The Benefits of Student Work in College

student work

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One of the most productive things your student can do with all the newfound free time that college affords is to find gainful employment. Working as a college student is beneficial for everyone. For some students, it can be a great way to keep their lives structured while making some extra money. For others, student work is a necessity to stay in school at all.

Student Income and EFC

If you have any experience with financial aid, then Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is a term you are well acquainted with. For the uninitiated, the EFC, at its most basic, is how much a student will have to come up with to attend college, and is the number used to determine how much need-based financial aid a student will receive via gift aid and be eligible for via self-help aid. Note that the term mentions “Family” while the explanation mentions the student alone. This was very deliberate! If the student is younger than 24 and not married, they are considered dependent upon their parents. This means that the parent’s income will be factored into the EFC. The kicker is that regardless of whether or not the parents intend to contribute (as they are under no legal obligation to do so) the student’s EFC is likely to increase.

On the bright side, there is some protection for the income of those working as a college student themselves. Student Income is protected from EFC consideration up to $6,260 while parents i.ncome is protected from $30,000 to $42,000 for married couples and $7,000 to $9,400 for single parents. Income received from work-study plans is also protected as it is already a form of financial aid.

So the question becomes: Will a student’s job affect their EFC? Probably. Student income is assessed at the highest rate when determining EFC, so the more income a student has the faster the EFC will rise. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad idea. Just be sure to limit how much you work (and how much you make) when you are working as a college student to ensure that the balance works out in your favor.

Making Money While on Campus

There are several ways of making money while on campus. More and more students are working in college these days, and while there are traditional routes like part-time jobs, tutoring, and assistant teaching; there are also less conventional ways you may have never thought of, the main one being freelance work.

Working as a college student doing freelance is a good idea. The very nature of freelance work means it can come in all shapes and sizes and is tailored to your student’s specific skill set. For example, writing is often a large part of the college experience. If your student happens to do it well, there are websites that can link you with clients looking for copy work. Websites like or can help them make money without even leaving their bedroom. If his/her abilities skew more to the computer programming side, they can be contracted to set up or maintain a business’ website. The possibilities are nearly endless if they look for them, but remember to be mindful that their income doesn’t do too much damage to your EFC.

Benefits of Student Work

I hope I haven’t put you off of the idea of student work too much; it can have benefits beyond the obvious financial boon. There’s a common belief that the added strain of a part-time job on top of a full class load will cause a student’s grades to suffer. However, studies have shown the exact opposite, especially in situations where the jobs are a financial necessity. How does what would conceivably be considered an added burden, help a student’s academic performance? There is no absolute answer, but there are some compelling theories.

  • Structure: Most college students are coming from high school, where they spent most of their day in a regulated environment and the rest of their day doing homework and preparing for their next regulated day. When they get to college they may only have a few hours of class a day (often without mandatory attendance) and the rest of the day to do with what they please. This new freedom can be a shock. Having a part-time job cuts down on that free time and further structures their day. Their mind is in work mode more than it’s in free time mode.
  • Commitment: This is particularly for students who are putting themselves through school. The idea is that academic performance is more important to them because they have to work for it themselves. They feel a greater responsibility to themselves because if they don’t achieve, their efforts will have been wasted.

Good College Jobs

Not all college jobs are created equal. Ideally, the position will fall into a sweet spot of maximizing time and income without compromising EFC or studies, all while providing valuable experience in a prospective field. Failing all that, something close to campus is nice.

Here is a list of some great (realistic) positions:

  • Dining Hall Attendant: It’s difficult to get closer to campus than actually being on campus.
  • Residence Assistants: Responsibilities range from checking people in after hours to attending to problems that may arise of a given floor.
  • Barista: Fast-paced work, likely with the added benefit of free coffee.
  • Administrative Assistant: This position could be more of a commitment, but also a more substantial step into the traditional professional world.
  • Social Media Assistant or Manager: A more nuanced position with less conventional hours but a great experience.

This list is a great place to start, but barely scratches the surface of all the opportunities available. Be sure your student finds a position that is best suited to their situation.



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