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Chapter 5: Working in College


Many college students work on at least a part-time basis, and some hold down a full-time job while attending classes as well. Some need to work for financial reasons, and others choose to work for the experience or for extra spending money. If you are thinking about finding a job while you are enrolled in college, a closer look at some of the options available can be beneficial to you.

Benefits of Working in College

Working while you are enrolled in college courses offers substantial benefits that you could not enjoy without holding down a job. However, you should find the right job that works well with your college requirements. These are some of the many benefits of working while in college:

  • Improving Your Grades. Students who work while in college may be forced to be more diligent with their studies. Rather than putting off studying, writing papers and more until the last minute, they may need to allocate their time appropriately and focus more intently on getting things done. Because time is limited, they may develop more effective study habits as well.
  • Avoiding Debt. College is a time when many people fall heavily into debt. When you work in college, you have an additional source of income. This income could pay for your living expenses and even some college expenses, and this means that you may be able to borrow less money to get through your college years.
  • Generating Extra Income. The ability to earn money in college can also be used to help you enjoy a more comfortable lifestyle. Financial stress may be less of an issue.
  • Having Great Job Experiences. Regardless of the type of work that you do while in college, your work experience could help you land a job after graduation in different ways. In some cases, simply demonstrating that you can hold down a job and manage studies and work at the same time can place you on a higher level than applicants who did not work in college.
  • Establishing Professional Connections. Professional connections can be used as references when you apply for a job. They may also be valuable in various other ways throughout your career.
  • Learning Time Management Skills. College is a busy, stressful time even when you are not spending at least some of your free time working. When you are working, however, you must have exceptional time management skills if you are going to keep up with all of your responsibilities.
  • Accessing Employee Benefits. If you work enough hours regularly, you may qualify for employee benefits. This could be a great health insurance plan, a retirement plan or something else. Such benefits in college could help you to enjoy a better quality of life in different ways.

Finding Part-Time Jobs

If you have decided that you want to take advantage of the benefits associated with working while you are in college, you may be wondering what you can do to find the right position. Remember that any job that you apply for should have flexible hours to accommodate your class schedule and any other extracurricular activities that you participate in. As you search for a job, focus your attention on these points:

  • Location. When you work while in college, you will have much less flexibility in your schedule. You certainly do not want to spend unnecessary time commuting back and forth. Finding a job that is located close to campus or close to where you live off-campus can make it easier for you to manage your schedule.
  • Work Hours. Many jobs want you to commit to working mornings, afternoons or evenings on a regular basis. It may be easier for you to find a job if you can cluster all of your college classes at one time of the day and plan to work during another part of the day.
  • Compensation. Some jobs may be selected by college students simply because they have great financial compensation or benefits. Others may also provide experiences, networking opportunities or some other benefits.
  • Career Relevance. You do not necessarily have to find a position in the career field that you choose to pursue later in life, but it can benefit you after you graduate. If you are mostly interested in getting real-life work experience in your field, you could even consider interning rather than finding a permanent part-time or full-time position.
  • Previous Work Experience. You may have had a part-time job in high school that has given you substantial experience in a field. Using that experience may help you qualify for a better position with maximum compensation.

Many college students opt for similar part-time positions, usually in the areas of food service, office jobs, or those related to local businesses. Focus your attention on previous work experiences as well as future professional goals to narrow down your options.

Opting for an On-Campus Job

You do not necessarily have to venture off-campus to find a part-time job. Many colleges offer on-campus work opportunities for students. These jobs offer some level of flexibility for students, as employers are more understanding when it comes to your obligations to the school. You may also make develop great relationships with your fellow students, get to know your professors better and other members of your university as well. Also, when you work on campus, you may be able to reduce or eliminate your commute time altogether. However, keep in mind that many on-campus jobs do not pay well.

A few of the many on-campus jobs that you can choose to pursue are food service professionals, campus tour guides, residence assistants, library aides, computer lab aides and more.

Working Full Time

Working full-time hours is another possibility. Many college students do not work on a full-time basis unless they have a financial need to do so. For example, you may have a family to support while you are in school, or you may have not received enough financial aid to pay for all of your expenses while in school. There are also non-traditional students who have already entered the workforce. These are students who want to maintain their position at a company and need to go back to school to earn a diploma.

Working full-time while in school can be stressful and requires extremely excellent time management skills. These tips can help you with your efforts:

  • Consider Pursuing a Position Related to Your Job. If you have months or years of professional experience, it makes sense to take advantage of that when possible. Obtaining a degree in your field can help you to take your current career to the next level.
  • Be Realistic. Many full-time professionals are not able to manage a demanding full-time course load. Each semester, pay attention to how challenging each course may be for you, and plan your course load accordingly.
  • Organize Your Life. If you plan to be successful on both fronts of your life, you need to be well-organized. This includes everything from finding a way to manage your finances to staying up-to-date with course work and more. Organize as much as possible before a new semester begins, and use weekends to catch up or even to get ahead.
  • Build a Support Sytem. You can’t do everything on your own. Find a good roommate or lean on your family when it comes to sharing responsibilities for chores around the house or shopping for groceries. Remember to leave free time in your schedule to spend time with your loved ones.
  • Be Communicative. Your available work hours will change at least slightly from semester to semester. Always communicate your availability to your boss well ahead of time.

Choosing an Internship

If income is not your primary reason to work while in college, opting for an internship may be a smart idea. Some internships are paid, but many are not. Avoid making assumptions about compensation so that you are not unpleasantly surprised after you have accepted a position. Most internships only last for a semester, but some can extend for a full year. This is a question that you should always ask a potential employer up-front.

While any college student can look for internships, many companies only hire interns who are majoring in a relevant field of study. Some only hire juniors or seniors as interns, and others are more flexible in this area. Remember that the right internship can provide you with valuable work experience that you can include on your resume. You may also benefit from obtaining excellent professional references that you otherwise would not have access to. If you are planning to enter a very competitive field or industry, an internship is a smart idea.

Tips to Make Working in College Easier

Regardless of the type of work experience that you desire in college, you can follow a few tips to make this process easier for you:

  • Focus on Flexibility. Your primary focus may be on your studies. The best job for you to apply for will offer flexibility with regards to your courses and studying needs.
  • Compensation. Minimum wage jobs are common, but some college students may have previous work experiences as well as knowledge from previous courses that employers may find valuable. Avoid minimum wage jobs if possible.
  • Focus on Experience. While you may need to find a job that offers great compensation, it is best to find a job that also offers relevant work experience.
  • Balance Your Life. The ideal work schedule will allow you time to balance your work activities with school as well as your social life. The last thing you want is to spend so much time working and studying that you miss out on the full college experience.
  • Save Money. Unless you are living on a very tight budget, always set aside at least some money from each paycheck to pay for tuition and fees for the next semester.

Working in college offers substantial benefits, but can also be challenging in many ways. Use these tips to find the best job for your current and future needs. In the next chapter, we’ll cover strategies that can assist you in achieving top grades.