As the competition for work-study and other campus jobs intensifies, college officials say students who follow these six steps are much more likely to earn the extra money they need for college.
[Read about how the government has slashed the number of work-study jobs in 2010.]
1. Apply early: Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid as soon as possible, and visit your college's financial aid office early in the spring to apply for a fall job. After getting swamped with more than 2,000 applications for the 72 work-study jobs available at her campus this fall, Wilma Hjellum, director of financial aid and veteran services at the Metropolitan Community College of Omaha, Neb., stopped accepting job applications April 1.
[Read about the new, easier FAFSA.]
2. Be persistent: If you miss out on a job when you first apply, ask about a waiting list, or contact the aid office midway through the semester, suggests Sam Collie, interim director of financial aid for Eastern Oregon University. Sometimes work-study jobs open up late in a semester if a student quits or drop out.
3. Be professional: College officials lucky enough to have work-study openings can now be picky. Applicants who dress professionally, show up on time, and treat the interview seriously are more likely to get hired, Hjellum says.
4. Spread your search: If you aren't offered a work-study job, look for other kinds of campus jobs. Some colleges, such as the University of Missouri, are creating additional part-time student jobs to replace laid-off staff. MU will offer work-study jobs to about 1,000 low-income students this fall, and will hire another 7,000 or so in other campus jobs. Jobs in the college's news bureau, for example, pay about $9 an hour, usually offer up to 17 hours of work a week, and allow students to earn about $4,000 a school year. Of course, students can also look off campus as well.
5. Start a small business: Management professor Craig Armstrong, who assigns his University of Alabama entrepreneurship students to start businesses two weeks after the semester begins with only $10 in startup money, said several students have figured out ways to make big profits. One former bartender made several thousand dollars by collecting used corks from bars and turning them into refrigerator magnets and bulletin boards that he sold back to the bars and online. Other students walked dogs, or sold water outside of sporting events. Students who can't find jobs can "find something that is a problem that you are having or see other people having," and figure out a way to solve it. "It doesn't take a lot of resources" to start up profitable small businesses, Armstrong says.
6. Don't overdo it: Research shows that students who work 10 to 15 hours a week do better in their classes than those who don't work at all. But students who work more than 20 hours a week have a higher dropout rate, in part because they have less time to study. Since adults who've earned bachelor's degrees generally have much higher wages and lower unemployment odds than those who haven't, it pays to sacrifice a little earnings during college to make sure the student succeeds in class and makes it to graduation.
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