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When you are in college, it can feel like there is never enough time. You have to maintain strong grades in all of your classes, make completely new friends, keep up with your sleep schedule, and keep in touch with your friends and family from home. All of that can take more than 24 hours everyday, so the thought of starting a job in college can sound outlandish. Stress is a major component of life for many college students, with the newfound responsibilities and pressure points in their lives. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 40% of full time undergraduate students were employed, almost all in part time jobs. But how can students balance working on top of the rest of their commitments?

Why do students work in college?

For many students, having a job is not a choice. They need the financial support and security of a part time income to pay college tuition or to pay the costs associated with living away from home. Many students find themselves wanting a job. They do not have demonstrated financial need, but having extra cash in the bank is a driving factor. On top of both of those reasons, many students get a job for experience. Whether they want to get into a specific field early or they just lack experience in office settings, getting a part time job on or off campus has many benefits. It also serves as a great excuse to brush up on professional skills. Emailing, administrative tasks, and even business casual dress are all useful in a post-college workplace, and having a job in school gives some students a unique opportunity to get a head start.

How much should I work in college?

If you have no inflexible factors like a necessary income or specific hours, there is an ideal period to commit to a job, proven by science. A study conducted by the National Survey of Student Engagement found that students working over under 20 hours per week had a “statistically significant negative relationship” with their grades. However, working under 20 hours was significantly and positively related to grades. Essentially, working under 20 hours is the sweet spot for establishing a good sense of momentum. Additionally, it is recommended to work over 10 hours per week. This amount of work encourages discipline in time management skills and structure. Students who can successfully balance work and school with the increased stress of responsibilities are more likely to be more successful later in life. In the words of Daniel Douglas, co-author of a study on Education and Employment, “the more you work during your first year of college, the more you earn after college.”

Whether you work or not, it is important to take care of yourself, especially in college. Just like having a job, in your college years, you are building out your skills and expertise. If you prioritize doing what is right for you, that is the habit you set as you go on into the rest of your life. If you are in a leadership position, consider different ways you can help support the people around you. Encouraging or helping other students find jobs for themselves and investing any extra money you earn are great ways to set yourself and others up for success in the long run.