Working During College: Four Keys to Success
Many college students have part-time jobs, but pairing work with school can be tricky. Finding a job that fits your life matters. So does setting clear boundaries and balancing your responsibilities. Here are four tips to help you navigate school and work as a freshman.
1. Weigh the costs and benefits of employment
Paychecks are a clear benefit of a part-time job. You can use your earnings for tuition, spending money, or a goal like studying abroad. Working during college can prepare you for success after graduation, too. Potential benefits include:
- Learning to manage your time wisely
- Enhancing your organizational skills
- Gaining experience for your résumé
- Making valuable contacts
However, working during freshman year isn’t for everyone. Carefully consider if you have the time, energy, and discipline for school and work. Ask yourself how comfortable you are saying no to others when you’re busy. Also gauge how much time you might need for the following:
- Going to class
- Studying effectively
- Spending time with friends and family
- Sleep, exercise, and meals
- Household duties such as laundry
- Other commitments such as trips and volunteer work
If you’re not ready for employment your first semester, all is not lost. Focus on your studies. Consider working during summer or winter break. Take paying gigs when your schedule allows it. Babysitting, mowing lawns, and distributing flyers are a few possibilities.
2. Consider your financial situation
First, determine how much money you need for college. If you need financial aid, apply as early as possible. Filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step. Then see if your financial aid package includes Federal Work-Study (FWS). FWS provides part-time jobs for students demonstrating financial need. Work-study opportunities may include:
- Selected jobs on or near campus
- Community service opportunities
- Work related to your field of study
If you don’t qualify for FWS, a part-time job may still be a smart decision. Make a plan for how you intend to use your earnings. Consider what else you want to get out of a job, too, from friends to skills.
3. Explore your options
There are lots of places to look for part-time jobs at your college. Here are some good places to start:
- Student employment offices: Each UW System school has one. Find student-friendly job openings on and off campus.
- Student unions: Many student unions have bulletin boards for job listings.
- Academic department offices: These offices often post ads for jobs related to specific areas of study. Some distribute newsletters containing this information.
- Campus and community newspapers: Search classified ads for possibilities.
4. Find a good fit
You don’t have to take the first job that comes along, tempting as it may be. Ask yourself these questions:
- Does the job fit my schedule? Consider the times you’d need to work, the location, and travel to and from work.
- Does it mesh with my personality? If you love talking to others, customer service might be a good match. If you prefer alone time, you might thrive at an office or library job.
- Will it help me meet my goals? This includes personal, professional, and financial goals. Look for jobs that build upon your strengths or teach you something new. You might even find a job that relates to a major that interests you.
- Will I enjoy what I’m doing? Liking your work can motivate you on the job and after you head home. Look for interesting tasks and friendly coworkers.