Having a job while in college is a common experience for many students. This is the first of two posts examining some factors that students might consider as they seek college employment. In this post, we look at some general, but important, questions your student might think about. In our next post, we’ll look more carefully at some of the differences between on-campus and off-campus jobs.
Many college students today have a job while they are in college. As we all know, the costs of attending college are high. In addition to tuition and room and board, there are extra fees, expensive textbooks, and living expenses. Many students head off to college knowing that, in addition to their academic work – and possibly their sports or other activities – they will need to have a job. As college parents, we can help our students think through some factors to consider as they decide what kind of job they may want – and a major question of whether to work on campus or off campus.
The first, and most important, caution is for your student to remember that, if he is a full-time student, he has made a major commitment to his schoolwork. Although he may be spending relatively few hours in class, a full-time student has taken on the equivalent of a full-time job. A general rule of thumb is that students should expect to spend two hours on coursework for each hour that they spend in class. So, for example, if your college student is registered for 15 credits (approximately 15 hours/week in class) then he should be doing approximately 30 hours of work outside of class – for a total of 45 hours of schoolwork. Of course, this is an average and the demands will vary each week, but when considering how many hours per week he can commit to a job, he needs to be realistic about what his schedule really is. If he is playing a sport, or involved in some other major activity, he will need to consider that time commitment as well.
There are many, many factors your student should think about as he considers work opportunities.
- What are his reasons for getting a job? Does he simply want as much cash as possible? Does he want to learn from the experience? Does he hope to make connections? Does he hope to turn this into a permanent position?
- What are the realities of his time commitment? What obligations does he have outside of class?
- What transportation options does he have?
- Is she looking for employment for the school year only, or is she hoping that it will continue in the summer?
- Does he need tangible and/or intangible benefits? Are things like healthcare and/or retirement important, or does he hope to make connections or learn from the experience?
- Would he like the flexibility of being able to change jobs after a semester or a year?
- Will she be traveling home many weekends and be unavailable to work?
- Is she looking for something that will be impressive on her resume?
- What does he like to do? How would he like to spend his time?
There are many personal and logistical factors involved in making the right work decision while in college. Each student will answer the above questions differently. Help your student think through his options and his priorities before he makes his decision, and he will be more likely to choose a job that best meets his needs and expectations.
In our next post, we’ll look more carefully at some of the advantages and drawbacks of on-campus and off-campus jobs.