More Than Schoolwork

Finding the balance between work and college

By Nicholas LaFave

College usually consists of books, homework, and lectures, but what about having a job while studying for a 4-year degree? A study from Georgetown’s Center on Education and Workforce found that over the past 25 years, 70% of students have held some form of job while attending school. As college tuition and enrollment continue to increase, so do jobs held by students. The average student works about 30 hours per week.

About 25% of working students hold full-time jobs while managing to attend school full time as well. Most jobs college students hold won’t be enough to cover the cost of tuition. Students will usually have to take out a loan and incur some sort of debt. In 2014, 7 out of 10 college students took out a loan. With that said, working students are just as likely as non-working students to take loans, but working students normally take on less debt, lightening their financial burden. Research also shows that students who work 10-15 hours per week are more likely than other students-even those who don’t hold jobs- to earn a degree.

People who work in college also run the risk of dedicating too much time to their job and letting it interfere with their schoolwork. Working a high number of hours, especially off campus, can increase the time taken to achieve a degree and reduce the likelihood of even earning one.

From personal experience, while attending high school I was a host at a busy restaurant in Downtown Birmingham. I worked roughly 30 hours per week. With a full high school schedule, I can honestly say that it was difficult to manage, and my grades were affected.  It is good to have a little bit of breathing room to relax and enjoy your time, but not enough as to squander your hours away watching an entire season on Netflix in one day. This can be combatted by finding a balance between school and work.

Many students, including people I know, try to get out of working in college by using any excuse possible. People try to tell their parents that getting a job will interfere with their studies. While this might be valid if they were working a ridiculous number of hours, it is almost never the case. If you get a job it would most likely be beneficial for your career, your studies, and even your wallet.

For students looking to pay their way through school, and students willing to take on debt, they must ask themselves if the degree is worth the sacrifice. In 2014, 51% of college graduates hired into the workforce had a job that was unrelated to their degree. The average student debt after graduating college is $36,172, a loan that you cannot declare bankruptcy on without a significant hardship. While getting an education isn’t a bad way to get into the real-world, it certainly isn’t the only way.

Whatever path you are looking to take, you must make sure that there is a healthy balance between work and school, and that you are not letting one totally consume the other, but letting them feed of each other.