“I’m paying for my own school. Without a job, I wouldn’t be in college,” says Voranan Mongkolpumirat, junior at Wheelock College (www.wheelock.edu) in Boston, Mass.
Attention prospective college students: prepare to pull out your wallets and get to work because parents aren’t paying up like they used to.
According to a recent ApplyWise.com and NextStepU survey, about 22 percent of parents have not saved any money toward their child’s college education and another 20 percent say they have saved less than $5,000.
“I just can’t afford not to work,” says Samantha Seymour, senior at Roberts Wesleyan College (www.roberts.edu) in Rochester, N.Y.
When juggling homework and working, plus trying to hold onto somewhat of a social life, college can feel like a three-ring circus.
Keep a tight grip on the situation
Stay on-campus. Whether it is working at the library, gym or café, or guiding tours for incoming students or tutoring fellow students, there are plenty of jobs that need to be done on campus.
Karen Campana, director of new student advising at Benedictine University (www.ben.edu) in Illinois, has seen more students seeking out these types of gigs. Why? The convenience. “I have random one-hour shifts throughout the week that fit right in between my classes,” says Justin Barleben, sophomore at Roberts Wesleyan College (www.roberts.edu).
Be up-front about your student status with your employer. “Come finals week when you need to alter your schedule a little bit, you need to let your employer know what’s going on,” says Campana. Find somewhere that is known for hiring lots of students. Chances are they will be more flexible and understanding as far as scheduling goes.
Be assertive, too. If you’re being given far too many hours—just say so! You can’t expect the situation to change until you speak up.
Plan ahead. Scan your syllabi for tests, quizzes and papers and stock-up on sticky notes. “I have a schedule drawn up that I stick on my wall, listing important dates for the semester,” says Mongkolpumirat.
Campana also suggests being proactive. So if you notice that you have a test, a presentation and two papers due a week and a half down the road, you had better get a head start. Every minute counts. Sneak in extra study time by taking advantage of lunch breaks and slow business – even if that means just flipping through flash cards.
Schedule your life carefully. If you would like to work mornings at a coffee shop, then look into afternoon/night classes. If you would rather work evenings at a restaurant, then consider enrolling in some earlier classes.
But either way, be sure to pencil-in some time to breathe. “It gets kind of crazy schedule-wise,” warns Barleben. “Just make sure you actually have room for everything and time to commit.”
Keep in mind that professors are also doing what they can to help you make the most of class time, Campana says. “Some instructors are allowing students to meet during part of class for larger group projects.”
Get a life and make time for yourself. Do not hesitate to give away some hours and take a weekend off once in a while. Barleben tries to keep his evenings open. It is these time-outs that can help keep you sane.
Promise yourself when…you get less than five hours of sleep a night; when your friends think you have gone missing, that you will cut back on hours or quit. Barleben, for example, tells himself that if his grades were to start suffering, he would stop working as much.
Be realistic. If work just isn’t working out, don’t be afraid to stop. Your job should not cost you happiness.
School is a full-time job – “If you end up failing a class, you’re the one who’s paying for it. There’s no second chance with that money,” says Voranan.
But it will all pay off. “Even though it’s stressful at times, I feel like I’m preparing myself for the real-world,” says Seymour.
Bryn Durgin has a bachelor’s degree in communications/journalism from St. John Fisher College (www.sjfc.edu) in Rochester, NY.