7 Reasons to Work Your Way Through College

Campus jobs can yield money and higher marks, but stick to part-time hours.


Many students say they don't want to take part-time jobs when they start college because they'll need all their time to study (or party).

But new research confirms what parents and counselors have been saying for years: Part-time campus jobs not only raise cash but can help raise students' grade-point averages.

After interviewing and examining data on hundreds of undergraduates from 1996 through 2004, researchers found that the average GPA of freshmen at four-year universities who worked between one and 20 hours a week was 3.13. Those who didn't work at all had GPAs averaging just 3.04.

A warning: Charlene Marie Kalenkoski of Ohio University and Sabrina Wulff Pabilonia of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics did find that while a little work is good, too much is bad for students. Freshmen who worked more than 20 hours a week had GPAs of just 2.95.

A similar pattern, though with slightly different numbers, was seen among community college students.

Counselors say there are seven reasons students should take part-time and, if possible, on-campus work-study jobs to earn at least their pocket money:

1. Earn bucks: Working just 10 hours a week typically generates at least $75 a week, which should be plenty to fund weekend entertainment and incidental costs. Frugal students working 15 hours a week or so can cover books and supplies as well. Those typically run about $500 a semester.

[Read more about what you can earn by working.]

2. Learn to budget: Students who have to earn their own pocket and entertainment money learn budgeting and are less likely to overspend than those who can charge a Cancún spring break or pizza party to a parental credit card, counselors say.

3. Time-manage: Part-time jobs force students to learn time-management skills they'll need the rest of their lives.

4. Improve learning: Part-time jobs seem to improve academic performance. Research shows students who work no more than 20 hours a week have higher grades and are more likely to graduate college than both those who don't work at all and those who put in too many hours.

5. Career experiment: Part-time jobs give students chances to learn what kind of work they like and, perhaps more important, don't like. That can help them avoid costly mistakes such as majoring in something they later learn they hate.

6. Build résumé: Working during school helps students build their résumés , which gives advantages to graduates looking for career-oriented jobs.

7. Connect with professors and students: Some work-study jobs give students opportunities to do research or work with professors. But even those who don't get plum work-study assignments say on-campus jobs help them make friends with other students and network with university staff. Some studies show that those with on-campus jobs are more successful students, perhaps because of the connections they forge on the job.

[Read more about work-study jobs.]

  • Searching for a college? Get our complete rankings of America's Best Colleges.
  • TAGS:
    paying for college