Working while in College
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Working while in College
My spouse and I are in disagreement about whether our son should
get a part time job when he'll be a college freshman next fall. I
say it will give him spending money (instead of ours), provide
structure, and teach him some life lessons. The main argument
against is that it will be too much for him while he adjusts to
college and that his grades come first. It is still up in the air
as to whether he will attend a CSU away or a local community
college. We both agree he should get a job this summer, hopefully
full-time. We'd like to hear others experience with this
I vote for working part-time while in college, though a maximum of fifteen
hours a week would be best (10-12 optimal). I worked all through college,
and it provided me with contact with people in the community, a different
kind of responsibility, and, frankly, lessons in humility. I got to serve
others rather than being served all the time. The argument that a
freshman has no time to work seems specious to me; most college freshman
have lots of time that they blow on video games, hanging out, etc. Some
hanging out time is essential, but even working and doing one's homework,
there is still enough time in the week to work. Getting a work ethic is
at least as important as any of the things one learns in a classroom (and
I am speaking as a professor). The work ethic achieved in working a
part-time job is different from that achieved by handing homework in on
time. So a job, absolutely.
Is he going to take chemistry, calculus for engineers, and physics?
Because if he is, I would definitely recommend that he not work part time
while in school. Now if he's going to take only one liberal arts class,
then working part time should not be a problem. The real question is how
seriously you take him going to college. In my opinion, college is an
investment in the future, and should be all about studying and preparing
yourself for graduate school or a career. Other people think college is
about finding yourself, and that working part time is ok. I disagree with
that view. I've seen so many students flunk their college courses or do
lousy in them because they were working part time. They were too tired to
study and ended up dropping out or retaking classes which in this economy
is very expensive and time consuming. So why risk his future over a part
time job? If it were my kid, I would expect him to study very hard and
earn good grades, and no, I would not want him to work part time.
I work at UC Berkeley and employ up to six
students at a time in a pretty demanding job (they're all publications
assistants, and they don't just sit on their butts answering telephones!). I
have hired MANY freshmen (I like them young and try to retain them for several
years), as well as pre-med, pre-law, and engineering students. My students
work 10-15 hours/week, and they seem to be able to juggle the demands of the
job. I am very flexible about their hours (e.g., if they need to switch their
schedules around, it's no big deal), but I expect them to contact me in
advance. There are many job opportunities on campuses that are not stressful.
For instance, the libraries and residence halls employ security monitors who
can get some studying done as they buzz people through doors (but these jobs
usually pay less). I also think that campus employers are more flexible and
usually fit hours around students' schedules.
My students have enjoyed learning new skills or developing basic skills they
may already have (they do a lot of photography, videography, web work,
proofreading, research, writing, and print design), and for the more techie
students, it's given them a chance to use their brains in different ways and
meet students outside of their fields. I also agree with one of the other
posters: they are learning life skills. Okay, maybe they can do this during
the summer or during another year, BUT as each year passes at a university,
students have more chances for other opportunities (e.g., unpaid research,
volunteer work, or year abroad).
All students are different, but I'd vote for having your student start out
with a low-stress job for 10 hours a week, and if that goes well, s/he can
take on more hours or find a more demanding position.
Love working with college students!
My kids are still much younger than yours, so please take my two cents for
what they're worth. I found that when I was in college (and I went to a
school where students seemed to study around the clock!), it really helped me
to have some commitments other than studying. It helped me manage my time and
anxiety about my workload. No one can study full-time! When I tried to be a
full-time SAHM, it was the same for me.
Congrats on Your Son's College Acceptance!
this page was last updated: Apr 14, 2012
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