College Work Study: It's More than Earning Spending Money or Paying Your Tuition Bill

Learn as You Work

“A college degree is not a sign of a finished product but an indication a person is prepared for life.” – Reverend Edward A. Malloy

Why have a work study job? Yes, you can earn some spending cash or pay your tuition bill. You will also have invaluable opportunities to learn as you work all while building essential skills and relationships. How do we learn as we work? Here are a few places I have seen and experienced.

Problem Solving

We face problems every day, some are simple and many are complex. Each problem is a challenge and finding a solution will help someone, somewhere, somehow. Work-study jobs provide us with the opportunity to identify, wrestle with, and solve problems that we may not have learned about in class, but require us to put into practice the skills we have learned in the classroom. 

Grit

There are aspects of jobs that thrill us. There are aspects of jobs that feel like they sap the life right out of us, but we have to do them. Work-study jobs provide opportunities to develop the perseverance, resilience, and self-control we need to push through. While cleaning toilets, filing documents, making food, and answering the phone may not be at the top of your list, they are places we can grow the fortitude to do what is needed to experience the fruit of our labor.

Collaboration/Teamwork

I am an only child and when I went off to college the first challenge I faced was sharing a room with another person and a bathroom with 25 others. While learning to navigate new living arrangements, I started working closely on a team with four other people. Talk about a double dose of being outside my comfort zone. I thought that the world would work best if everyone just did things the way I do them but quickly realized that there were many, different ways of discussing ideas, making decisions, seeing a situation, actualizing plans, and (not) cleaning up that were far different than mine. Spoiler alert… most of them were more helpful and effective than mine. Work study provides opportunities to work for an extended period of time with people that probably think, process, and do things differently than we do. You and your team can learn to work better together, and learn from each other along the way.

Mutual Mentorship

Work study often provides the opportunity to work with faculty and staff members or supervisors who have more work and general life experience. For instance, they may already know how to handle a difficult situation, find a file, or know who you can talk to get the answers/help you need. One of the main assets of work study is that it can be a mutually beneficial relationship. As a student worker, you might have a different perspective on how to tackle a task, making it more accurate or efficient. It's often an experience that can provide benefits and learning opportunities for everyone involved.

As you think about college, consider a work study job. Maybe even one that doesn’t scream “I would like to do this for the rest of my life.” Whatever job you have, put your whole self into it, have fun with it, learn from it, and remember you are serving others through it. Your future self, boss, family, and friends may not thank you for the money you earn, but they will be grateful for the ways you allow work-study experiences to shape you.

An anthropology student worker analyzes and categorizes pieces from a collection.
Scene shop work study students design the lights and set for a production.

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