Working College Students

I am pretty sure most of us had this mental image of college as the land of freedom, that beautiful time when you get to be independent from your parents and live your own adventure. Little we knew, or no one bothered to tell us that such adventure sometimes is not possible without a great load of responsibility.

Working College Students

The reality about college season is that for most students it comes accompanied by a part-time job or in some cases part-time jobs. When I first arrived in South Africa to do college, I got my first job ever as a waitress, and it was after that first week that I realised that I had to manage my priorities in order to balance both.

But what are some things to consider before you become not only a college student, but you enter the journey of a working college student? Are there some difficulties? What are the benefits? I hope the following information provides you with enough confidence to take the next step, if of course this is an option in your circumstance.


The main and biggest benefit of working during your college season is pretty obvious, it helps you carry and lessen the financial load that your parents might have experienced or you may have experienced if you did not have a job. This is specially handy if you do college away from home and have the responsibility of paying housing, utilities and other living expenses.

Another benefit  is that the experience of balancing both work and college will help you set your priorities and teach you about life management. It is almost like a fast course where you learn to become an adult and how to carry responsibilities in life. Working will teach you about time management, social skills and of course professional etiquete.

When you work during college you also learn to value what you have. It seems pretty simple, but if you pay for your tuition through hard work, it will be more difficult for you to feel good about skipping class or repeating subjects simply because of laziness. And summed up to all this come the beauty of independence that as much as it is sweet it can also be a little bit bitter as we will see on the next section.


Learning to manage your life between 20 hours of part time work (For international student visa) and college classes can be a little bit hectic. Specially when assignments kick in and you have to use your night hours to finish these because you simply cannot stop working. This is why setting your priorities right from the beginning will help you stay motivated and with the eyes on the prize during the whole journey. Remember that without work, there is no school, or rent, or food or anything else you might need to pay for.

Another difficulty for students is that they will have to give up on something in order to spend their extra hours working, whether this means going out less or giving up other social gatherings and recreational activities with friends.

On another note, finding a job with a good payment is also difficult for students that have limited hours, specific availabilities and little experience or no experience at all. Underpaid jobs are the most popular amongst students, who are wither too afraid to say something or simply are not in the position to demand a better payment, for this can represent loosing your recently found job.

But not everything is too good or too bad, this is why I would like to give you some tips to navigate this season and help you overcome the difficulties of being a working college student.


  • Find a job near college so that you can save yourself the travel time and use it for something else.
  • Apply for jobs that you know will provide you with a just payment, it is understandable that sometimes you are desperate and you are not on the position to be demanding, but in that case it is better to look for a better job instead of burning out working for an underpaid possition. Take the time to learn your right as a student and what your wage range should be.
  • As much as you need to work hard in order to pay for school and life in general, make sure you take at least a day every two weeks or every month to rest and enjoy with friends. It is not worth working and earning a lot if at the end you have no time to spend it in what you love.
  • When it comes to setting priorities, remember that this is a time that you have set apart to study and attend college, that in the future will be of great help for your career. Therefore when you are faced with a work/college dilemma don’t forget that college should be your priority followed by work and everything else.

Being a working college student has its highs and lows, but at the end of the day if you navigate it well, you will end up with much more benefits than difficulties.

What else is something people should consider before they decide to be a working college student?


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