Counselors share tips for students adding a job to their syllabus

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published August 10, 2016

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METRO DETROIT — For many students, the stress of college goes beyond all-night study sessions, dizzying textbooks and high-stakes exams.

Lots of students also have to worry about how they’ll pay for it all.

It can be tough to think about getting a full-time job to supplement college costs when school is designed to itself be a full-time job. But Kate Hendershot, senior academic advisor at Oakland University, knows many students don’t have a choice.

“Some students have to have a job even that first year. Financially, they might have to do that. Everyone has a different situation,” she said. “Our job is to help them by pointing them in the right direction for those resources and help them balance that.”

Hendershot often works with freshman students at the school’s First Year Advising Center. Launched in 2012, the counseling and resource hub was started to give first-year students support they need to make it through the tough transition phase of starting at a university.

“They’re assigned an advisor to help them with anything they might need that first year. They’re that go-to person to ask questions about how to change their schedule, housing, resources for all kinds of things, time management — it really helps them navigate that first year,” she explained.

And that little bit of help seems to be making all the difference, since the program in its fourth year just saw its first class of graduating seniors, and a retention rate bump of 8 percent.

Hendershot said more than a few students come to the First Year Advising Center looking for part-time work opportunities or tips on how they can work on the side without letting their studies slip.

The counselors have both in droves.

“A lot of times we’ll direct them to Handshake, which is a database of positions for students with all of our on-campus jobs and internships. There’s a section for full-time work too for alumni looking for jobs,” she said.

Getting a job on campus is a great option, Hendershot said, with housing and dining being the largest employers.

“On-campus jobs are great because the school knows what a student’s schedule is like, and they’re going to be flexible with them. Students will still get hours to study,” she said.

Sara Byczek, who works in the counseling and psychological services program at Wayne State University, said she suggests to students that they should cap their part-time gig at no more than 20 hours per week.

“I know research from 2012 (cited by the American Association of University Professors) suggested more like 10 to 15 hours being the ideal, but I don’t think (that takes into account) the stress students experience if they are short financially,” Byczek said. “With federal student aid decreases, it is difficult for students with little to no family assistance to find a balance of work and academics that allows them enough money for basic needs.”

Both advisors say regular discussions with family and counselors about budgeting money and time are a must for any working student.

“We all have different tips here and there. For me, I’m super organized. But I know not everyone’s like me. So if you don’t want a planner or agenda, is there an app on your phone you would use to help you prioritize what you need to get done? Can you make a list each week of what you need to do for school and work?” Hendershot said.

Byczek suggested not only looking at part-time work as a necessity, but an opportunity.

“I do believe that most any part-time job can assist with finding employment after graduation, even those jobs not related to their major,” she said. “The majority of jobs teach their employees basic job skills future employers will be looking for, such as how to work independently and as part of a team, communication skills, time management skills, and working with different people with different ideas and personalities.”