College is a big step for many people. For those students who attend college right out of high school, the jump from being at home to living on campus often means being responsible for meals, academics, and personal well-being. Those changes can be a lot to take on. Working while attending college can certainly help pay for things and can teach responsibility and life skills, but some students find that trying to balance college requirements and a job is just too much. Getting a job in college can be the right choice, but it isn’t always. Here are a few questions to ask yourself that can help you reach a decision about whether or not to work while in college.
1. Can you handle student loans?
Student loans can be completely overwhelming, and being unable or simply not wanting to pay for those loans is one reason that some students choose not to continue on to college. If you feel like you can succeed in college by taking out student loans and you are confident that after you graduate you will be able to repay the money, then you may not need a job while in college. However, if you do choose to get a job, you may be able to take out fewer loans, or avoid them completely. Working instead of taking out loans can be a smart way to set yourself up for a less stressful transition into your career after you graduate.
2. Do you need extra money for other things?
In addition to tuition and room and board, you will also have to pay for books, and you may want spending money for clothes and activities. Unless your parents are paying for all your bills, you will probably need a source of income. A part-time job can give you the extra discretionary funds that many college students want. Federal Work Study jobs can be a great choice — they can be fun and are usually right on campus.
On the other hand, depending on how much money you spend, you may be able to save enough for each school year simply by working over the summer, in which case a part-time job might unnecessarily take away from your other college activities.
3. Will a job help you in your career?
Even if you don’t need extra money, a job might help you prepare for your future career. If you are able to obtain a job that is in your field, doing so can help you learn about your chosen career and also build up your resume. You may meet important industry contacts as well, and this can be especially true if you complete an internship. Even if your job doesn’t directly relate to your future career, just having a part-time job will teach you valuable work and social skills that may put you ahead of other candidates when you apply for positions after college. Many employers would rather see unrelated work experience on your resume than no experience at all.
4. Is it feasible academically?
Even if you want to have extra spending cash, or you would prefer to work full-time (or part-time) and avoid student loans, you need to consider whether or not you can handle your classwork and your job. College is challenging, and some majors are more demanding than others. It can be a good idea to wait until you have completed at least your first semester before getting a job so that you know what time will be required in order to do well in school. It would be a poor financial choice and a waste of time to prioritize a job over school; the exception would be if you are returning to college and you already have a career and a full-time job.
According to University Language Services, there are many ways to balance work and school. Getting organized, prioritizing study time, and sleeping are three important ways.
5. Will you miss out if you work?
College is supposed to be an experience. Especially if you are living on campus, and you are starting classes right out of high school, it’s important to leave time to explore and to get to know yourself. While getting a job can be an important skill builder, you don’t have to run out and get one right away. Give yourself time to make friends, participate in clubs and activities, and discover if you are really heading down the right career path. You will most likely never experience a time like this again in your life: enjoy your freedom and your lack of obligations while you can.