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Everyone’s college experience is different, but most students would agree on one aspect: everything adds up. Whether you’re on a full-scholarship, covered by a savings account, or taking out loans, from registering for classes and paying rent to buying food and participating in fun activities, college life racks up a bill. Many college students try relieving some of this financial burden by getting a job, but the prospect can be intimidating. Where do you start? Can you even make worthwhile money as a college student? Hopefully, these five considerations can help you decide whether working in college is a good fit for you.


Seriously consider your time. All majors and interests are important but I think most people would agree that some course loads look really different from others. Whereas STEM students may find themselves in labs for several hours at a time with even more hours of homework waiting for them at home, other students may only have four big assignments throughout the semester and feel like they can take a few hours three times a week to work. Consider how much time you spend working on assignments, regardless of your major, and whether or not it would be beneficial to dedicate some time in the week to a paid position. Regardless of how demanding your course load may be, that doesn’t mean you should completely rule out the possibility of making some money in college. 

On-Campus Benefits

Look for on-campus employment. Many on-campus positions look for students to fill secretarial or maintenance type jobs. Many of these roles involve working at a front desk or in a department office and leave lots of time to do homework while on the clock. If someone does not actively need something, most students in these positions are allowed to work in school instead. Working for a University as a student also allows for flexible hours that respect class schedules as a priority. The one substantial drawback to an on-campus job is limited pay. If you are looking for a substantial income that will pay bills or rent, that might be difficult on the typical $7-$9 an hour pay of on-campus positions. 


Talk to your friends about good off-campus employment opportunities. If you are looking for something that pays well, you should consider an off-campus position. This can be especially intimidating without the protections and certainties of working for your school, but the pay-off can be great. Many students enjoy working in retail or restaurants for the better pay, change of pace, and new friendships from a broader circle of people. These jobs may be more demanding and there’s the risk of getting a manager with little respect for the priorities of a college student, but by asking your friends or other groups that you’re in you can find out which local businesses hire college students and treat them well. 


Consider a paid internship. The difference between choosing to get a job and not may come down to what looks good on your resume. Ultimately, any time spent working while a full-time student will look good to future graduate programs or employers, but you might wish that you could start making money while working in the field you are studying. Those opportunities do exist. They might take a little time to find, but most large universities have a multitude of internships or research assistantships in a variety of fields that will pay for students to get involved in their major. Externally, websites like Handshake and Indeed are gateways to thousands of paid internships, locally and remote, in nearly every possible field.


Be your own boss. Freelancing can have many positives and many negatives – it ultimately depends on your level of dedication. If you like to write, do graphic design, manage social media, or make any kind of product, you can sell your talents. Many companies do not require a college degree for their writing or graphics needs, just a sample of your work. If you are willing to cover a variety of topics and build a portfolio of freelance work, you can up your rates and make hundreds of dollars through larger deals. If you like making things, like buttons, soap, candles, or anything else, you can start a business on Etsy or any other marketplace format. Depending on your passions and time management abilities, as you will get the freedom to make your own hours, freelancing could work for you. 

Whether you need a job to help fund your education or are hoping to collect some extra cash for your back pocket, there are many different ways to build income while a student. College towns are brimming with economic opportunity, all you have to do is look.

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Ellie Taube

Alabama '24

Hi! My name is Ellie Taube and I am an English Major studying at The University of Alabama. In addition to writing and journalism as major passions of mine, I also love cooking and going walks or runs. I love dogs, in fact, most of my phone's camera roll is just pictures of my three year old goldendoodle, Ruby!
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