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What's the financial situation like in college? Do you recommend getting a job, and is it hard to manage work with school?

I'm a sophomore in high school, and I'm starting to think about college and what it is going to be like. I've heard that in college, it is hard to get by financially, and I was wondering what the reality of it is. How hard is it? What kind of things can you do to improve your financial situation? Is getting a job highly recommended or helpful? If you do get a job, is it very difficult to manage work while taking classes?


Thanks in advance!

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Pran’s Answer

Given how competitive the job market is right now, a major factor in getting a job after college is work experience, not just GPA or degree. So at least in the summers you should look into getting an internship or co-op in your field. It'll help with the bills and help get you a job after your degree program is done. Co-ops in particular are useful, because the company often picks up part or all of the cost of your schooling, albeit for more of a time commitment to them.


That said, during classes your time is more constrained. If you need more money, you could do occasional freelance work, tutor, be a TA or RA (which incidentally usually pays for housing expenses), etc, all of which would also look good on a resume. Should those positions be too much, or out of reach for one reason or another, there's always flipping burgers. I'd look at that sort of thing as a last resort because it doesn't really add to your resume, but it would help pay for incidentals at least, and you might meet some people you'll stay friends with for a long time.


I've known people who worked full-time while also going to school full-time. It's not great. But it's also not impossible. Just don't expect to have much of a social life on top of that, which is a large part of what people really enjoy out of college life. Working more than part-time while going to school full-time (or vice versa) is a HUGE time commitment, but sometimes it's the only way to go.


Depending on your field, there are also fellowships or research grants, though those usually go to grad students first. You can ask around with the profs in your department to see if they need assistants.


Good luck, and just remember that there are lots of opportunities out there if you're willing to spend the time to find them.

Thanks for the helpful information and advice. Andrea H.
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Mia’s Answer

Hi Sage


Great question. College is expensive but you can find some that are reasonable. Some students choose community college their first two years due to the cost and eventually transfer to a 4 year college.


Some things you can possibly do to help are: start now looking for scholarship money to help pay for school;; keep your GPA up (at least 3.5 or above); talk with your gudiance counselor. Some scholarship money comes from completing an Essay.on a particular topic.


College can be a very rewarding and challenging time in your life. It takes alot of resources both monetary and personal commitment to get through college but you can do. Anything worth having can take a lot of effort and commitment.


Having a job and going to class might be challenging; depending on how many college courses you are taking at the time. If having a job is what it takes to stay or get into college, I would recommend it. It might be tough but the pay off will be great.


I hope this helps.

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Angela’s Answer

+1 to looking for scholarships. There are many scholarships available through colleges directly, local organizations, and your community. The key is to look for these early as many application windows are short. Depending on specific colleges, there could also be scholarships available to current students and those who are Juniors or Seniors. For example, I received a scholarship for one semester of tuition in my Senior year at the University of Michigan.


As for working while going to school, as Pran and Mia mentioned, it is challenging, but doable. I have had experience working while in school during both undergrad and graduate school so I will share a bit about my personal experience. When I was in undergrad, I worked part-time at different times throughout the four years. I was a TA for Economics which was about 3-4 hours a week so not much, but it was nice to have a few extra bucks, and I really enjoyed working with professors and students. One summer, I had an internship at an ad agency and worked at The Limited as a retail associate on the weekends (the discount helped me get a wardrobe for the internship). This was a lot, and I wouldn't recommend doing two jobs for very long! After the internship ended, I went back for Fall classes and tried to stay on at the Limited. It was my first semester in the business school so I had a lot of group meetings. I ended up quitting the job at The Limited and opting for the TA instead as it was easier to schedule around classes, and it was right on campus.


For my MBA, I decided to do it part-time in the evenings and stay on working full-time at Google. I am happy to say that I survived and just graduated this past May!! It was challenging, and time management was key, but I was successfully able to complete 60 credits in a little under three years (took classes year round). For me, I really enjoyed being able to learn something in class one evening and then apply it to my work the very next day.


My one last thought would be that no matter what work you do, you are gaining valuable skills that will help you in your academic studies and all of your future jobs. Don't ever down play your jobs as each experience you have is an opportunity to learn and grow and will be a helpful stepping stone to your next opportunity. Showing that you can effectively balance a part-time job and school also shows future employers that you have good time management skills and a strong work ethic!

thank you for your advice Hajira N.
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Chris’s Answer

Sage,


Great question, and yes it's definitely a good idea to start working during school! Depending on your lifestyle it can be difficult to get by without a paycheck with the bills you'll have. However, once you're out of school it gets even harder so smart to get an early jump on your career!


Depending on your class schedule I'd start with a part-time job. Look for positions that offer extra incentives for college students. I worked at the Home Depot (32hrs a week, workaholic!) and they provided me a large sum of money for my classes in addition to my paycheck! They also provided flexible hours and lots of options of what to do.


You'll want to start with a low number of hours, maybe 10-20 per week, to make sure you get engrained with your school. Another great option if offered is work/study. Essentially this is offered by some schools as a way to work at the school. I worked for our Alumni group to help with past students.


And of course all of this will look good on your resume and build a strong foundation for yourself once you're in the "real world." I wish you the best of luck!


Chris

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Erin’s Answer

Definitely agree with all of the above, but I'd like to add a few more thoughts about working while going to school. I worked part-time throughout my college career, and while I didn't make a ton of money doing so, it certainly was nice to have a little bit of extra spending money! I wouldn't view it as a great source to actually pay for college (see above about scholarships, etc), but it is a good way to fund books, groceries, or even social events. I also definitely agree with the comments about boosting your resume - even if your part time job isn't relevant to your major, employers respect that working while going to school requires you to manage your time wisely.


I would definitely recommend checking out jobs that are available on campus. Most universities limit the number of hours that students can work (I believe the maximum my university allowed was 20 hours/week), so on-campus employers are more likely to respect your schedule. They're also a lot more flexible with hours - I had friends who worked in the dorm cafeteria who could pick up 2 hour shifts between classes. Another benefit to working on campus is proximity - if you can get a job in your dorm, you won't need a car to get there, nor will you waste valuable time traveling to your job! Finally, some on campus jobs (like working as a receptionist in the dorm) allow you to do homework if you're not busy - bonus!


Good luck!

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Malorie’s Answer

Sage,


Great question! College is all about balance! You want to make sure you are always balancing your school schedule with the rest of your commitments. I would recommend having a job in college if you are able to. even if it is just 5-10 hours a week, having a financial source is helpful with all of the student loans you accumulate. If you took 12 credit hours, you may have more hours in the week to work whereas if you were maxed out at 18 credit hours, I would only recommend the 5-10 hours of work per week. It will also depend on the difficulty of the classes but overall, I would recommend having a job in college if you can!

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Aimee’s Answer

Hi Sage,


I agree with all of the previous answers regarding financial aid and scholarships. My daughter currently works almost full time and attends college while living off campus. She is able to handle it with no problem but she is extremely organized. There are also lots of work study jobs on campus that could be included in your financial aid package. If you work in one of the school offices, they will often let you do your homework while you are working.


I hope this helps!

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Ashley’s Answer

Try looking into residential life. It is a great way to become a student leader and build your resume, all while saving on housing.

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Genfu Felix’s Answer

I would recommend getting a job while in college not only because of the money but you could use that experience as guide to decide what to do after college. Also, if the job is in the same field as your major, you already have a head start.

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Michaela’s Answer

Hi Sage,


I agree with a lot of the comments above and wanted to add to the discussion by sharing my personal experience with working part-time throughout college. It was important to me to begin making and saving money in college as I have been working since my sophomore year of high school. That being said, I wanted to find a job on campus that I could easily walk to and that would be flexible with hours to accommodate my school work and schedule. A "work-study" job is great for this and can be found right on campus! I worked as a student fundraiser at the call center in my school which involved calling alumni and asking for a donation for the University. I strongly believe that this job gave me the skills I needed to be a better communicator and presenter in class and also helped to prepare me for the full-time job I now hold as a business development representative which involves a lot of time on the phone.


Overall, I highly recommend working part-time or picking up an internship while in college. The experience you gain from it will not only look great on your resume and attract potential employers, but it will also teach you the "real-life" skills you don't always get from a classroom education.

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Mary ’s Answer

Hi Sage,


This is a great question to think about in sophomore year most kids your age do not think about college until 12th grade. Financial aid is not hard as long you filed the applications early with your parents/parent. The problem happen is when you apply late all the funds would be gone. Same goes for living in the dorms.


To improve your financial situation in college is to have your parents or family members support when you need them. Another try to work for the school that would help tremendously. The staffs at school and the professors would acknowledge the fact and will be willing to be very supportive. Some colleges offer discounts and they also work around your class schedule.


In the first semester I don’t think you should be working. First get acclimated to your life in college as a freshman. Working you could lose your focus in school the drawback your grades will get affected.


Hope this help because I was working in my first year in college. I dropped out for two years.


Good luck.

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Jenn’s Answer

When I started my freshman year in college I was working two part time jobs. It was definitely tough, but by doing so, I learned some life skills that later helped me in various jobs I have held since. The first thing I learned was time management, and its true importance. I also learned the importance of saving what you earn, how to network in person, and the importance of understanding how school and work are parallel in a lot of ways. That said, I recommend having a part time job, maybe at the school you attend to offset some of tuition, and use it to network with peers, build hands on experience as well as further your education at the same time.

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Kary’s Answer

Hello Sage,


Excellent questions!!! College is one of the most well invested money ever. Do not be afraid to apply for colleges because of your financial needs. There are a lot of resources available to students in this country. First of all, I advice you to experience college to the fullest. Do not just to college but get involved; get involved in clubs, campaigns and ideas you believe in. There so many opportunities, workshops, internships and valuable information to students. I personally think that one of the best offices in college in the office for Careers and Internships. I was blessed to work for the office/center and internships at Brooklyn College. During the summer look for internships in you area of study, look for part time jobs within college and if it possible in the department of your area of study. I worked for the School of education at Brooklyn College for one year and it was amazing. I found it amazing because my passion is education and counseling and I got to meet wonderful people and professors while working there. I also advice you to apply for scholarships and grants. Best luck...Kary

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Nariman’s Answer

Part-time jobs such as 20 hrs/week should be manageable with full-time course load of 12 hours. It all depends on what you are majoring in and if you can manage your studies well while working. You can work at a computer lab and help students if they have any technical issues with their computer or files etc. The good thing about working at a lab is you can do your studying during downtime. One thing about working while going to school at the same time is you need to manage your time pretty well so neither your studies or your work situation suffers.

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