Definitely the best way to pay for your schooling is through scholarships you earned before you stepped foot on campus, but not all of us are that lucky. But even if you are that lucky… you may want to consider work anyhow, but more about that later.
One of the greatest surprises I found while working on my undergraduate degree was that through good grades I could be awarded a scholarship from the University. This is common at Universities around the country but rarely publicized. Contact your financial aid office to see what is available at your school. Once I learned about the scholarships (I didn’t get any in high school, going into college) I worked hard to get good marks. After good grades my freshman year I was given a full tuition scholarship for my second year. My grades dipped but I was still award at least half tuition for my next three years of school.
With staggaring tuition prices it is expected that most students will work at least a few hours each week so they won’t have to rely solely on students loans or mum and dad. There has been some debate about how much students should work but there seems to be a general consensus that on-campus jobs at 20 hours a week or less seems to be a good idea. U.S. News wrote an interesting aricle showing the other benefits of working while in school. Chief among the benefits listed is the career experience you might get.
I don’t understand why so many students go home for the summer, but they do. You might want to consider staying… the impossible to get on-campus jobs open up and you can be there to snatch them up. Summer school is also a great way to get ahead and scholarships and other financial aid is usually easier to procure for summer term. Use the summer months to work hard and opportunities to climb important ladders will likely appear. Take advantage of all the resources that are available to you: faculty and other mentors, labs, clubs, etc. During the summer it is much easier to take advantage of people and places as the traffic and demand for these things is significantly lower.
Another really smart thing to do over the summer is to take advantage of an internship. These will take you out into the community and give you invaluable job experience. Start early looking for these opportunities—talk to faculty advisors, counselors, and check out the web for potential opportunities.
Whatever you decide to do, try to pay for as much schooling as possible now. Students loans seem to suck the life blood out of many and extreme debt is an easy trap to fall into. With all the benefits of working, even if it’s only a few hours a week, it makes much more sense to get a job and work your way through.
Tyler is a husband and dad, professor, writer, web designer, and DIYer.
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