Taking the Path Less Traveled- Working Full Time During College

by Monika
(Chicago, Illinois)

As I stared blankly at the tuition information that the University of Illinois at Chicago had sent me, I felt my heart drop to the pit of my stomach. Thirteen thousand dollars printed as a lump sum on my Student Aid Report stared back at me, and I have never felt more frightened at the sight of such a large amount of money. At that time, I had graduated high school and was preparing to embark upon my college bound journey; however, I was unprepared at the sight of the actual dollar amount that it was going to cost me. I weighed my options, and after realizing that my parents could not afford to send me to the college of my choice due to their unemployment, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Instead of taking out loans, a path commonly traveled by college bound students, I decided to look for a full-time job that offered a flexible schedule while I attended school as a full-time student. After weeks of searching, I was fortunate to find a full-time job as an Insurance Agent which allowed me to attend school full-time as well. I made sure to let my supervisor know that I was a college student, and reiterated the fact that my work schedule had to be structured around my school schedule. This is very important when attempting to work full-time while attending school, and should be explained to one's supervisor in detail. Although at first this type of school and work schedule was difficult to adjust to, the human mind can adjust to any type of situation when it is in survival mode. That is what it was all about, surviving through brutal college tuition by hard work and determination.

It is also wise to inquire through your Financial Aid Office if the school offers any monthly payment options, as most schools typically do. I was able to enroll in a monthly payment program, and by the end of the year, I had paid off my yearly tuition by working at my full-time job. Many may speculate that my grades or academic performance suffered due to working so much, however, with dedication to this route, anything is possible. I still managed to graduate college with a 3.44 GPA through the University's Honors Program, and I am living proof that success in school and at work can coexist at the same time.

My advice to entering college students and to parents is that one should not fear the opportunity of a full time job while attending college. It is a great way to avoid student loans and it offers valuable life experience which looks spectacular on the student’s resume. It opens up many doors after graduation, as employers are impressed at the ability to work full time while in school during such a young age. Entering college students and parents should consider this method as an alternative to taking out huge amounts of student loans, as my experience shows that it does indeed work.

The day that I graduated from my University with Honors, I was glad to walk out of their doors knowing that I was absolutely debt free. I cannot lie, the path I had chosen was indeed a strenuous one, however, it was well worth it to know that I was not a financial burden to my parents. Working full time while tackling a full time school curriculum is a path less traveled by college students, but it is a path I highly recommend to all incoming college freshmen.

Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you Monika for your excellent advice about working full time during college as a great way to graduate debt free. I’m sure you had some regrets as you watched your peers have much more free time, but now that you have a college degree and no debt, I’m sure they wish they were in your place. Not everyone can work full time while attending college, but definitely work – you will get experience and money to pay for college. Check out our list of student jobs for some ideas. Best of luck to you.

Working Hard (sometimes) Pays Off

(by Elizabeth, Texas)

I am currently working my butt off. Yes, I got a job my freshman year much to the dismay of my advisers and counselors. There was no other way to pay off my college if I do not work.

I am a waitress which calls for long hours way into the night that has caused me to sacrifice many extra curricular activities that would look so good on a resume. I have at this point completely paid off my tuition which includes room/board and food out of my own pocket. Just last week I worked 14 hours straight on a Saturday which was a home football game (which I sold my tickets for). Little things like this use to make me very depressed thinking I was missing out on the important college years. Now the pride and sense of accomplishment I feel for paying for all the necessities in life totally outweighs all the times I feel like I have missed out.

I live on campus, so driving off campus to go to work is definitely harder and requires much discipline. Once I settled into my routine of working and making money, I have learned to appreciate the experience I am getting. Yes, it is very hard going to school full time and working full time but I have made it work with careful planning.

You are probably wondering why I am paying my way through college on my own. For the financial aid program through the state of Texas, I am not allowed to claim myself as an independent until I am 21 due to the fact that I would be cut off from my parent's insurance (which would cost them money). As a result, I did not get rewarded any financial aid or scholarships because my parents make too much money to qualify. So I am not saying to lie on the financial aid papers but, as my friends did, do not be completely truthful on income. I am now stuck paying full tuition with SERIOUS need of scholarships.

So what you should gather from this, yes, get a job. It helps on your resume, helps make great friends, but try to pick a job you are sure to handle. It is not cool to get a job then quit when hours get a little long. I have seen this happen way too many times. Stick it out and pretty soon good things will start to happen (gain tenure, promotion, a good reputation, etc).

Read more College Financial Aid Advice from other students and parents who have been through process.

Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you Elizabeth for sharing your experience how you can go to school full time and work full time. I’m glad you’ve found that working hard pays off. Best of luck to you.

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