8 Best Practices for Working College Students

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Between classes, office hours and studying, college can already feel like a full-time job. But according to Georgetown University, 70% of students work while they’re enrolled in college. This includes everyone from working learners (those going to school while already employed full-time) to students hoping to pay off their loans.
While many students may work in college, their jobs can take many shapes and forms. Some students choose to work on campus, either in a work-study position or in a job open to all students. On campus, students can engage in academic work, getting paid for tutoring or being a teacher’s assistant or even for helping with research. If you want work that’s not related to a course, you might find opportunities in college admissions, the libraries or dining halls or even at a campus performing arts center. If you have access to the community around your college, you may be able to find work at a local restaurant, movie theater, community center, or small business. There are remote opportunities for students, too — whether you’re interested in freelance writing or office administration.
So, what happens when you do find a job that works for you? How do you balance your schoolwork with your professional work? More importantly, how can you ensure success in both environments? Here are the dos and don’ts for working while in college.


1. Do try to learn every new skill you can.

Working in college is a great opportunity to test the waters of the real world before getting thrown into the deep end. The best way to make the most of your working experience is to learn everything you can. Whether it’s how to increase efficiency when serving students at dinner or how to use a web analytics program, don’t be afraid to try something new.

2. Do be honest about your time commitment.

Holding down a job while in college is no easy task, so it’s important to be honest and upfront about your schedule and time commitment. If you have a challenging midterm coming up at the end of the week, don’t be afraid to tell your boss and adjust your hours and schedule. It’s better to be clear about your commitments instead of taking on too much and falling short.

3. Do network and expand your professional circle.

You’re already practicing networking skills by working while in college, but you’ll also want to expand your circle more while on the job. Even if you’re working remotely, introduce yourself to other members of the team. The more people you get to meet, the more you’ll learn about the working world and the more connections you’ll make.

4. Do be open to opportunities your employer offers you.

While you might apply for a job that has specific duties within the job description, every once in a while, an employer may offer you exciting, different opportunities — whether it’s more hours or new responsibilities. If you think you’re ready for that next step, go for it! As long as you know what’s expected of you, take on the professional opportunities that come your way.


1. Don’t take an opportunity if it means you’ll be overwhelmed.

You should be open to opportunities that come your way, but that doesn’t mean you should always accept what’s offered to you. If you don’t have time for more hours or the ability to handle another responsibility, it’s okay to say no. Going to college most likely means you’re a student first — and if that’s the case, sometimes you might have to pass on an opportunity if the time isn’t right for you.

2. Don’t let your job take precedence over your schoolwork.

While you’re in college, your schoolwork comes first. If you think your job is threatening your ability to study and keep up with your classes, it may be time to adjust your schedule and hours. Make sure you’re saving enough time not only to go to your classes but also to study, go to office hours and prepare for any big exams or papers.

3. Don’t sacrifice extracurricular activities you love.

College has so much to offer outside of classes. While working can be one of those opportunities, there are also so many other extracurricular activities to try! Earning money and gaining professional experience are important, but make sure you’re saving some time to pursue other things you love. Even if you’re not making money, these activities can teach you valuable skills and even help jumpstart your career. If you’re writing for the newspaper, you can learn reporting practices and publish articles for your portfolio; if you’re part of the robotics club, you’ll gain some awesome technical skills.

4. Don’t eat up all of your free time.

Don’t forget to save some time between studying and working for free time. This can be time to just hang out with friends or chill alone. Downtime is incredibly important for maintaining your productivity and avoiding burnout. You won’t be able to thrive in either a school or work environment if you’re always running from one class or shift to the next. Make sure you have time to just relax and take care of yourself — whatever that means for you.


How many hours should I work while in college?

Everyone’s weekly schedule is different, and everyone’s ability to time manage is different. If you only have class twice a week, you may be able to work more hours than someone who’s in class from 8-4 p.m. every day. If you do have a busy schedule but you’re great at compartmentalizing and getting work done, you may work more hours than someone needs to focus on a few tasks at once. Students who work part-time may work between 5 to 20 hours a week. Decide what’s right for you based on your schedule and time management skills.

Does working while in college affect grades?

Working while you’re in college will always take time away from studying and doing your schoolwork. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll make your grades sink, but it will have an effect on your schedule. You should always prioritize your schoolwork and make sure you not only have time to complete your assignments but also account for regular studying and office hours.

What benefits do most college students get?

While working part-time, college students most likely won’t get the benefits that full-time workers do, such as health insurance, life insurance, paid time off, retirement benefits or dental and vision insurance. However, many students can get tax benefits for being enrolled in an educational institution, including tax credits that may help pay for tuition.

Do most college students have jobs?

According to Georgetown University, 70% of college students work while in college and 40% of undergraduate students work over 30 hours a week. That’s an overwhelming majority. But that doesn’t necessarily mean all students are doing the same type of work. Some may be full-time employees getting their degree online, while others may be 20-year-old sophomores working as economics teacher’s assistants. Find a job that’s right for you — whether that means you’re working a certain number of hours, for minimum wage or in a specific field.

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Zoë Kaplan is an English major at Wesleyan University in the class of 2020. She writes about women, theater, sports, and everything in between. Read more of Zoë’s work at www.zoeakaplan.com.