How to Manage a Job During College

The summer has winded down and the new school year is here. Questions of schedule, courses, tuition costs and so forth are bubbling to the surface. Although you probably spent the summer at a job or in career-related internship, the school year is different. There may not be enough time to juggle an internship and a heavy course load. But a part-time job can be a great way to keep money in your pocket, lighten the loan debt and build some professional skills.

With that in mind, here are some tips for how to transition from a summer job to a part-time job during the school year.

1. Adjust Schedule

Although you may be looking for a new job for the school year, there’s a chance you’re keeping a summer job. If that’s the case, you’ll need to readjust expectations with your employer. You may have been able to dedicate 40+ hours a week to work during the summer, but when school is in session this is harder to pull off. Have an honest conversation with your boss and tell him/her what time you’ll be available when classes are in session. If you’re unsure, part-time is probably the best way to go. Working 3-4 days a week is completely manageable while taking the standard number of courses.

Judge the intensity of your courses to determine how much time you can work. When negotiating with your employer, it’s best to estimate you’ll have less time initially. Once your semester is underway, if you discover you have more time then you first believed, tell your employer the good news. That’s a much easier conversation to have. “I can work more” sounds better than “I need to work even less.

2. Maintain Priorities

A lot of the jobs you take as a college student are “cool.” Working at a record store, restaurant/bar, movie theater, radio station, etc., can be a lot of fun. It can be easy to get caught up in your job. If there’s a threat of this happening, be sure to remind yourself why you’re there: college. A part-time job during college is meant to help you cover your bills and provide some financial freedom while you develop professional skills. It’s not meant to be a career.

Keep your ducks in a row. Make sure college is priority No. 1. If demands of the job are interfering with school, then change how you’re dedicating your time. If there are optional workdays that will cause you to miss school activities, attend the school activities.

3. Expand Your Job Options

There are tons of jobs that you’ll have time for while in college. First consider the traditional college jobs: library assistant, campus bookstore worker, teaching assistant and grader. Each of these great opportunities will keep you on campus and have a degree of flexibility built into them. Often these jobs are filled through work-study programs. Check with your college’s career center if you are interested in on-campus work.

If off-campus is an option for you, there are many fun, flexible opportunities for you. Retail jobs are great during college, with decent pay and the flexibility you’ll need. I myself worked at a record store through my B.A. and M.A. degrees.

Seasonal retail jobs can also be great if you need a little bit of extra money but don’t want to make a long commitment. Also consider working as a babysitter. Although a lot of high school students take this job, often parents will prefer the experience and age of a college student babysitter. The same goes for dog walkers and pet sitters. Working as a waiter, barista or bar back is also worth considering.

4. Think Long and Short Term

A part-time job during college shouldn’t just be a way to keep some money in your pocket. If you approach your job correctly, you can learn time management, budgeting and other professional skills to include in a future resume. Both sets of priorities should keep you motivated and working hard. With both of these priorities in mind, you also want to stop and smell the roses. College should be, in addition to study and work, a time for fun.

Don’t abandon your social life, campus events and extra curricular activities in favor of maintaining your job. Once you’re done with college you’ll most likely be working a full-time job. So soak up your freedom while you have it. The bit of extra cash should help.