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The Benefits of Working a Job While in College

By Jennifer Thayer.

Going to school and working at the same time is not easy. Make no mistake, doing well in college will demand your attention, persistence, and commitment. If it's worth it should be self-evident though. After all, doing well in college can set you down a path that leads to prosperity and success, so it certainly deserves your attention. But there is one not-so-minor fact of life that is equally deserving of your attention, and which makes having a job while in college job make sense: College is expensive.

The cost of tuition and books can quickly add up. Even if you enjoy a fully paid scholarship, there are such things as rent, food, living expenses, and fraternization with friends to contend with. All of these things cost money. For this reason, considering a college job is not only a good idea, for many of today's college students, it's a given. Good news, however, as working a job while in college is not only possible, it can be hugely beneficial. Let's take a look at reasons you may want to put in your application soon:


Let's get this one out of the way. Having a job in college provides you with an income. The benefits don't get more obvious or practical than that. Having even the smallest degree of financial independence while in college can mean the difference between enjoying yourself, forming lasting memories, and progressing through school relatively stress-free, and being utterly destitute and anxiety-ridden for four straight years.

Whether you work part-time at a local retailer or dining establishment (don't scoff at busboys and waiters; it's hard work and an honest living), get a part-time job on campus, or work as a freelancer in a field you're particularly adept at, the income that you make can allow you to go out with friends, eat food that isn't prepared in the school cafeteria, fly back home for holidays, or go on Spring Break vacation with your best friends. It also has practical benefits, like enabling you to pay your car insurance and phone bills.

Reduce Your College Debt

Remember, any college loans that you take on during your schooling will have to be paid back, with interest. The less you have to borrow the better. If you do work a college job, don't make the mistake that so many college students do. It may be tempting to spend it all on frivolous things and rack up further credit card debt, but don't.

Carefully determine what your monthly financial obligations are then compare this number with your average monthly income. If you're able to, set aside a set amount per month for school expenses. Whether you can pay for part of your tuition or cover your other school expenses in cash, these efforts will help reduce your college debt over time.

Develop Leadership Skills

The easiest way to develop leadership skills is to actually test yourself in real working environments. You may think that a college job wouldn't provide many opportunities for such development, but that's not true. No matter the field or the type of work that you pursue, there will likely be room for growth... a means of climbing some sort of "corporate ladder." If this applies to your job, take advantage of it.

Demonstrating to future employers that you took responsibility, led a team of peers and co-workers, and proved to your employers that you were capable of doing so can help tremendously when the time comes to enter your chosen professional field. Whether you are a shift manager, assistant manager, or merely take the reins on projects and spearhead them from start to finish, it can be incredibly beneficial, not only for your personal skills, but your resume as well.

Develop Time Management Skills

Of course, future employers will also want an employee who is good with his or her time. Many college graduates fall into the trap of assuming they are owed a position merely by virtue of having a college degree. But it pays to approach the issue from the perspective of the employer. What can you offer that will justify your expense (which not only includes your salary, but health care costs, benefits, training, and other miscellaneous costs)? Being good with time management certainly helps.

Many college students don't get their first job until college. If this describes you, then a college job makes even more sense, as the differences between school and work are many. A job requires you to be on time, to accomplish your assignments and tasks, and to do your work efficiently and with enthusiasm. True, not everyone actually meets these standards (who hasn't had a bad customer service experience?), but that should be your goal. The only way to gain these skills is by actually doing the work.

Gain Invaluable Work Experience

Having actual work experience puts you ahead of the competition once you graduate. It really is that simple. All things being equal, the candidate who has a broader history of work under his or her belt is likely to be seen as the superior candidate, regardless of the position. As much as we all like to think that spending a semester studying abroad will look attractive on our resume, the truth of the matter is that most employers would much rather you show them actual work experience. And there's only one way to accrue this experience – it's by working.

But What Can You Do?

It's a question many college students ask themselves, particularly those who are seeking a job for the first time. The good news is that there are more choices than ever. Increasingly, entrepreneurship is one of those options. Companies like Amway and University Tutor make it easier than ever to become independent business owners. Do well with your own business and you may find that you don't even need to look for a job after college (this will depend a lot on the type of business you run, of course; direct sales companies like Amway are likely to have more room for growth than companies like Uber or Lyft). And success with your own business will make you a valuable applicant.

There are also more traditional options. Again, there's no shame in getting a job as a busboy or waiter. It shows that you are willing and able to work hard and fast. You may also find a job in retail, customer service, or the government sector. Many colleges, schools, and municipalities have seasonal and hourly work that is open to college students. Investigate your options and apply for any that seem well-suited to you. Regardless of what you choose, be sure to maintain a healthy work-school-life balance. After all, if your college job becomes more important than college itself, that is counter-productive.

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