Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Take the "is my college job helping or hurting me" quiz

Working your way through college is becoming the norm nowadays. While some people still say "you will never have more free time than you do in college" and movies show students lazying around with lots of free time on their hands - that is the luxurious college experience. It is not the norm.

Most students today have to work in some capacity to help pay for college and/or living expenses. And while in some cases working your way through college is truly the only way - in some instances students who work too much during college find that it actually works against their success. 

I remember sitting next to a student in my Western Civilizations class my first semester of college. She was really excited about college and was incredibly smart. She worked long hours at a restaurant and sometimes came to class looking half-asleep. As the semester went on she seemed to lose her energy. And one day, she got an essay back with an "F" on it. As I was walking out of class that day I'll never forget my gruff professor telling her "you have to choose: college or your job - you can't have both."

This professor was a pretty extreme guy and I remember thinking that was pretty harsh at the time. Some students literally have no choice but to work and they are just trying to get their education the best way they know how. They are trying to work for it. But now as a graduate and student life professional I realize what my professor meant. He didn't mean that you should forego living expenses for college or that you are in any way less-than or "bad" if you work through college.

He meant that it is impossible for us to make two things a priority. You can have multiple priorities - but the thing about priorities is that one thing has to trump another; that is how they help you make decisions. There will be times when you have to choose only one.

And in the fight between your job and your education, in many cases choosing to focus 100% on college will benefit you more in the long-term.

Every situation is incredibly different, so I want you to think about your situation. Answer the questions below honestly to yourself (and jot down your answers on a word doc or something so you can check them at the end). If you want some help, advice, or increased accountability, feel free to copy/paste them into an e-mail and shoot them my way at advice@communitycollegesuccess.com.

1. Do the hours of this job limit my opportunities to study during the week? 
2. Is my job one that I have any interest in continuing past the moment I graduate college?
3. If it is – have I discussed any post-grad opportunities with my supervisor or someone above me in the company?
4. If it isn’t – is the money I'm making at this job good enough to trade in the potential opportunity to get a job that might relate more closely to the future profession of my dreams?
5. Is there a way that I can balance this opportunity with an internship or volunteer opportunity within my major?
6. Am I constantly and consistently looking for other opportunities to co-finance my college, even while working?

The "answer key" is at the end of this post. If your answers match then you will have a pretty good idea that your current working-in-college-situation is working for you. If the answers are different - it's time to think of other options that will better support your success - both present and future financial success.

Those who find success know that the circumstances and requirements of the present must always be balanced with the goals of the future. Because future success is merely a result of our present choices. 

If you let either overshadow the other – neglect your present grades because you had to pick up a shift at your part time job last night, or drop out for a semester because of the fear of a semester worth of loans when you graduate – then you are depriving yourself of a chance.

And you are worth way too much to take away any chances from yourself. The world is too competitive – and too many others have predetermined financial advantages – for amazing students like you to miss out on opportunities.

So keep going. Keep working hard. And never stop evaluating whether the way you spend your time and make your money in college is setting you up to reach your great potential. 

Answer Key
*if these were your answers than you are in pretty good shape with your current job. If your answers do not match the ones below (and you'd like some help/advice) feel free to email me at advice@communitycollegesuccess.com).
1. N
2. Can be Y or N
3. Y
4. Y
5. Y
6. Y

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