According to CollegeData.com, the average cost of obtaining a college degree was around $30,000 for private colleges. That’s a fairly eye-watering amount of debt that you can wrack up in exchange for an education. Of course, for most of us it’s a debt worth taking - what you learn will further your career prospects, not to mention give you an experience of a lifetime.
Still, $30,000 is a lot of money, and that’s before you even start calculating what you’re going to need to live on. For a lot of college students, the need to pay their own way becomes crippling. It’s not unusual for students to find themselves needing to work what equates to full time hours (more than 30 hours per week is generally considered full time) just to support themselves through their course.
That’s a problem.
While the idea of earning for yourself as you continue your studies doesn’t sound so bad in the abstract, in reality, it can be a nightmare. The amount of hours you have to spend working is the same way of saying the amount of time you spend not studying. Working too much can have a serious impact on the work you produce as part of your degree -
which is the whole reason you’re trying to support yourself through college!
Very quickly, the problems begin to stack up. You can find yourself not at your best for your education, but also not giving all you need for your job. Common jobs for college students tend to be of the low-paid variety that have a high staff turnover, such as waitressing or retail work. That’s mainly because that type of work is easy enough to obtain; there’s no long interview process, so you can begin when you need to. However, the downside of that means that there are always people who are willing to take your position - so if you don’t perform at work, you’re liable to be fired.
Of course, it’s not like you can follow the usual job advice and “give it your all” or “commit to it” - because you’re in college! If you’re going to give your all to anything, it should be to the course that will improve your future prospects.
So What Can You Do?
If you don’t like the above cycle of spinning between responsibilities without ever truly settling into one of them, then you do have a few options. They tend to need a little more planning, but then again, with something this important you’re not going to want to rush things. It’s good to take your time and evaluate your options, ideally starting the year before you go to college. Talking of, option one…
1) Save For College
This is a pretty basic idea, but it’s still worth repeating as a surprising number of people don’t do it. The year before you head to college can be used to earn money where you can. Even doing odd jobs for the occasional $10 or $20 could be beneficial if you tuck it away to keep the you of the future from having to exist on Ramen noodles 24/7.
2) Find Work You Can Do From Your Home
It is possible to work while you’re at college, but you need to find something that isn’t going to be time-consuming. Given that commuting is a huge demand on time for anyone, it’s worth considering your options for what you might be able to do from home (or wherever you’re living as you attend college).
If you’re not sure what sort of work might be possible, then consider…
You tend to have to do your research with companies you might consider and see if anything is a good fit for you. Of course, you don’t just have to pursue one avenue of the above - they’re all options, so you could try them out and see what works for you.
3) Be Financially Prudent
While college is about the experience, be aware that every single cent that you borrow is going to have to be paid back. Banks are generous with students, often offering low interest rates on overdrafts to encourage students to sign up. These can be useful and get you out of a tight squeeze when necessary, but they will have to be paid back. Often, the moment you graduate you’ll be moved to a different account type - and your interest rate will skyrocket. Starting your working life in a financial mess thanks to overspending at college isn’t going to be any fun.
So while you don’t have to restrict yourself to no fun at all and staying in every night, do try and remember it’s a future you’re building while at college. It’s your educational future, but it’s also the same steps to your financial future - so keep it secure.