While I chatted with the father of a Bellarmine Freshman a few weeks ago, he admitted that he and his wife were dealing with an issue concerning their daughter (let’s call her “Katie”). Katie wanted to work; her parents would prefer that she focus on getting the most out of Bellarmine, both academically and socially. Dad pointed out that his daughter didn’t really need a job, and she should be happy about that! He was afraid she might later regret working because it would take time away from connecting with Bellarmine and her friends. Katie didn’t see working a few hours a week as a big deal. She wanted to continue her job from high school and earn a little extra cash!
We can all see the predicament the parents and the student were in, especially since students don’t require parental approval before taking on a job! However, your son/daughter might request your opinion, or even approval, when deciding whether or not to work. You might even feel compelled to offer your perspective if your son/daughter announces plans to look for a job. I’ve compiled some advice on what to consider when your son/daughter wants to work in addition to being a full-time Bellarmine student.
There seem to be two basic categories (leaving a lot of room for individual circumstances) a student considering working will fall into. On one side of the spectrum, like Katie, there are generally financially secure students. These students have tuition, books, and room/board covered by any combination of scholarships, family, and/or loans. A job gives them some extra spending money for the non-essentials. On the other hand, some students might need a job to cover more immediate expenses such as car insurance or books.
What to consider in either circumstance:
- Although late September isn’t the best time to consider this option, often students can work over the summer and save up enough money for spending during the school year.
- Students should try to work mostly on the weekends, so they can focus on academics during the week.
- Students should try their best to find flexible jobs (working mostly on the weekends, having downtime to study, being able to take off the day before a test and during finals week).
- Questions to consider: Can the student find a job that provides professional or networking opportunities? What other benefits are there in addition to money? How flexible will the employer be with scheduling? Is the job in a convenient location?
What else to consider when discussing jobs with a financially stable student:
Since having a job isn’t pertinent, the financially stable student will have more flexibility in choosing a job.
- What is the student’s course load like this semester? Practically, how many hours a week is the student willing to devote to working? A few weeks into the semester, most students should have a good idea of how much “extra” time they have.
- How has the student proven he/she can balance several priorities? According to the MAP-Works survey of this year’s Bellarmine freshman, 38% reported that they feel either moderately or extremely unable to allocate the time to meet their obligations. So, many first-year students will need at least a semester without the extra commitment of a job.
What else to consider when discussing a job with a student who needs to cover some expenses:
Since some students just need the money, they will have less wiggle room in selecting a job. However, it’s still just as important to make academics a top priority or else risk jeopardizing one’s future career.
- How many hours a week minimum does the student need to work to cover expenses? A reasonable amount of working hours is 15. Anything over 20 tends to be difficult to manage for any full-time student.
- Is the student eligible for Federal Work-Study? Most of the positions at Bellarmine this year have been filled, but students can still contact offices to see if spaces are available. Next year the student should set up a work-study position before the semester starts.
- Are the hours at reasonable times? Students may be tempted to work at a time that seems convenient, such as the third shift at UPS. But, from our experience in the ARC, it’s extremely difficult for students to work at night and attend classes during the day. Usually the students either end up quitting the job or quitting school.
I won’t tell you how Katie’s (from the beginning) situation ended up, mostly because I don’t know what she decided! But, I suspect, despite her father’s hopes, fears, and good intentions, she took the job. She’ll take the TARC bus to work on Fridays and Saturdays (her parents said “no car” freshman year), and she’ll appreciate the time she has on campus even more. She might even feel more confident about her time management skills now that she’s pressured to organize her time. That’s just speculation, but what I do know is that she had parents who were willing to listen to her perspective, give theirs, and ultimately let her make the decision on her own.