Pay for College
Working in a card shop let Courtney Greenwood earn some cash to pay for college during high school. But once in college, Greenwood was ready for a part-time job she could list on her résumé. One summer she interned for a magazine.
Another summer, she did public relations for a hospital.
“I really put myself out there, made a lot of phone calls and sent a lot of emails,” says Greenwood, 21, a senior journalism major at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston.
After her summer internships, Greenwood advanced to working part-time in her university’s public relations office. Now she knows she wants a career in public relations, not journalism.
Greenwood wasn’t the only one of her friends balancing both school and part-time work. “Almost all my friends have part-time jobs, whether it’s on campus or off,” she says.
Forty-six percent of full-time college students are employed, and 30 percent of working students work more than 20 hours a week, reports the National Center for Educational Statistics.
Many students work because they need money to pay for college, not experience. But studies show working more than 20 hours a week can damage a student’s grades, says Dianne Siekmann, associate director of employment services at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
“We recommend to our students and our employers to keep it between 10 and 15 hours a week,” says Siekmann. “Whether they choose to work during the day or evening doesn’t matter.”
Upperclassmen are more likely to land the best jobs for college students. Internships are usually only available to them. Underclassmen usually have to take minimum-wage gigs in restaurants, shops or offices. Among part-time jobs, the best jobs for college students are the ones that accommodate your need to study.
Your work schedule should depend on your class schedule, and your bosses must know your priorities, says Pam Weller-Dengel, director of the Career Development Center at Minnesota State University in Mankato.
“Schedules change every semester, and sometimes that is challenging for employers,” says Weller-Dengel.
Bosses for on-campus jobs usually know when midterms and finals are coming up. These employers might also understand that most students don’t plan on sticking around during Thanksgiving or spring breaks. But it’s up to you to make sure your boss understands your scheduling needs.
“You can’t assume employers, especially if they are off campus, know the rhythm of the school year,” says Siekmann.
Most students at Minnesota State stick on campus for the best jobs for college students.
“Students want to work on campus so hopefully they can work around their class schedule and they don’t have to commute to work,” says Weller-Dengel. “The convenience factor is huge.”
At some schools, work-study students have priority for the best on-campus jobs. Whether work is off campus or steps away from the dorm, you build your work history with part-time jobs.
“Even if it’s just to help pay for college and not a job you want to do in the end, it’s still important,” says Weller-Dengel. “They are starting to build a reputation as to what kind of employee they are.”
Past bosses can be future references, so Weller-Dengel recommends you “don’t burn bridges,” and give two weeks’ notice when you move on.
Job hunting? Dress decently; not too formal, but not in casual class clothes. Fill out the application completely, even if required to attach a résumé. “It shows an attention to detail; it’s an indicator of how they will prepare on the job,” says Weller-Dengel.
You should also be prepared with a detailed employment history including dates worked, references and contact information, says Weller-Dengel. If possible, disclose your exam and break schedules and major project deadlines so your boss knows when you will need time off.
Being straight with your employer during your interview can spare you conflict. “Have a very direct conversation,” says Siekmann. “Say, ‘If finals are coming up, can I get two days off?’ Or, ‘I’m leaving town for Thanksgiving. Can I have the week off?’”
If it’s crunch time and a boss wants a double shift or overtime, you may need to draw the line and put school first.
“Make sure your employer realizes your first job is to be a student,” says Greenwood. “If you have a heavy course load and you really can’t do it, that will put more stress on you.”
Best Jobs for College Students
Waiter: Serve up food and beverage at a local restaurant, diner or coffee shop.
The perks: Almost one-quarter of foodservice workers are between the ages of 16 and 19. If you work in a restaurant, you’re likely to have other young people as co-workers.
The pay: Median hourly pay, including tips, is $6.80.
The problems: Expect late hours.
Retail clerk: Help shoppers, ring up sales and keep the store looking neat.
The perks: Some stores offer a generous employee discount.
The pay: Many stores start workers at minimum wage. The median hourly pay, including commission, is $8.51.
The problems: Expect evening and weekend hours. Stores may give the best shifts to the workers with the highest sales.
Childcare: Watch kids as a babysitter or nanny.
The perks: You can schedule jobs around your class schedule and get to know a family well.
The pay: The median pay for childcare workers is $7.86 an hour.
The problems: Child care workers need patience and the
ability to keep kids safe.
Cashier: Work behind the register at places like a grocery store, convenience store or movie theater.
The perks: No experience necessary.
The pay: The median pay for cashiers is $7.41 per hour.
The problems: Weekends and evenings are likely; the job is repetitive and may require standing for hours.
Receptionist: Work in an office answering phones and meeting customers.
The perks: Sit down in a comfy office, maybe do homework if it’s slow.
The pay: Expect to start at minimum wage.
The problems: Many offices may need daytime help when you may have class.
For the first time in six years, saving for college has become the number-one reason why teens will be working this summer, according to the 2005 Junior Achievement Interprise Poll on Teens and Summer Jobs.
What will you do this summer?
Restaurants/fast food: 25.3%
Lawn care/landscaping: 4.4%
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