Working while in high school (to help pay for college)


Is it a good idea for your student to get an after school job to save money for college? Probably. For decades, it’s been a rite of passage for many teenagers: the after school job. If your student is considering working part time in high school to help pay for college, we have some tips to help be sure it’s the right decision.

Good practice for college

Aside from the benefit of earning extra money, holding down an after school job is a good way for students to learn to balance the priorities in their life — things such as school, homework, job and family. Why is learning to balance priorities an important skill to learn in high school? Because your student will be doing a lot of juggling in college. Besides classes and studying (and working, if they have a job while in college), they may need to manage time for things like laundry and meals, working out, and student clubs or other extracurriculars.

Student first, employee second

As beneficial as a part-time job can be for a student, it’s important to remember that school comes first. If their grades start to suffer because they’re spending too much time at their job, they may need to give up the job. After all, having extra money for college is helpful, but if poor grades prevent them from getting into college, what’s the point of having a job in the first place?

And speaking of being a student first, they might want to look for a job where the employer understands that their school work comes first. Of course, this isn’t always easy — the priority of most employers is to run a successful business, so naturally they want their employees to share that priority by putting their job first. But if your student can find an employer who can afford to cut them a little slack when it’s finals week or they have a big project due, then they should hold on to that job as long as they can. (Read on to learn how finding such an employer gets easier in college.)

Go full time in the summertime

Many part-time jobs offer students the opportunity to work full time when they’re on summer break. This is an opportunity for your student to really save money for college. For example, they can quintuple their earnings just by going from working eight hours per week to 40. And if your student is lucky, the position might still be waiting for them the next summer even if they have to quit working while they’re in college.

Keep on working through college

When your student gets to college, finding an employer who understands school comes first will be easy — the university they attend. Most universities hire student workers in a wide variety of departments. (As an example, Arizona State University employs more than 10,000 students.) These student jobs are a win-win-win-win. The pay is usually competitive, the job is right on campus where the student already spends a lot of their time, they can often find a job at the university in the field they are studying, and universities understand that “student” is the first word in the term “student worker,” so they’re usually pretty flexible with schedules. 

The payoff

These are only a few of the benefits of working while in high school. We could go on about how holding a job prepares teens for the working world, helps them start building a professional network, hones their interview skills, develops a work ethic, teaches them about handling money, gives them some financial independence and provides opportunities to work with a range of different people. But remember, an after school job isn’t for everyone. Our suggestion: Have your student give it a try. If holding a job just isn’t working out, they can always leave it. But if it does work out, it can open up all sorts of professional, financial and social avenues for them — as well as help them pay for college.