There’s nothing quite like college. It’s where you learn almost too much for your mind to hold, make lasting friends, and ultimately discover who you are. At least until you rediscover yourself in grad school or after your 30th birthday.
College is an unforgettable odyssey, where experiences are as plentifully diverse as the number of majors and minors offered. One thing is universal though, and that’s the cost. Many students face years of financial debt before even stepping onto campus for the first time. And that’s not even taking into account your basic living costs, not to mention the requisite frivolity.
This being the case, students often consider the option of picking up part time work. Student jobs abound on college campuses, college towns and cities tend to cater to that job market, and some schools even have comprehensive coop programs.
Working part time as a student can be very enriching, and it can also be distracting. There is an equal number of reasons to pick up part time work as there is to avoiding a student job altogether.
In this piece we look at the pros and cons of working part time as a student, and dig into how to make it work if you ultimately decide to take that part time leap.
Reasons to work part time
As said before, working part time in your student years can be a very enriching experience. First off, and this one’s a biggie, it’s a way of applying what you are learning on a theoretical basis. If you are studying in one of the science fields, the part time job you get may be in a lab, meaning you’ll get experience on top of your studies. Or if you are pursuing a humanities degree, you may get a job writing for or editing a small publication, or tutoring one of the skills from your major.
Getting a part time job will actually give you experience no matter which field the job is in. As you may not land a career right away that aligns with what you’ve studied, you will want to have built up your work ethic in general. Work experience is valuable regardless of where you get it, especially if you are open to the idea of exploring different professional perspectives.
What’s also valuable is building up your network prior to entering the workforce. Once you graduate, you will want contacts in your field, related fields, and even unrelated disciplines, so that it’s not just you and your degree against the world. A totally random student job might just give you the contact you need for your first job out of school before landing on your career.
Finally, the biggest and most brass tacks reason to work part time as a student is to make extra money. Working at a dining hall or a campus bookstore may not be your ticket out of four years worth of student debt, but it will make day to day student life more financially free. Being able to treat yourself once in a while to an artisanal coffee, non curricular book, concert, or even a semester abroad (if you clock in enough hours) will make your college years that much richer.
Reasons not to work part time
As much as working part time can be a positive addition to your college life, it can also be a detriment to an experience you really only get to cherish once. Remember, you only really get one shot to be an 18-22 year old undergrad, so you don’t want your memories of that time to be filled with work. That’s what the rest of your life is for.
Remember that one of the reasons you are spending vast sums of money and time on college is to immerse yourself in academia and cultivate knowledge among like minded peers. That, and to get excellent grades on these scholastic pursuits. Receiving top marks takes time and energy, and part time work eats into that. Part time work may make it less feasible to achieve academic excellence.
College is not only about graduating with the highest grades in your class. It’s also about making connections with people, and forging lifelong friendships, in a setting that is very uniquely fitting for such an endeavor. You should remember to make time to meet the people in your major, in your extracurriculars, and on your campus bus routes. College friendships are priceless, so when budgeting your time, remember the allotment suggested to find your people. It may be worth it to put people as your priority, as opposed to work.
Finding the balance
In reality, you shouldn’t have to make such a stark choice between working part time or not. For some students, it’s inevitable, and for others, it’s likely not needed, though the majority of students out there fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.
Possibly the best practice is to try to get 10-15 hours of work per week, maximum, so that you still have time to study, socialize, and have time to yourself. That amount of hours will give you a bit of financial freedom, and will probably not be such a detriment to your schedule.
It’s vital to find that balance as a student. You want to try out all sorts of new experiences, studies, jobs, and such, without burning out. So if you do have the time and bandwidth to take on a part time job, it will most likely be useful in some way. And if you don’t have time, don’t sweat it, as you will have the rest of your life to fill your resume with jobs. Enjoy college while you can!