is the case, I would just ask that you think about the opportunities you could be getting. Yeah, maybe working for your school’s dining services does not seem super glamorous, but think about the possibilities for being promoted to a Student Manager, or the friends you could make, or even just being able to put some work experience on your resume.
So now after all of that, if you are thinking about having a job while in school, consider my 3-step approach to ensuring your best possible job.
1. Be realistic. Take some time to sit down and think how many hours a week you might need to study and do homework. But also factor in time to attend sports practices, or go to the gym, or attend club meetings, etc.
2. Think outside of the box. Every college is going to have many jobs listed at the start of each school year, but it is okay to look elsewhere. If you have a way of transportation, look into nearby off-campus jobs whether you’ll be a barista, librarian, or retail associate. But also think about jobs where you could grow. Join a club on campus. Sure being a member is not necessarily a job, but maybe within the next year or so you will be promoted to have an executive position in the club – and that’s a job in itself. Trust me, speaking from experience, having an executive role in a club can sometimes require the hours of a part-time job.
3. Be honest with yourself. So let us say you already found a job. But now you are realizing you either signed on for way too many hours or you need way more hours. Don’t be afraid to talk to your boss and tell them you need some extra time this week to study and you will make up for it the following week. Or ask them for more hours and show them your commitment. If you are finding yourself always tired, or your grades are dropping, or you are not in good health, or even if it is because you do not have enough time to spend with friends – that is okay, just be honest with yourself. Be honest with yourself and then be honest with your boss about your needs and concerns.
5 Tips for the Working Student by Sabrina Schultz
When I first envisioned going to college, I didn’t think much about what it would be like to have a job in college. I figured it would be just like having a job in high school, or much like my job during the summer. After my first week of school, however, I learned how wrong I was.
My first lesson came about three weeks into my semester when I was swamped with homework and struggling to make it to work on time due to my lack of sleep. It wasn’t until this time that I recognized how different having a job in high school is to having one in college. In high school, everything is already set up for you. There is not as much room for freedom and you’re most likely just working this job to save up for school or for fun money. When you get to college, however, things change and you suddenly must balance more school work, new friendships, jobs, sports, clubs, plus you must budget for tuition and fun activities.
Fast forward four years, and now as a senior I am balancing three jobs, finding a full-time job for after college, looking for apartments, being involved with clubs and spending time with my friends. What I have learned in my four years of college is that it never really gets easier to budget your time, but it does get easier to prioritize.
Here are five things that I would suggest every college student who has a job do:
1. Pick a job you enjoy
Finding a job you enjoy is not always the easiest when in college, especially if you do not have a car. However, if you can pick your employment pick something you enjoy to do. This will make you want to go to work and provide less stress to your day.
2. Make a budget for yourself every month
Having a budget for yourself lets you know how much money you need to make and how many hours of work you absolutely must work. Coming up short on money is one of the worst things to deal with in college, so learning this lesson early on will help.
3. Learn to prioritize and say no
Learning to prioritize and say no are two things that all college kids struggle with. We always want to be able to do everything. The earlier you learn to prioritize the things that matter most to you the easier it will be for you in the long run.
4. Get a good night’s sleep
This is easier said than done, but getting sleep can make all the difference on how productive your days will be. You will need all of the sleep you can get after a hard day’s work when you still have homework to do.
5. Make time for fun
Although I believe having a job in college is important, and in some cases essential, it is also important to make time for fun. Making time for social activities will allow you to make more friends and will serve as good stress reliever when your job and homework get to be too much.