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How did you manage to work at a job and attend college? What hardships did you face?

I am considering working while in college due to my financial situation, and I would like to hear your experience juggling a job and college. Bonus points if you are/were also a computer science major, since that is my major as well. #jobs #job #college #hardship

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Lori’s Answer

Hi Kaven! I will echo the tip from Amit above - typically if you can find a job on-campus or specifically geared towards students, then you may be a bit more flexibility in your hours and more leniency with doing homework at work, etc. You can even check with your financial aid office as you may be eligible for an official “Work-Study” program where they set you up with someone on campus.


For myself, I actually went the other direction and was working off campus at a Lowe’s up to 40 hours a week during my first four years of college and then dialed back my workload and finished with an on-campus job where I was only working about 10-20 hours a week which really let me focus on my senior Chemical Engineering design classes and all of the really intense workload I had my last year of university. And yes, I took five years to finish my degree, which helped to spread out some of the cost and reduce the total number of hours every semester, since B.S. in Ch.E. required ~130 credit hours.


One of the things that worked well for me to manage working plus juggling school without going into a lot of debt was to really spend a lot of time optimizing my schedule to have “class time” and then “work time” to keep them separate. I would normally either stack my schedule to be back-to-back classes only in the mornings every day to leave my afternoons available to either work or complete homework, or (even better for the semesters when it worked out) stack all of my classes into only Mon/Wed/Fri to leave other days open for work. This is usually a bit easier earlier on when you are taking less specialized classes, since there are typically more sections of a class available for you to optimize your scheduling. I did take a couple of summer classes for general things (basic classes everyone takes) where they were available, as well as one or two 7pm classes over the course of my degree.


If I had to leave 1-2 hrs gap between classes where I could not go to work for a few hours (when I was working off-campus), I would have all of my needed things with me and hole up in a quiet corner to do homework or study. The fifth year of engineering where I was working on campus, it was easier to pop into work for a couple of hours since that location was very flexible in our schedules and had work we could do on kind of an ad-hoc basis.


A couple of things that I wish I had done more during my university years were to get summer internships in my field of study earlier in my degree (I only had one internship after my Junior year classes), as Amit mentioned as well, and to have done more focused work, like trying to get a tutoring job in the Engineering center instead of working in jobs that were less related. I think both of these would have helped with resume building for getting a job in my field after university, and typically in a STEM-focused area, you should be able to find an internship that pays fairly well.


One last note of encouragement - I remember being amazed at just how inefficient some of my fellow students were when it got time to buckle down in the lab and get work done. There’s a saying about work expanding to fill the time allotted, which is very true. For me I had a very strong driver to get down to business and knock out an assignment because I knew I couldn’t stay awake all hours of the night when I had to be at work by 7 am the next day. For others that had more flexibility in their schedules, I saw a lot more procrastination. So time management can play a huge role as well!

Lori recommends the following next steps:

Research work-study options at your university
Explore schedule options / tools to help you optimize your class schedule
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Amit’s Answer

Hi Kaven,


Great question. The thought of working while handling a full load in college definitely seems like a daunting task. I worked throughout college and worked paid internships in the summer. Although I was not a computer science major (I majored in economics), I was balancing a full course load, a separate research project, and unpaid internships during the school year.


Colleges have jobs on campus that are made for students. I worked at the library, which was a very chill job, I had plenty of time to do my homework, and my tasks were usually just related to helping patrons navigate around the building. Early on, I highly recommend starting off with a job that does not require too much work, so you can become acclimated to the college life. However, as you progress in your college career and are able to better balance your life, you may want to pursue jobs (whether on or off campus) where you can utilize your computer science skills (and potentially make more).   


Make sure you find internships relevant to the field you want to work in after graduation during the summer times. Although the first one may be unpaid, it will help set up paid internships later on. 


During your first term of year in college, find a job that does not add to much pressure and allows you to settle into your college life.

Amit recommends the following next steps:

During your first term of year in college, find a job that does not add to much pressure and allows you to settle into your college life.
As you progress in college, find jobs relevant to your skill set.
Intern during the summers for extra cash.
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