The Inconvenient Truth
So you’ve arrived at college and you’re ready to have the time of your life. It’s all going great– you’ve made a ton of new friends, you’re getting all of your work done on time and your lectures are genuinely interesting. You’re beginning to feel like you’ve got it all figured out. Just as that warm, fuzzy feeling sets in, it hits you: you’re broke.
You came to college full of beans and with a wallet full of all the cash you saved up doing that dull summer job, but somewhere halfway through the first semester you lost your way. You started buying one too many overpriced bagel sandwiches at your favorite café and forgot to keep track of your bank balance. The weeks fly by and suddenly, you don’t feel quite so well off anymore.
Rest assured, there is a solution… it just might not be the one you want to hear. You may have to get a job. Take a deep breath and read on.
The first good reason to get a part-time job while at college is the obvious one: you need money. Sure, you have classes to go to, but you also have a cell phone bill to pay, mounting tuition fees to face and the everyday expenses of just being you.
There are alternatives to finding a source of income while you’re at college, but they come with a whole host of risks and could have you graduating with even more debt than you were expecting.
The reality is that often some extra income is required in order to get through your university years. It will help you pay your bills, keep your fridge full of something other than the care package food your mom sent two months ago and might even give you some extra cash for those little luxuries that you deserve for studying so hard and staying up so late.
I know what you’re thinking- college is supposed to be all about preparing you for the big scary world of work, not throwing you head first into it while doing a ton of other things at the same time. That definitely sounds overwhelming, but the reality is not so intimidating. Working a casual part-time job during college can help make you far more prepared for post-grad life than you would be otherwise.
Even if you have a massive trust fund, a good-sized scholarship or incredibly generous relatives who are bankrolling your way through each semester, finding part time work can have benefits that have nothing to do with money at all:
- Gain Work Experience. Having even a casual, relatively “easy” job while at college will help pad our your resume. When you’re attempting to woo potential employers after graduation, you’ll be glad that there’s something to show for the past four years in terms of employment history.
- Gain Life Experience. College is all about learning new things, meeting new people and growing as a person. Even the most boring, frustrating job (and we’ve all had some of them) will have valuable experience to offer you that will make you a more well rounded individual overall. I know that sounds like your mom talking, but she says it for a reason.
- Develop Your Skills. Some people graduate college knowing plenty about Renaissance history but feeling like they know very little about anything useful on a day-to-day level. Getting a job will help you learn little things that could benefit you in the future, from how to create a spreadsheet to the surprisingly complicated art of folding sweaters.
- Meet New People. Halfway through your freshman year you might begin to feel like you only really know the people in your dorm and the faces you see frequently in classes. There are so many people to get to know, but finding the right way to meet them can sometimes feel a little awkward. Working with others is a great way to make new friends and develop lasting relationships.
Jobs On Campus
The first step in your job hunt should be right on your doorstep. Your college town is probably rife with potential employment opportunities, but why not save yourself a walk/bus ride/drive and just stay where you are?
Getting a job on your college campus can give you the chance to earn an income alongside your studies. It can also allow you to meet other students who you might not have bumped into otherwise, and strengthen your ties in your favorite academic department. There are definitely plenty of perks, so where do you start?
As with most things in life, you’ll get the furthest, earn the most and probably be the happiest by playing to your strengths. Have a good long think about what you’re best at, and where on campus you could put those skills to use to benefit both your college and yourself.
Tutoring is an easy way to help yourself and others while earning extra cash. It can sometimes even be fun, believe it or not. This part time job doesn’t necessarily have to be on campus, but your college environment is a great place to start looking for students.
Are there people around you in your classes who are struggling with a subject you find particularly easy? You could offer to help them with an assignment, and then if all goes well and they feel that they’ve learned from you, ask if they want to set up sessions for a small fee. We wouldn’t recommend charging something extortionate- they’re penniless students too after all, but regular tutoring sessions with a few students at a small rate could add up to a decent income to supplement your student life.
Once you’ve made your way out of freshman year, you have a whole sea of potential pupils amongst the incoming freshman class. Advertise your services on Facebook, with flyers on campus note boards and through word of mouth. There are bound to be younger students who are struggling with their new workload who would love to get some extra help, and if you can be that friendly face then they just might pay you for your kindness.
Another area where tutors are often needed is in the ESL (English as a second language) department- many students come from overseas to study in the United States who probably would like some assistance brushing up on their English.
Scoring a part time job as an office assistant at your university can be the perfect way to make some money while boosting your resume. Many campuses hire students to help out with basic administrative tasks, from filing to answering phones.
This could be a great option if you consider yourself to be a pretty organized person, and will give you a chance to gain some valuable clerical skills that you could need down the road. Although an office job might not be exactly what you have in mind right now, many roles for graduates starting out in the world of employment involve some clerical work, so administrative work will help lay the foundation for future success.
This may not be the world’s most exciting position, but it doesn’t tend to be too difficult and will help keep you afloat financially until graduation.
If you’re a relatively responsible and compassionate person, then you could be perfect for a Resident Assistant job. RA’s get plenty of advantages and perks, including free room and board in the dorms, so you’ll certainly save tons of money if you can land this role. You should also receive an hourly salary, along with tons of interesting experience. You’ll get to know everyone in the dorms well and will hopefully be able to assist those who need some extra support.
If you do pursue an RA position, expect some messy nights with intoxicated freshmen and having to play bad cop on some occasions- this is all part of the job!
Once you get to know your campus well, the skills required to conduct regular tours of the college for visitors should come naturally! There are always high school students who need to be shown around and open days with tours running, so apply for a job as a tour guide and put your knowledge to good use.
Working as a tour guide will also allow you to share all of your enthusiasm about your college with potential applicants or incoming students, so if you’re feeling positive about your experience so far and want to convince others to join you on campus, this could be a great way to earn some extra income. Just be sure to enter into this role with a positive attitude and plenty of confidence.
Are you a computer genius? Although the inner workings of your laptop might seem obvious to you, there are plenty of people on your campus who struggle to keep their computers running, and with thousands of students all relying on their laptops to get their assignments finished on time, technical support is always appreciated.
Your college should have an IT department where techies unite to help staff and students with a whole host of technological issues, so why not get paid to share what you already find easy? Many college IT departments offer part time shifts to students, so you could fill your wallet while getting valuable experience and meeting other students who share your interests and skills.
Your university fitness center is rife with opportunities for part time work. From front desk reception duties to lifeguard work and fitness training, there’s tons to be done and money to be made.
If you’re already something of a gym bunny, you could get a job doing personal training for other students at the gym, or teaching fitness classes. You might have to do some extra training first, and you’ll need to earn some first aid qualifications before you can work as a lifeguard, but this sort of training tends to be pretty brief, and at the end of it you’ll have an extra skill to add to your CV.
Working on your college library is a great way to gain skills and experience while earning part time income in a pleasant environment. The tasks are usually pretty straightforward, from shelving and organizing books to shh-ing chatty peers, but you’ll score tons of brownie points for your resume and might even get a little time to study on the job during quieter shifts.
Academic Department Assistant
Once you’ve declared your major and developed a feeling of loyalty to a particular department, you may be able to find part time work helping out in your department of choice. Professors often need help grading the thousands of papers they have to work through every week, and the department office might need administrative assistance that you could easily supply.
Later in your degree, or as a post-graduate student, you may also be able to apply for work as a teaching assistant in your department. TA’s generally help out during lectures, take registration, mark papers and assisting students with questions or problems.
You could also get part time work as a research assistant. Professors across all of the different departments conduct research and require assistants to help compile data, conduct further research and organize everything.
This might not apply to you straight away when you begin college, but it’s something to keep in mind as your studies progress, particularly if you’re interested in pursuing academia as a career and doing further degrees.
Got a passion for coffee? Start whipping up lattes for people other than yourself and you could get a decent income going, especially when you include tips from happy customers. Your college most likely has a café or coffee shop where panda-eyed students go for their morning caffeine fix, and this kind of fast-paced shift work is ideal for boosting your bank balance.
If your college has a store where university merchandise, books and other goods are sold to prospective and current students, you could gain some retail experience and meet tons of new people by working shifts there.
Working Off Campus
When hunting for your new part time job, you might find that the job market on campus is pretty saturated. You definitely won’t be the only one desperate for some extra cash, so while work on campus work may be preferable, that’s not to say that all of your applications will be successful. If you do struggle to get anything on campus, try not to panic! There’s a big wide world outside of your dorm that’s full of moneymaking opportunities.
When applying for off-campus employment, we’d recommend that you make sure whatever you find is flexible. College is a busy time, and you need to be able to prioritise your classes and studies, while also making space in your schedule for some semblance of a social life.
Any work that you can find that will pay a decent salary while allowing you the flexibility to structure your time wisely will be a great choice.
Independent Sales Consultant
If you’re passionate, confident and good with people, then working as an independent sales consultant could be perfect for you. Independent sales work isn’t technically “off campus” or “on campus”- you can do it anywhere, from your dorm room to the internet and back in your home town on breaks. This sort of job allows you to be your own boss, set your own hours and, if you pick the right company, sell products you genuinely like to your friends, family and any other potential customers.
There are tons of companies out there that offer direct sales positions- from popular cosmetics and skincare companies like Avon to lesser known products. Just make sure you do your research first so that you know what you’re getting into, and don’t put money into anything that you’re not absolutely positive you can sell in decent quantities.
Another great way to earn money both on and off campus is through freelance work. As we said before- it’s all about playing to your strengths and exploiting the knowledge and skills that you’ve already gained.
Are you a talented writer? Take a look online at freelance writing positions- you can write articles for newspapers and magazines, write content for websites, edit content or work on marketing material. These kinds of skills will be invaluable when it comes to finding work after college, especially if you want to get into a similar profession.
Freelance work isn’t all about writing, though. If you’ve got skills online or have a creative spark, you could get involved in graphic design or other forms of web design. These jobs don’t always pay great at the start, but as you gain experience and increase your skill set you can raise your rates and eventually make a decent profit doing something you enjoy.
Try taking a look at websites like Indeed.com where employers often advertise freelance positions.
Working as a waiter in a restaurant or café is a common choice for college students- you can usually pick up flexible shifts that suit your schedule and lifestyle, and if your customer service is particularly good you can get tons of spending money through tips.
The nice thing about waitering is that you don’t have to wait until payday to get some cash, so if you’re really broke one week you’ll be sure to pick up some tips to get you through the next few days without starving.
If you can’t get a job at your college campus merchandise store, why not apply at other stores in the neighborhood? It doesn’t have to be clothing if the thought of folding shirts all day sounds torturous- try stores that suit your particular interests, like book or record stores. You can usually get flexible shifts in retail and if you land up with some fun co-workers it can be an enjoyable way to make a few bucks in your time out of class.
Got a few evenings spare and already watched everything on Netflix? Babysitting is one of the best part time jobs around, as long as you love kids and are suitably responsible. Advertise yourself around town and online and get friends who know people with kids to recommend you- there are tons of exhausted parents out there looking for a night off. You should even be able to get some studying (or Facebooking) done after the kids are fast asleep in bed.
Missing your pup back home? Find some furry foster friends by looking for people who need help with their pets. Elderly people and those with busy jobs and active dogs often need help with dog walking, so put some signs up and post your information around the internet and you could earn some extra income taking a run with someone’s dog. This takes hardly any time out of your day and will let you stretch your legs while you’re at it.
One of the most common ways for college students to gain experience and hopefully earn money at the same time is through an internship.
Internships are essentially on-the-job training at an organization or company, giving you a temporary job and allowing you to learn all about the field that you may want to work in after leaving college. They’re a fantastic way to figure out what you want to do with your life, and if you enjoy yourself and perform well you could have an easy in at the company when you graduate.
Internships aren’t always paid positions, but frankly, they’re worth doing even if you don’t get a paycheck at the end of the month. In today’s job market and in our tumultuous economy, anything that you can do to set yourself apart from the pack will be a solid investment in your future.
If the internship is unpaid, you might get college credits if it’s related to a specific subject, or some other non-monetary reward. You’ll certainly gain valuable experience and should be able to do some networking, which is really necessary if you want to pursue a career in that field.
A paid internship is, of course, the aim here if you’re short on cash and desperate to avoid debt. Finding a suitable paid internship will probably require a fair bit of research on your part, as well as an application process that you’ll need to put a decent amount of effort into if you want to be successful.
- Get your resume in order. Ask for help from a favorite professor or counsellor if you’re unsure about the state of your resume, and make sure it reflects all of your assets, skills and experience.
- Prepare a cover letter. All of your internship applications should have a cover letter that applies specifically to the company or organization you hope to join. Research who they are and what they do so that you can prove your competency and make a great first impression. Make sure that your cover letter shows exactly why you’re suited to the internship, and what you can bring to the team.
- Network. Go to as many events and seminars held in your college as possible to meet people, gather information and figure out exactly what you want from an internship and your future career.
- Check Your Web Presence. Prepare for the possibility that you may be checked up on if an employer is considering your application. Google yourself and ensure that nothing comes up that you wouldn’t want them to say. Consider cleaning up your Facebook and Twitter if they contain anything that doesn’t quite reflect your professional image. At the very least, strengthen your privacy settings.
Where Can You Find An Internship?
On Campus. Your first stop should be within your college- many universities offer internship opportunities or can help you find something with an organization connected to the school. Ask questions and hunt around.
Online. There are tons of websites that can give you a hand in your search, either for internships or other jobs. Here are some of the best:
Entry Point! (for disabled students)
When You Get There
Once you’ve successfully applied for your internship- which of course you will, be sure to make the most of it. Interships, paid or not, are an awesome opportunity to make a name for yourself and invest in your future. Preparing well and putting your all in will do wonders for your post-graduation life, not to mention your future earning potential.
- Get Ready! There’s nothing scarier than showing up for an internship with absolutely no idea what you’re doing. It’s normal to feel a little unprepared, but try and reduce this feeling by getting ready to the best of your ability. Do plenty of background reading on the field you’re interning in and the company or organization itself. Try and speak to people who’ve interned there before to get a sense of what you can expect, and come up with some solid goals of what you’d like to achieve from the internship.
- Make A Great Impression. We’re sure you’ll do all of these things already, but it’s always good to have a reminder. Dress smartly, arrive on time every day and make sure you follow all of the rules. Try to stand out in a positive way by being courteous, friendly and considerate.
- Know Your Role. Make sure you have a clear sense of what’s expected of you. If you feel unsure, just ask. When you know what you’re doing, you can do your best.
- Seize The Moment. If you find yourself sitting around without much to do, take the initiative and be as proactive as possible. Approach your supervisor and ask what you can do to be helpful, learn from others and keep as busy as possible. These things will help save you from boredom while ensuring you get the most out of the internship.
- Network! Shake as many hands as you can during your internship and take down the contact information of people you connect with. You never know how they might help you in the future, and it’s alwaysgood to have a point of contact!
Making money while away at university is important, there’s no doubt about that. For some, it’s a necessity. No matter who you are, there’s plenty to be gained from working during college. However, it’s crucial to get the balance right.
Many college students fall into the trap of focusing on one aspect of their life over the other, and end up feeling overwhelmed, stressed and more than a little confused. Having a strong sense of balance between all of your responsibilities and activities while at college will lead to a happier, healthier experience overall.
- Establish Your Priorities. It may help to write out a list of everything that takes any of your time or energy. Try to list these things in order of their importance to you. The importance shouldn’t just be related to finances- you also need to consider the role they play in your academic success, your mental health and your general wellbeing.
- Create A Schedule. Having a clear timetable will help you structure your days and can reduce stress. Having a visual schedule-maybe a poster on your wall or a chart on your computer, will allow you to organize your time wisely without everything piling on top of you. This should include all of your academic work, your shifts at work or time at an internship and all of your social events.
- Eliminate Time Wasting. If there are certain activities, events or relationships that are taking up your time and energy and aren’t contributing anything positive to your life, consider phasing them out. Simplify things down as much as possible and say no to things that aren’t your responsibility if you don’t have time for them.
- Take Breaks. It’s impossible to study effectively or work well at a job without adequate rest and time for yourself. Incorporate breaks into your timetable and use them to get fresh air, stretch your legs and calm your mind.
- Ask For Help. If you ever feel like it’s all getting to be too much- speak to someone. Colleges are full of opportunities to ask for help, from the counselling center to your professors, and there’s always a support system there if you look for it.
If you’re finding it impossible to balance the pressures of work and your academic life then reach out. There are always options available to you and people who are willing to assist- don’t suffer in silence.