Refereeing, catering, tutoring — you name it, you can probably work it. For most BU students, a part-time job is a necessity, for others it allows for some extras.
Applying for spring semester’s work-study jobs begins today. And believe it or not, a part-time job might improve your classroom performance, as well as put some money in the wallet.
Melissa Cottrell believes it. She has a work-study job at the Office of Residence Life, where she answers questions, types documents, and runs errands. She puts in 12 to 14 hours a week, and also babysits on the side.
“The busier I am, the more focused I become,” Cottrell (SAR’10) says. “Working really makes you more structured; you have a lot of things to do in a short amount of time, so it’s important to keep up with it all.”
A recent study backs her up. “Parental Transfers, Student Achievement and the Labor Supply of College Students” in the Journal of Population Economics reports that students who work part-time have slightly higher grade point averages than students who don’t work.
Four-year college students working 20 hours or less had an average GPA of 3.13, versus nonworking students, who had an average GPA of 3.04. But the benefits were reversed with too much multitasking: students who worked more than 20 hours a week had an average GPA of 2.95.
With two-year college students, the differences shifted. Students who worked more than 20 hours a week had the highest GPA, at 2.94, compared with students who worked under 20 hours a week, at 2.93, and students who didn’t work at all, at 2.82.
The study used a sample of students from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, a report designed to document the transition from school to work and into adulthood.
The authors of the recent study don’t speculate about why working may improve a GPA, but it could be because adding another commitment to a busy schedule requires better time management.
“My colleagues and I definitely agree this is the case,” says Mary Ann French, the director of the Student Employment Office.
“When you only have one thing — school or work — you kind of think that you can push it off, watch TV, go out; you have the illusion that you have all this time,” Cottrell says. But when you work 15 hours a week on top of school, “it makes you step back and helps stop procrastinating.”
Work-study is a federal program that helps qualified students cover educational expenses. Student Employment also has a list of jobs for students who do not qualify for work-study.
No one is saying that working and attending school full-time is easy. Cottrell recently had a hectic week managing work, finishing a huge project, and getting sick to boot. When she feels stressed, she takes a break. “I walk away,” she says, “and make sure that I plan something fun to take my mind off of it.”
Despite the study’s insights, French has a few words of caution for students: school should remain the priority. If you can’t balance both, work should go, she says, because “school is the reason you are here.”
Amy Laskowski can be reached at email@example.com.