Taking advantage of your time off from school can help you in the long run.
The case for relaxing has been well-argued throughout the centuries. We all need a break from time to time, both physically and mentally. But are summer and winter breaks really that time when you’re a college student?
With students accruing an average $26,530 of student loan debt by graduation, according to FICO Banking Analytics, some financial experts suggest students should work during breaks from school. And there are good reasons why.
Working to pay for college
Working during summer and winter breaks can help cover both college tuition and cost-of-living expenses.
Russell Aaron, an MBA student at the University of Nevada – Reno, worked every break to pay expenses his scholarships didn’t cover. He graduated undergrad with no debt.
“During summers and holidays, there are typically no obligations for a massive amount of your time and it can most productively be used reeling in a paycheck for 40-plus hours a week,” Aaron said. “It would be nice to sit around leisurely at home but that does not serve you in the long run.”
Aaron used some of the money he earned during the breaks to cover cost of living during the year, as well. This enabled him to not work during the semester (aside from his senior year, when he did a paid internship). Aaron thinks, if possible, students should work enough during the breaks to not have to work during the school year.
“Students should keep school as their primary focus,” said Aaron, who also regularly blogs about business and triathlons at russellaaron.com. “Part-time employment during the school year has its benefits, but you are there to be a student. Any amount of time longer than four years to get to graduation equals lost income on your part.”
It may not be possible to cover all school and cost-of-living expenses during just a few months of work. And for some, working during the year is absolutely necessary. But why not try to at least earn what you can? The less debt, the better, right?
Working to gain experience
Working during school breaks, whether at an ordinary job or a paid internship, gains students valuable experience, according to Robert Shindell, director of content and resource development at Intern Bridge.
“If you have a 4.0 GPA, zero work experience and aren’t involved in anything, how robust do you think your resume is going to be?” asked Shindell, who has also developed a number of career centers at different universities. “Simply having a college degree is not enough. You have to come to the table with real-world experience. That’s what employers value.”
Shindell thinks a student with a 3.2 GPA who has employment (jobs or paid internships) and leadership involvement (on campus or in the community) on his or her resume is much better off in the professional world than that 4.0 student with no experience. It’s all about balancing those three areas, according to Shindell.
“Having that balance is really key in making a successful transition from college to the professional world,” Shindell said.
On top of building your resume, working the breaks can also help you develop useful skills. It certainly did for Aaron.
“My summer job was absolutely critical to gathering real-world experience that I still use to this day,” said Aaron, who worked his first summer at Walmart and the remainder breaks in information technology. “Not only was it a cool experience but a very rewarding one where I developed marketable skills for after graduation.”
Seriously … work the short winter break, too?
Isn’t winter break a time to recharge and spend the holidays with family and friends? That’s one view. Or you could spend those five weeks saving up money for the spring semester. That’s what Aaron did.
“Five weeks is a long time to have zero income, especially when there are things to do that cost money,” Aaron said.
If you can’t land a short-term gig, then there are other career-minded ways to be productive.
“It’s a great time for students to explore possible important decisions,” Shindell said. “For example, connecting with alumnus or someone in the field you think you want to be in. Go interview and talk to them about their job. Spend half a day or a day with them, see what they do and if that’s the direction you want to go with your career.”
Whether you’re able to cut down the debt or cut it out entirely, working during the breaks is good for both your wallet and your resume.
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