I recently read an article in The Wall Street Journal about if college students should or should not work while in school. I began researching about working in college as I was eager to find out people’s opinion on the subject.
I first spoke extensively with Michelle Lamphere, the Director of the Financial Aid Center, at Jewish Family and Children Services. She believes having an academic focus in college is great, but holding a job too is an excellent way to gain real life work experience before embarking on a professional career. She thinks working during college will enhances your social skills, teach you how to handle stressful work situations and help students to become more self-sufficient.
Unpaid internships are considered valuable opportunities for students to gain work experience in their field of study—and looks good on a resume. In today’s job market employers require a specific skill set for every job opening. Therefore, students that have completed several work-related internships often become good candidates for given jobs when they graduate, since they were able to add pertinent skills to their resume that are necessary for their career.
Michelle mentioned that college students from lower income families are more likely to take work-study, or get paid jobs, because they need to earn money to offset the cost of their college education. These students often don’t have the luxury of volunteering or accepting unpaid internships. Whereas students from wealthier families can because they don’t need money right away.
To find out more opinions on this subject, I asked a group of people of various ages what they thought. The responses that I gathered from my small study were very interesting.
The high school students said it depends on your ability to balance your job and school work. Several students claimed that it would be difficult to work during freshman year because they feel that the college environment is extremely different from high school, and it takes time to get acclimated academically and socially. Other students said that it depends on your work load, but if possible, they thought it is good to have a job because your college years can be extremely expensive.
The college students I interviewed thought you should work a paid job in college, and if possible, also hold a non-paid internship. Having a paid job is good to have for some spending money, and to lower your college expenses. A non-paid internship is ideal only if it helps one to secure a job right out of college because it is a big time commitment. These same students said not to have a job in college if you don’t need to because it will give you time to focus on your studies full-time. If you choose to work, select a job with skills you’ll need after college, and if that isn’t the case, you should only accept something that you are passionate about.
Everyone I interviewed agreed that if you’re not working in college, you should volunteer, and/or participate in various extra-curricular activities because that is a big part of what college is all about.
From my research, I concluded that it is a good idea to work in college, not only for the purpose of making money, but for the experiences and skills you will gain from it. A student working around 10 to 15 hours a week will benefit from developing good work habits, and improve their professional communication skills. However, if a student has a job during college, he/she needs to be mature enough to have a healthy work/life balance and should always prioritize school work first. I realize each student’s financial circumstances will influence how much he/she is involved in school, and whether he/she holds a paid job, or holds a non-paid internship. In the long run, it is up to the student, but I think it is a smart idea to have a job while in college.
To read the article about working in college references from The Wall Street Journal go here.
Juliette Carey will be an 11th grader this coming fall. As a summer intern for JFCS’ Financial Aid Center she learned a lot of valuable information about financial aid, and is happy to share some of what she learned in her blogs. To find out more about the teen internships and other YouthFirst programs Juliette recommends you contact Linda Karlin, Director of the YouthFirst Programs, at Lindak@jfcs.org or learn more here.