Nobody is blind to the fact that college is crazy expensive. Besides the high tuition costs, students also have to pay for housing, a meal plan, textbooks, class fees, technology fees, student activity fees…the list goes on and on. Then there’s the expenses that aren’t even directly associated with college: clothing, snacks, cell phone, car insurance, etc. As the financial stress begins to build up, many students decide to have a job while in college to offset these expenses.
In high school, I was very much aware of these costs, so I always thought that I would be working as soon as I stepped onto campus. However, as move-in day approached and the realities of college began to kick in, I was torn between having a job or not having one; there are many advantages and disadvantages of each. In the end, I decided to not have a job in my first semester for several reasons:
The main reason we’re in college is to get a degree, and that means doing lots of schoolwork; it is pretty well-known that the amount of coursework a student has dramatically increases from high school to college. College classes require increased dedication and focus, meaning that you are going to be spending much more time outside of class doing homework, reading the assigned materials, and studying for tests than you did in high school.
The increased schoolwork is one reason why I waited to have a job in college; I had no idea how much to expect and how long it would take, especially since it can differ between classes and majors. Not having a job the first semester gives incoming students additional time to adjust to this change in workload.
Another benefit that falls under “Schoolwork” is that you also have additional time to develop new time management skills and/or study methods (if needed) in order to accommodate the increased schoolwork.
2) Student activities
Most likely, your college campus boasts of having hundreds of student organizations, whether that be Greek Life, religious organizations, major-related associations, honor societies, or activities that are just there for fun! I’m not kidding when I say that one college I visited had a Paper-Rock-Scissors organization; another had a Battleship club where its members would row around the pool in canoes and pour water into other students’ canoes, trying to sink them.
By not having to worry about a job your first semester, you can use the additional free time to explore what activities your campus has to offer, try them out, and see if they are for you. For example, I was in a Fencing Club for part of my first semester. In the end, it wasn’t for me, but it was an awesome opportunity to try it out. By having the free time to try different activities, you can also make friends who have common interests.
Once you have figured out which activities you would like to be in, you will know what days and times they meet and can figure out how to fit them in with your work schedule later on.
3) Time for friends and family
It is important to make time for friends and family throughout college, and perhaps even more so in the first semester as you battle homesickness and adjust to your new environment. Depending on where you go to college, you might find yourself not knowing anybody else on campus, which makes it much more important to have the time go out and introduce yourself to people. Not having a job your first semester makes it easier to find the time to do this and make new friends. It may be hard at first, but you will thank yourself ten times over later.
4) Explore the types of jobs on campus
As a high schooler, you could most likely only find a job in retail or food service. This all changes in college because there is a more diverse range of jobs (usually on-campus) that are available to college students. For example, students work in clerical positions, RA positions, in art/museum galleries, or as student tour guides. Not working in the first semester gives you the opportunity to look at what jobs are available, what is good and the bad about them, and ask for feedback from people who are have worked in that position before.
5) More likely to get a job in your major later on
Something you will constantly hear in college is the importance of getting job experience, so getting an on-campus job that relates to your major can be extremely valuable. However, getting a job that relates to your major may be difficult until you have completed more of the major’s classes; some jobs will have “preferred qualifications” that ask whether you have taken a certain class or not. However, this isn’t to say that you couldn’t have a different job in the earlier semesters and then switch to something related to your major later on, but some people may prefer to wait until then.
6) Adjustment to College
There are a lot of things to adjust to in college: the new environment and friends, different routines, increased schoolwork, more independence, and a whole lot more stress! With these changes happening all at once, it can be quite an overwhelming and difficult experience. It takes time to get used to, and not having a job in the first semester provides this necessary time.
There are many benefits of not having a job the first semester of college, but I also want to emphasize that it isn’t the best thing for everyone. Having a job can have its own set of benefits, and not just in the paycheck. In my own personal experience, it was better for me to wait to get a job, but that varies between everyone.
If you’re still trying to make a decision, then hopefully these reasons have provided helpful insight. No matter which one you choose, I wish you the best of luck and a great semester!
P.S. Did you have a job your first semester of college? Write a letter back (in the comments) and let me know if you did and what it was like!