To work or not to work?

Brittany Moffat

Students sound off on finding a job while managing the rest of your freshman year

Jasmine Jefferson, senior American Sign Language major, didn’t look for a job until the spring semester of her freshman year. At her mother’s suggestion, she took the fall semester to gauge how much work she’d have and adjust to college and campus life.

Jefferson said she now thinks she could’ve handled working from the start, but she’s glad she waited to find work.

Doug Neitzel, head dean of the First Year Advising Center, said academic advisers have a formula for determining if freshmen should work and how many hours they can reasonably schedule. The formula takes into account a student’s total number of credit hours and how much he or she should – in theory – study for each class.

If a freshman is taking a full course load of anywhere from 12 to 15 credit hours, he or she can expect to spend at least 24 to 30 hours or more a week in class and working on assignments outside of class, Neitzel said.

If students are spending 45 hours or more in classes, counting study time, advisers recommend they work no more than 15 to 20 hours a week.

Neitzel said formulas like this don’t take into account the needs of students today. He said it’s not unusual for students who are doing poorly in a class to take a poor grade because they are unwilling to think of themselves as students first and employees second.

Sophomore English major Lisa Mirkovich said she saved all the money she made between the ages of 16 and 18 and lived off her savings her freshman year. Instead of working, she said she chose to be involved in different student groups and learn how to handle a college course load. She said she’s glad she did it that way.

For other students, though, working freshman year is not always an option.

Jacob Hupp, freshman integrated life sciences major, will have a work-study position this year. He said he suspects his job may cut into his studying time, but the staff of the Career Services Center has told him to come in if he’s concerned his studies are suffering because of his job.

The joy of paperwork

Ami Hollis, associate director of the Career Services Center in the Michael Schwartz Center, said in an e-mail that her office usually places about 5,000 students in on-campus jobs every year. She added most student employees fill out the required paperwork to work on campus at the beginning of the fall semester, but there are always students coming in to look for work.

Hollis said the services offered by her office extend beyond helping students find work. She said a student trying to decide between two jobs is welcome to stop by the center daily between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. or between 2 and 4 p.m. to talk with a counselor. The counselor can help the student determine the challenges and benefits of each possible job and determine what fits best with his or her schedule.

Neitzel said choosing work over social involvement may not be the best choice for some students. For others, adding a job to their schedule can help them learn time management skills.

Both he and Hollis agreed on one point: An off-campus job may have certain benefits for students, but on-campus jobs have statistically improved student retention rates. Students who work on campus consistently feel more involved, make more connections with their co-workers and other students and are more likely to finish their undergraduate studies at the same school where they start.

Contact education, health and human services reporter Brittany Moffat at [email protected].