Throughout college I worked many different jobs, from internships to part-time jobs, to pay for part of my college costs. I was also on my school’s gymnastics team. My friends joked that I hardly had time to sleep and they were right. Even though I worked often, I graduated with honors. Still, I can’t help but wonder if my grades may have been even higher if I had only focused on studying.
Should studying be a student’s only job in college?
Here is my list of the pros and cons of working during college.
Less College Debt – Working several jobs in college, in addition to living at home, helped me reduce the cost of college. I graduated debt free, while my boyfriend is now paying back six figures of college debt!
Learn Responsibility and Money Management – I have to admit that I never really understood the true value of a dollar before I began spending my own hard earned money. Even though my parents had always given me a monthly allowance it wasn’t until I worked over 20 hours to buy a new pair of $200 jeans that it really sank in how much these luxuries truly cost. While I occasionally still splurge on my favorite items, I’m definitely more money conscious than I used to be.
Work Ethic – My teachers saw me running around working on a thousand different projects. My teacher once told me that college would be the busiest time of my life and one day having just one job would be a breeze. I was always busy and I still am. I constantly take on projects and whatever task is handed my way. While my college years were definitely busy and intense, I learned how to push through and complete tasks. Being driven and hard working will never be seen as a fault.
Work Experience – I was able to leave college with a ton of relevant work experience, but it took a lot of work. I had completed five internships that were related to work in my field when I graduated from college. Once I had worked a few unpaid internships I was able to find paid internship opportunities. My last internship at school eventually led to my current position at BargainBabe.com!
Less Study Time – Between work and completing assignments, it’s hard to keep up with readings and studying. At least for me, it became about getting work done on time and focusing less on going over new material. Running from class to work also made study groups a little more difficult to attend.
Less Focus – When you’ve been working all day and have a class from 7-9 at night it can be difficult to stay awake, especially if you woke up at 6 a.m. to put the finishing touches on a paper. There were definitely times during college where I found myself dosing off in class because I’d been up late finishing homework or going over class materials. This means that occasionally you don’t get the true value of the lecture even though you’ve made the effort to attend.
Miss Social Events – I know that college is supposed to be about learning, but it can be difficult to stay in and miss out on social events. These events are also a large part of college and while they are not top-priority, they are why so many students talk of wishing they were back in college. No one misses long days of finals and studying but everyone misses being able to see friends every day and have fun! Not having off-time can be a definite fun killer so students need to consider whether they are willing to miss these events because otherwise grades could suffer.
Lower GPA – As I’ve mentioned before work can take away from study time and this can effect your GPA. The same way rushing to finish an assignment before work or in-between work and class won’t be your best work. Getting used to a hectic schedule can take time so if you’re working taking a lighter course load may be something to consider.
Harder Time Finding a Job? When applying to graduate schools and top internships, GPA and class standing are important. How often is work experience considered, especially if outside the field? This point is debatable; work experience makes you a better job candidate in many cases.
Do you think students should work during college to lower school debt?
Mark Cash says
I’m firmly in favour of working whilst studying. There’s an old saying “If you want a job done, ask a busy person.” In other words those with lots of work on are often better organised and more productive because they have to be. I valued working whilst studying and it taught me a lot about managing money, something which has been useful for my adult life. I do think though that there has to be a balance between working and studying.
I’ve worked part-time at school while working on my degree so that I would have extra spending money. While working teaches you about managing money and appreciating buying power, you also learn time management because you have little time to procrastinate and have to prioritize your life. You will need to budget some social time to avoid burnout.
You will graduate with life skills that many new graduates will not have and work history that puts you ahead of the other graduates when it comes to finding a job.
So agree that working while in college is definitely a good idea, as long as you are working for an on-campus employer or an employee who understands that classes and assignments ALWAYS trump work (a friend’s kid worked retail and, without fail, she was scheduled for extra hours during midterms and finals and her grades suffered for it). My son is holding down THREE on-campus jobs which are all skill-based (he doesn’t qualify for work study, go figure), has one of the highest GPAs in his class, and is involved in a LOT of campus organizations. Yes, he does collapse when he gets home on break, but because he is so drive, he snagged a plum internship for his study abroad semester, and all of the faculty consider him the go-to guy for important tasks (he even interviewed applicants for a professorship).
I think he is able to do this because he is very driven and he doesn’t date, although he has many female friends. He is considering a religious vocation. He has many times stated that svoidung the drama around young adult relationships has given him time to do what he needs to do
It’s up to the individual and there are pros and cons to both. I did work during college, but it was 1-2 times a week and I did freelance work on the side. I never let it interfere with my social life or other things and I’m glad I went that route. The experiences I got working were very valuable and helped me further myself as a future teacher.
Gwen H. says
I believe that all students should work but the amount and type of work would have to depend on the individual.
I second that sentiment!
Internships that build skill sets are the ideal working situation, but they frequently don’t pay. I will say that my oldest really benefited from internships. Her time in retail and restaurants increased her money management experience, but her GPA definitely suffered.
Lisa E. @ Lisa Vs. The Loans says
Personally, I worked part-time while being a full-time student. If anything, doing so has helped me a lot in terms of time management and priorities. You can try and learn all you want in a classroom setting, but actually living a busy lifestyle will be a much better way to learn!
Bargain Babe says
I worked all through college, though only part time, maybe 10 hours a week or less sometimes. It gave me a valuable insight to the value of my education – I barely earned anything compared to how big the tuition bills were! And it also taught me an incredibly valuable life skill – time management. Some college students may truly be too busy – those with additional family responsibilities, those with an extended commute, those doing a double or tripple major – but my guess is most college students could squeeze in 5-10 hours week doing paid work if they had to.