This is “Making Money”, section 11.2 from the book Success in College (v. 1.0).
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Most college students work while in school. Whether you work summers only or part time or full time all year, work can have both benefits and drawbacks. The difference may result as much from the type of job you work as from the number of hours you work.
In addition to helping pay the bills, a job or internship while in school has other benefits:
Work or internship experience related to your future career has significant value. Not all students can find such opportunities in their community, however. But even a job or volunteering outside your field can have value and say something about you to future employers. Your job may demonstrate that you have initiative, are responsible, are a team player or can work independently, and can take on financial responsibility. Potential future employers will check your work references. Having an employer from your college years say you did a good job, were always on time to work, and were honest and responsible in doing your job definitely gives you an advantage over students who graduate without having worked at all.
At the same time, some jobs contribute more to your overall college experience. Remember, you’re in college for an education and to gain a wide range of skills—not just for the degree. The best student jobs help you engage more deeply in the college experience, while the wrong kind of job gets in the way of that experience. Here are some factors to consider as you look for a job:
These factors can make a job ideal for college students, but in the real world many students will have to work less-than-ideal jobs. Working at a fast food restaurant or overnight shipping company may not seem very glamorous or offer the benefits described previously, but it may be the only job available at present. Don’t despair—things can always change. Make the money you need to get by in college but don’t become complacent and stop looking for more meaningful work. Keep your eyes and ears open for other possibilities. Visit the campus student employment office frequently (or check online) for new postings. Talk to other students.
At the same time, even with a dull job, do your best and keep a good attitude. Remember that your boss or supervisor may someday be a work reference who can help (or hurt) your chances of getting a job you really want.
The number of hours college students work per week varies considerably, from five to ten hours a week to full time and everywhere in between. Before deciding how much you need to work, first make a detailed budget as described later. Your goal should be to make as much as you need, and hopefully a little more to save, but first you need to know your true need. Remember your goals in college and stay focused on your education. Cut back on your optional spending so that you don’t have to work so many hours that your studies are impacted.
Start at your campus financial aid office or student employment office. If they don’t have anything right for you at first, check back frequently for new job postings.
For off-campus jobs, check the classified ads in your local newspaper and CraigslistA free online listing of classified ads, organized by city, useful for job searches; access through Craigslist.org.. Many jobs are never advertised, however, so ask friends, family members, and other students. Visit appropriate companies in your area and ask if they have openings.
If you applied for financial aid when you applied to your college, you probably already know whether you qualify for a work study program. Often these jobs are ideal because they are designed for students. If your financial circumstances change, be sure to check in with the financial aid office because your eligibility may have changed.
Many government agencies also have summer jobs or internships for college students. This work may be an ideal way to gain experience related to your chosen field. (See “Additional Resources” below for more information.)
If you have energy and initiative, you can create your own work. While it may take some time to get started, flexibility and being your own boss can make up for this drawback. Students often make money in ways like these:
Campus jobs and work study. Check with your campus student employment or financial aid office.
Student Opportunities at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). See http://www.epa.gov/careers/stuopp.html.
Student Opportunities at the U.S. Department of Defense. See http://hrd.whs.mil/page.cfm?info=20.
Student Opportunities at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. See http://career.psc.gov/studentopps.taf?_Title=Student.
Student Opportunities at the National Science Foundation. See http://www.nsf.gov/about/career_opps/careers/student.jsp.
Student Internships at the State Department. See http://careers.state.gov/students/programs.html#SIP.
A growing percentage of students are working full time when they return to school, and many continue in the same jobs. If you’re in this situation, you know that balancing work and college is one of the most difficult things you’ve ever done. You’re used to working—but not used to finding time for class and studying at the same time. You likely feel harried and frustrated at times, and you may even start to wonder if you’re cut out for college. The time may come when you start thinking about dropping classes or leaving college altogether. It may be hard to stay motivated.
If you start feeling this way, focus on your big goals and don’t let the day-to-day time stresses get you down. As difficult as it may be, try to keep your priorities, and remember that while you face temporary difficulties now, a college degree is forever.
If you ever feel the temptation to quit, see your college counselor to explore all your options. Resources may be available that you don’t know about.
What are the primary benefits of a student job on campus? (List as many as you can.)
Considering your abilities and interests, what would be your ideal job while a college student?