There’s no denying that college is crazy expensive. Besides high tuition costs, students also have to pay for textbooks, class fees, technology fees, student activity fees…the list goes on and on. Then there’s basic life expenses (like clothing, food, and car insurance) that aren’t even directly associated with college, but still take up a lot of our paychecks. As the financial stress begins to build up, many students decide to have a job in college to offset their expenses.
In high school, I was very much aware of these costs, so I always thought that I would be working as soon as I stepped onto campus. But as move-in day approached and the realities of college began to kick in, I became torn on the decision. Should a have a job to help offset my expenses? Or should I take a break from work to focus on adjusting to college?
There are many pros and cons of each. In the end, however, I decided to not have a job my first semester. These were my reasons:
(Just a quick note: This is entirely based on my own experience and isn’t meant to be taken as professional advice. Due to having minimal outside expenses [like not having a car], earning scholarships, and saving up in the months beforehand to take time off from work, I was able to have a job-free 1st semester while not worrying about finances. Of course, you should always do what’s best for you financially and educationally.)
College requires more dedication and focus high school classes. Whereas homework may have only taken you 30 minutes each night in high school may suddenly become 2-3 hours per night in college.
The increased amount of work associated with my classes is one reason why I waited to have a job in college. I had no idea how much to expect and how long it would take, especially since it can differ between classes and majors. Taking a break from having a job gave me time to adjust to this change in the workload and know how to set up the perfect class schedule for myself the 2nd semester so that I could accommodate both a job and time for my classwork.
Waiting to take on a job also gives you the opportunity to develop college-level study skills and time management skills. Once you’ve develop these skills, you could then consider adding a job to the mix. Before that, however, it may be too overwhelming.
2. Student Activities
Most likely, your college campus boasts of having hundreds of student organizations, whether that be Greek Life, religious organizations, major-related associations, honors societies, or activities that are just there for fun!
Without a job your first semester, you can use the additional free time to explore what activities your campus has to offer, try them out, and see if they are for you. It can help you make new friends and possibly develop an interest in a new major.
Once you figure out which activities you’d like to be in, you can coordinate your work schedule around the activities schedule.
3. Explore the Types of Jobs on Campus
As a high schooler, you most likely had a job in the retail or food service industries. This all changes in college because there is a more diverse range of jobs (usually on-campus) that are available to college students.
For example, students work in clerical positions, RA positions, in art/museum galleries, or as student tour guides.
Not working your 1st semester gives you the opportunity to look at what jobs are available, their qualifications, and get feedback from people who are have worked in that position before. This helps ensure that when you do get a job, it’s something that will work for you, not against you.
4. Network for a Job within your Major
Networking is extremely important in college. But did you know that you could also network within your department?
As you search for a job for the following semester, try networking with some of the professors in your department. Some will be looking for assistants to prepare class materials, set up exhibits or galleries, etc.
Taking the 1st semester off from work also gives you time to earn the preferred qualifications for these positions, as some departamental positions request that you’ve taken certain classes as a requirement for the job.
5) Provides Time to Adjust To College
There’s a lot to adjust to in college: a new environment, increased schoolwork, more independence, and a whole lot more stress!
With all of these changes happening all at once, it can easily become an overwhelming and difficult experience. Not having the necessary time to adjust can have negative impacts in several areas of your life. That being said, taking the 1st semester off of work gives you time to adjust to these changes, potentially making the transition college a lot easier and smoother.
There are many advantages to not having a job the 1st semester of college. Personally, it gave me a smoother transition into college and led me to a job that I absolutely loved during the 2nd semester. However, I also want to emphasize that this may not be the best option for everyone. Having a job in your 1st semester can have its own set of benefits (and not just the paycheck). While it was better for me to wait a semester, it’s different for everyone, so it’s important to take your own needs into consideration. However, these reasons are definitely something to think about if you’re still trying to make that decision.
Did you decide have a job your first semester of college? What was you experience like? Let me know about it in the comments down below!