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College Student Job Strategies

Most college students need to work in order to help with expenses. Working in college can encourage students to be more organized about their time. However, in this recession we are facing the highest youth unemployment rate since World War II. Employment rates are half what they were just ten years ago. For this reason, I advise families to think strategically about college employment. Planning during high school will help maximize the chance your student will find a high quality, high paying job. Here are seven strategies to consider:

Training and Certifications During High School
One way to maximize your job prospects during college is gain some specialized training during high school. Homeschoolers have more flexibility than other students and some savvy families plan early in high school to help their kids acquire training that will give them the leg up in employment. Students with background training or credentials may be more competitive for better paying jobs. The investment, in terms of time and finances, will vary depending on the specific training the student is considering. Some training programs are free, some are low cost, and some require more of an investment. Here are examples of some of the types of training or credential your student may consider:

  • Lifeguard
  • Soccer Referee Certification
  • IT certifications – many options
  • Emergency Medical Technician
  • Certified Nursing Assistant
  • Fitness Trainer Certification

Study on the Job
For generations lucky college students have found desk jobs that allow them time to study while being paid. These jobs work particularly well for students with good ability to multitask and focus because often they require students to shift back and forth from work to studying. They may also be especially good for students who can handle working the nightshift which may be quieter and allow more study time. Some examples of these jobs include:

  • Security guard
  • Library desk
  • Dorm desk
  • Hotel desk night shift

Resident Assistant
Resident assistants, or resident advisers, are specially trained students who act as peer advisers in a dorm environment – helping students with problems and also enforcing campus policies. RA positions often come with free or reduced price student housing which can make it a well-paid job. RAs typically go through a pretty intensive selection and training process. Once selected, RAs are expected to help resolve student conflicts, connect students with campus services, and lead training sessions for residents. Look carefully at RA compensation and responsibilities as they vary widely from one school to another. RA positions can be particularly good experience for students who plan to have a future job in psychology, social work, or education.

On Campus or Off Campus?
Take the time to carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of working off campus. Off campus jobs often pay more and may offer the possibility of building connections that will last after graduation. While off campus jobs may be higher paid they may also come with additional time and cost for transportation. On campus jobs are designed around the student’s schedule and you won’t have the difficulty of convincing your employer you need time off for break.

Use Special Academic and Extracurricular Skills
Parents who have invested thousands of hours and dollars into supporting extracurricular activities homeschool activities during the K-12 years may be happy to know that some students turn these experiences into paid employment during college. This type of work can be enjoyable and may sometimes be higher paying than minimum wage. Students who attend college far away from their hometown may have to work harder to make connections to make this sort of work successful. Some examples of this work include:

  • Music teacher
  • Martial arts instructor
  • Math tutor
  • Dance studio assistant
  • Soccer coach
  • Debate judge
  • Homeschool co-op teacher

Build Career Skills
Especially for students who are later in their college career, I urge you to consider the ways in which your student employment may help prepare you for grad school or career. Combining paid employment with valuable work experience is a powerful combination. For example, a pre-med student may find employment working as an aid at a nursing home. While it may not be glamorous to empty bedpans it is a great way to log valuable experience that will help strengthen med school applications and provide life experience that will ultimately make a person a better doctor. If you are interested in a career related work study job you are advised to apply aggressively as early as possible as the most desirable jobs often fill first.

Set a Budget and Stick with It
Too often students get caught up in a pattern of working long hours during college to support a car they probably shouldn’t own or a lifestyle that they don’t really need. Approach work with a clear plan for what you will do with your earnings. For example, you may decide to directly deposit half of each paycheck for books for the next semester. If you are working for spending money – try to set a realistic budget and stick with it.

2 comments

  1. Cindy

    I know that for our daughter, it was better to take an on campus job through work study, even though it paid less than an on campus job. Work study earnings don’t count against students when considering financial aid, so she would have to earn a lot more from an off campus job to break even in the end.

  2. Barbara Hettle

    Thanks Cindy. That’s an excellent point and something students should consider when deciding whether they want to work on or off campus. Also, many students have discovered with work study jobs that the more desirable jobs often go fast so it pays to really get in there and start aggressively applying for the jobs you are interested in.

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