To Work Or Not To Work During College

Should you juggle the demands of taking college classes and the demands of work? If your financial situation requires that you work in order to stay in school, then the decision is made for you. The experience you gain will follow you into adulthood and benefit you greatly. What if you don't have to work, should you? There is no clear-cut answer to that question, but there are a few things you should consider. Having a job, even if you don't “need” to work will increase cash flow. If you have to take out a student loan it could help reduce your college debt, even if it just covers the cost of those expensive books. The extra cash may be your “entertainment” fund, whether it's for going to Starbucks or going to a concert, you don't want to take out a high interest credit card to cover these costs. It can be a start towards saving for your post-college life. It will give you a sense of independence and teach you money management skills.

College life is very demanding. Scheduling classes, homework, study time, and extracurricular activities can keep you very busy. Adding a job to the mix only adds to the demand on your time. There is an upside to this. You learn the important skill of time management. You will find that the busier you are, the more you will have to adhere to a schedule and the more productive you will be. You will also find that too much free time can actually harm productivity. Once you leave college and enter the workforce you will have to meet deadlines. Future employers will recognize and appreciate that you acquired the ability to manage your time effectively.

If you can find a job in your field or a paid (or even an unpaid) internship it will serve multiple purposes. Besides showing off your time management skills, it will also give you a leg up on your competition. Many part time college jobs or internships can lead to full time work afterwards. Even if it doesn't, it will look great on your resume that you have some familiarity in your field. It is also a great way to network! One caveat here. Make sure there is a good work/life balance or else your grades may suffer. And remember, an important part of college is having the “college experience”.

With all these benefits, why wouldn't you work? Depending on your major you might have some semesters where your course work is too demanding, or you need to spend a lot of time in the lab. You may have added a second major or a minor to your degree program. Remember, being a student and doing well in class is your top priority. You may have the unique opportunity to assist in research. What an excellent way to enhance your resume, and this would look very good to future graduate schools. I had the opportunity one semester to assist in writing lecture notes and helping with office hours. This not only gave me an in-depth understanding of a complex topic, but also augmented both my writing and speaking skills, as well as time management skills.

Ultimately there is no right or wrong answer of whether you should work or not. It depends on who you are, what you are studying and what else you are involved in. A student athlete will most likely not have the time, as well as a peer mentor or resident dorm supervisor. You may be involved in school clubs, the symphony orchestra, Greek life or community service for example. Every student is different, with different experiences, expectations, strengths, and stress tolerances. Only you can decide what is right for you.


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