In Praise of an Extra SemesterConnie Lissner
College students who work part-time (15–20 hours a week maximum) during the school year get better grades than those who don’t.* They tend to be more focused, organized and conscientious about budgeting time for study. Many parents also feel that students who contribute financially to their education are more invested and less likely to take the opportunity for granted.
Some students need to work; some students want to work. The good news is they have a wide variety of employment options both on and off campus.
If your student was awarded federal work-study as part of their financial aid package, it’s important to understand how it works. Being awarded the funds doesn’t guarantee your student a job. Work-study jobs are filled first come, first served. Your student should contact the college’s Career Services ASAP to learn what positions are available and how to apply. Coveted on-campus work-study jobs will go quickly.
Work-study funds aren’t directly applied to your student’s tuition bill (as grant/scholarship aid will be). Instead, like at any other job, your student will receive a paycheck and can use the income to cover out-of-pocket expenses.
Note: Students who would like work-study over the summer (if this is an option at their university) need to apply separately for summer financial aid. Information and an application will be available in the spring.
It’s not a requirement to be taking summer classes if they’re fully enrolled during the adjacent Spring and Fall semesters, but funding may be more limited so they should act quickly.
Here are a few on-campus departments that like hiring students:
Any student can apply for part-time jobs on campus. The career services and student employment offices will host job fairs and maintain online job listings. It’s easy to search for a position that might line up with a potential career interest as well as provide needed supplemental income. Students can also check the flyers posted on bulletin boards in academic departments, residence halls and other campus buildings.
Maybe your student would welcome a change of scenery. Local employers often hire college students and are happy to work around their schedules. Your student can pound the pavement the old-fashioned way, or search online.
Fellow students often have the inside track on the best campus jobs. When my daughter was looking for a position, she talked to upperclassmen she met during orientation. One knew of an opening in the financial aid office where she worked and recommended my daughter to her supervisor. Before even arriving on campus, my daughter had a job waiting for the fall semester.
If your student makes a connection with a professor in their major or another area of interest, this can also be a good route. The professor may hire students, or know of colleagues or local businesses looking for students to work at paid internships (a terrific resumé builder).
If your student is offered work study, it's worth doing even as an incoming freshman. I was impressed with how many off-campus options there were. My daughter ended up being offered several positions and was able to pick one at a non-profit closely aligned with her interests. She has gained enormously in skills and confidence. All in all, a great experience! – Liza, parent of a first-year student at George Washington University
*A comprehensive 2009 study published by NASPA, “First-Year Students’ Employment, Engagement, and Academic Achievement: Untangling the Relationship between Work and Grades” by G.R. Pike, G.D. Kuh and R.C. Massa-McKinley, is often cited and its findings have held up over time.