Help wanted: Should you have a job in college?

By Chris Prculovski, Hannah Laubach, Liana Dickerson, and Emma Mote

Working a job in college is a wonderful idea! It can help you pay tuition bills, rent, and even line your pocket with extra spending money.

However, there are a few questions you might be asking yourself while determining how to go about obtaining a job: Do I have enough time? What jobs are out there? Which one is right for me? 

Work/School/Life Balance 

Your college class schedule will look very different from your high school one. No longer will you have to be at school (or on Zoom) everyday from 7am to 2:30pm.

Your classes will likely be scattered throughout the day, with different schedules for different days of the week. So deciding whether a job fits in your schedule and where it fits is the first step towards getting a college job. Many students decide to take the first semester or first year off from work to get acclimated to the new environment and a better feel for how much time outside of class they actually have to spend working. 

Finding a Job

Once you decide that you want a job in college, you have to find one. Good news: there are plenty of ways to find jobs around you! It will just depend on what you’re looking for.

If you want to work on campus, there are job boards and student-led job fairs about various positions, like dining services, tutoring fellow students, or working in the library or dorms. Finding jobs outside of your university can be as simple as checking the website of a potential employer, or simply seeing a “Help Wanted” sign. 

While searching campus job boards, you may come across jobs listed as “Work-Study”. Work-Study is a form of federal aid awarded to students based on need after the school assesses the information on the student’s FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Students are automatically considered for work-study based on their FAFSA, however in order to clinch a job, they do need to apply and interview for the specific job they would like to have. If you were awarded a work-study position in your aid package, terrific! If not, worry not. There are plenty of other jobs on campus and off to check out.

Figuring out the Fit 

Arguably, the most important aspect of getting a college job is determining whether or not it is the right fit for you. So, figure out what kind of job you’re looking for to help aid in your search.   Do you want to have time to work on homework while on a shift? Then an on-campus job might be what you’re looking for. Are you looking to gain experience in your field? Then an off-campus job might be the best fit.

Here are some other things to consider: 

  • When you can work? (During the day, at night, weekends) 
  • How many hours per week do you want to work? 
  • Where do you want to work and how will you transport yourself there?
  • Any perks? (Free food at a restaurant, employee discounts, etc) 
  • Will I like what I’m doing? 

Want some real life examples? Our IN–The College Planning Experts’ Powell Campus Advisors had a variety of jobs during their college careers, each with their own benefits and drawbacks:


My second semester at college, I started working at the on-campus coffee shops. Working for dining services was great because it was really easy to schedule around my classes since everyone that worked there was also a student. And I got a free meal every shift–which was great when I moved off campus and no longer had a dining plan. 

However, working at a coffee shop wasn’t something that aligned with my interests or career goals. So, I took a class in order to work at the university’s writing center. It was super flexible on scheduling and it was in the same building that I had most of my classes–talk about convenience. Working there was perfect for me since I got to help people and it was something I was good at (I never got good at making coffee, latte art is just not my thing).

My job as a writing center consultant is actually what got me started here at IN–the College Planning Experts and I’m still using many of the skills I learned there while I edit our clients college admission essays! 


My first job in college was the same job that I had in high school: a rock wall attendant. I continued with this position as with the flexible hours, I was able to work around my school schedule with ease. I had time to go to school, work on homework and maintain my position.

My junior year of college, I decided it was time for me to find a new job to expand upon my work experience and add bulk to my resume. After hearing about a restaurant that was hiring, I decided to try serving in order to work on my customer service skills. Considering I was taking more online classes at the time, I was able to work longer hours, but it was a nice change of pace to keep me on my feet and allow me to gain experience in a new industry. 

During my time at my jobs, I was able to meet many incredible people and connections that I still keep in touch with today. Although at times it was hard to find that balance (make sure to take off enough time to study for exams) I wouldn’t have changed any second of it.


During the summers for the first few years of college, I worked for a company called Universal Cheerleaders Association. I learned to utilize public speaking in front of large crowds and create personalized logistics for each of the camps I travelled to. 

My second place of employment was with Bath and Body Works. I was hired onto their holiday team and was able to stay on after to be a regular sales associate. I gained excellent customer service and managerial experience during my time there, while acquiring great connections to corporate leaders. 

Nearing the end of college, I was referred by a friend to work for her company, Event Marketing Strategies, as a brand ambassador. I was able to showcase my relationship building skills and learned to work with new people every week while presenting important information to clients at our new locations. Having one or more jobs during the course of my college career let me build desired experience that employers are looking for in today’s market and allowed me to save enough money to not take on any more student loan debt. 


My first job in college during my freshman year was glamorous – preparing and serving food in a campus dining hall. The dining hall was attached to the dorm I lived in, which made my commute as easy as the pie we served for dessert. I worked with a wide variety of people and because most of them were students, the managers were understanding of our schedules and super flexible.

My sophomore year I continued the trend in food service, but instead worked as a server and bartender in a local, family-owned restaurant. The restaurant was only open for dinner, which made coordinating with classes easy. During my sophomore year, I still lived on campus and on campus residents don’t have parking spaces of their own. Quickly, I realized hunting for a free parking space off campus is a competitive sport and by the end of it, I could have gone pro. Junior year and senior year I lost my parallel parking edge, but was much warmer walking to my house from the parking lot directly behind my humble college abode, rather than walking blocks back to my dorm. I love working with people (hello, communication major!), so interacting with customers made the job super enjoyable. The restaurant also boasted a fun and dynamic atmosphere, and I made friends I’ll have for years from the few we were serving tables and making memories together. Working in a restaurant during college helped me grow personally, as well as in my professional communication and customer service skills, and I loved every minute of it.

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