Many financial aid packages include a work-study offer, and 72 percent of college students work at least part time while in school, according to the United States Census Bureau.
No doubt the rising cost of a higher education is a factor, as tuition and fees at a private, four-year university in the United States for one year were $33,480 in 2016, according to the College Board. Public university tuition averages $9,650 a year. The average total cost for tuition, fees, and room and board at a public university for four years is $20,090.
But if your family has a choice as to whether your student works while in school or not, which is the best option for you? Here are some factors to consider:
- Learn the value of money. By being responsible not only for budgeting for expenses, the life lessons that come from having to earn what you spend cannot be matched.
- Learn real-life skills. Whether it's customer service skills acquired while serving at a restaurant, or sales skills picked up at a retail gig, real exposure to the professional world cannot be replicated—especially as this kind of practical experience is increasingly relevant over classroom work in many industries.
- Valuable resume-builder. A paid job or internship can show work ethic, independence, and real-world professional experience that can open doors to post-graduate jobs—especially if the position is relevant to your career choice. In fact, some research suggests that students who work a modest number of hours are more likely to be gainfully employed after graduation.
- Time management. Sure, work requires lots of time, plus organizing even more time for transportation and getting ready for work. Time management is a critical adult skill that cannot be ignored, and may contribute to the fact that students who worked 10 to 15 hours weekly were more likely than other students (including those who did not work at all) to learn more, report a better educational experience, and graduate on time, according to University of Pennsylvania researchers.
- Reduces college debt. The burdens of educational debt can be dire, and earning while in school can relieve some of this weight for years to come.
- Distracts from schoolwork. Especially in demanding majors like pre-med and engineering, high grade point averages and professor recommendations are paramount—and critical to landing summer internships that can be the gateway to graduate programs and post-graduate jobs.
- Distracts from socializing. Some would argue that the networking opportunities in college are as valuable as the classes offered.
- Higher risk of dropping out. Many students simply find it too challenging to manage work and school, and the graduation rate for students who work more than 16 hours weekly was much lower than students who worked 10 to 15 hours weekly.
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