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Should You Work While Going to School?

August 23, 2019

When students graduate high school, many of us are faced with the decision of whether to attend college or work. At Idaho State University College of Business, most students choose to do both. In fact, 5 out of 6 students graduating in 2019 worked full or part-time while attending school. But for a lot of people, it can be really stressful to both attend school and work, especially if you do both full-time. So, should you work while going to school or should you do one at a time? We hope to give you some insight and possibly help you determine what you should do.

First, financially, it makes more sense to work while attending school. The reason? So you don’t incur any more debt than you already may have to. Because of the cost of attending college, many students have to take out student loans which you should avoid as much as possible. But student loans are what enable a lot of people to get an education that will lead them into a profession that will pay more. Taking out student loans is essentially investing in your future but that doesn’t mean you should take out as much as you can. Getting through college with the least amount of debt as possible is best practice. A way to avoid this is to at least work part-time while you are attending because while you may not be able to cover the cost of college, you can at least cover the cost of living. Applying for scholarships will also alleviate this burden and there are hundreds of scholarships out there including your Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). At the Idaho State University College of Business 107 students out of 107 applicants were awarded scholarships for the 2019 - 2020 school year. ISU makes it easy to apply for all scholarships through one online application process called the Bengal Online Scholarship System (BOSS). BOSS also gives links to external scholarships outside of ISU so if you’ve applied to all the ones available at ISU, take a look at ones offered outside of the University for more opportunity. 

Back to working, I would not recommend that you work full-time and go to school full-time because you run the risk of burning out and really hurting yourself mentally in addition to your grades suffering. Sariah Millis who is a Student Opportunity Development Coordinator for business and health sciences students at ISU, says students should also keep in mind that they “...are paying thousands of dollars a semester for an education. School should be first priority. If a student fails a three credit class, they wasted $1,206 which is 134 hours of work before taxes. (assuming part-time rate of $402/credit and pay of $9/hour),” says Millis.  “Working while enrolled full-time can be very beneficial for a student but each student needs to take their circumstances into consideration when making the decision to have a job while being a student.” 

According to a survey taken in 2008 of 907 students, researchers found that students had a lower academic performance when they worked more than 20 hours per week which is about how many hours you would work if you were to work part-time. (Miller) 

If you do get a job, try to see beforehand if they are willing to work with your schedule. Most places are understanding but it’s always good to check and be sure. Make sure to also check out jobs and internships on campus because those jobs are guaranteed to work with your schedule. Idaho State University offers the unique Career Path Internship (CPI) program, which allows students to work in their field of study and build connections while getting paid (you can also earn course credit with a CPI position at ISU). This is even better because you can apply what you’re learning to your job that is also preparing you for a professional career. Even just having a job while working can keep your resume up-to-date so you don’t just suddenly have a four year gap where you weren’t working though many places will be understanding of that. Even so, this gap while not working, leaves time for you to get involved and gain valuable experience outside the classroom. If you have awards, relevant volunteer work and officer positions held in clubs or major contributions for student organizations listed on your resume- this will look a lot better than nothing or even your job at a local restaurant. That’s why looking for jobs in your field while in college is also more beneficial than anything outside of that… and you may make more than just minimum wage. For example, CPI’s at ISU earn $9 per hour whereas Idaho’s minimum wage is $7.25. 

Another benefit to working while going to school is learning how to time-manage effectively. Between full-time school and a part-time job, it’s imperative that you figure out how best to spend your time. If possible, find a job that will give you a set schedule so you can get into a routine. Consider picking up a planner or even using your phone to plan out your schedule over the semester. Time management can also help you minimize stress because it helps you see your deadlines for homework and school projects and helps you plan out your time better so you can meet those deadlines with minimal stress. If you find yourself struggling with your school work, don’t hesitate to find help. Millis recommends that students who are having trouble should, “Receive tutoring help at the first sign of struggle and don't wait until you are overwhelmed and not understanding any of the material,” says Millis. “A half hour tutoring session early on can save you many hours later.” In fact, whether you need the help or not, it may even be a good idea to visit a tutor once in a while anyway… just to be sure you aren’t missing anything in the material. There is no shame in seeing a tutor! The ISU College of Business offers a full tutoring lab for every subject in room 507 of the Business Administration building on the Pocatello campus.

An alternative to working while going to school could be to save up for college, though there are a few difficulties with this option. College costs can be hard to predict because tuition estimates do not always accurately reflect what you would be paying for college, especially when there are fees that could be tacked on top of your tuition like online class fees, for example. Book costs are also hard to predict because they can vary from year to year and class to class. However, there are tons of places that offer the textbooks you’ll need but at a severely discounted price. A couple of places that do this are Amazon, Chegg Books, and These sites offer the option to rent as well as buy and can cut your textbook costs in half. For example, I rented my textbooks through Chegg which cost me $118 for 5 books. Had I rented/bought through the school, my books would have been almost $250!

Colleges offer many resources to help you attend school with little debt and hopefully today, I’ve given you some resources that you may not have known about before that will make your college experience just that much easier. Welcome back to school everyone!


Miller, Kim, et al. “Relationship of Work Hours With Selected Health Behaviors and Academic Progress Among a College Student Cohort.” Journal of American College Health, vol. 56, no. 6, May 2008, pp. 675–679. EBSCOhost, doi:10.3200/JACH.56.6.675-679.