To work or not to work in college?

0E5DYXHWmn06fYB-pG7TieJoDevgn0K6IwBUO8eg_50By Sara Butler


In college, there are a lot of important decisions to make: What major should we pick? What classes should we take? What clubs or organizations should we join? What parties should we go to?

There is also another important question that we face: to work or not to work?

The US Census report concluded that 71 percent of the country’s approximately 20 million college undergraduates were working in 2011. The USD website notes that over 800 students currently hold on-campus jobs at our university, with over 500 employed through the Federal Work-Study Program alone.

At first glance, working as an undergraduate may seem like a distraction from college classes. While some of us put our paycheck toward our tuition or other necessary costs, others of us see college employment earnings as extra spending money that we could go without.

However, there are many other benefits, besides financial perks, to working in college. Many experts claim that working while attending college has positive correlations with academic achievement.

According to an article by US News & World Report, Laura Perna, professor at University of Pennsylvania, believes part-time on-campus jobs are beneficial for a student’s long-term academic goals.

“Students who work a modest number of hours per week (10 to 15 hours), on campus, are more likely than other students — even students who do not work at all — to persist and earn degrees.” Perna said.

This also holds true at USD. Working a part-time job with limited hours has proven to help students do well academically, as well as socially, on our campus.

Sophomore Alexa Argumedo agrees that students should have a job in college and talks about her experience working on-campus.

“I work in the Office of the Registrar and I know just about all the Deans in the Arts and Sciences Department. It has helped me get to know faculty and staff that I would otherwise never meet,” Argumedo said. “I am so happy to have a job on-campus where the hours are flexible and my work schedule revolves around my class schedule.”

Argumedo points out the value of a college job in getting connected to the university. Working on-campus offers a student a new perspective about the university that would not be achievable through class attendance alone.

Also, Argumedo mentions the convenience that her on-campus job allows her, including her employer’s understanding and accommodation for her studies. Since her work schedule revolves around her class schedule, she does not have to worry about getting assigned a shift during a test or presentation.

Sophomore Caitlin Hartman also thinks college employment can provide essential advantages. After deciding not to work her freshman year, Hartman landed a job at the International Office this semester.

“Working this year has been great because it forces me to balance my time more than I had to last year which keeps me on top of my school work. I also know that gaining work experience now will give me an advantage once I graduate and am looking for a full-time job.” Hartman said.

Hartman acknowledges the asset of college work experience with the increasing competitiveness of the job market. Not only does it build her résumé, but it also teaches her a variety of indispensable skills that employers are looking for.

Her transition also emphasizes the importance of time management when balancing a class and work schedule. These time management skills she has developed have helped her handle both her work and school responsibilities.

Argumedo agrees with Hartman about the need for prioritizing when juggling dual schedules.

“Having to juggle work and classes can be a challenge at times but I remind myself that in the real world I won’t have an easy, four-hour workday. I have learned to manage my time and to prioritize.” Argumedo said.

While having a job in college provides many advantages to students, these benefits can significantly decrease, or even be canceled out completely, if the student works too many hours per week.

If the number of hours a student works each week becomes too high, it could be more harmful than helpful. Laura Perna, professor at University of Pennsylvania, warns about the risk of working too many hours as a college student, and the long-term effect it may have.

“Working a higher number of hours, especially when the employment is off campus, increases time to [a] degree and reduces the likelihood of completing a degree.” Perna said.

Sophomore Anthony Constantino worked in Office of Undergraduate Admissions during fall semester of his freshman year. However, he left due to the workload of the job.

“Yeah, I was a freshman and needed to get my priorities straight and my grades were slipping. That’s why I quit. I could get more money working two weeks at home than I did a whole semester here. It was a good job just not for me at the time,” said Constantino.

Although his job was on-campus, the excessive number of hours kept him from doing well in his courses. Ultimately, he decided that the job was not right for him at the time and realized it would be best for him to leave.

Sophomore Dalton Pettus worked an off-campus job at a grocery store last year. He decided to keep his high school job, so he drove 20 minutes to his hometown of Santee to work weekend shifts. In addition to the drive, Pettus had long, inconvenient hours that did not support his studies.

“I wasn’t really able to participate in any school activities because I wouldn’t be able to commit with the hours I worked. Also, because I often worked late I often had to start doing homework at two in the morning with class [starting] at eight,” Pettus said. “Probably the worst [thing] was that I never really got to have a weekend… I actually enjoyed the school week more than the weekends because I got more time off and to myself.”

Since then, Pettus has switched to a new job in La Jolla. Although it is still off-campus, it is closer to USD and the hours work better with his schedule. He had the opportunity to rush this semester and has recently pledged with the on-campus fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon.

If you are considering getting a job, or already have one, make sure to pay attention to the time commitment required by the employer. On-campus jobs are a great option, since they tend to be more lenient and accommodating of a student’s school schedule. Keeping this in mind can help you find the right job.

As long as you keep your hours down, college is perfect time to work a part-time job. Not only can it help with your college career by connecting you to campus and improving your time management skills, but it can also serve as a preview to the real-world work force.

Employment in college can provide long-term success in both academics and beyond.

College does not last forever, so take advantage of on-campus job opportunities that play an important role in preparing us for our future careers.