Working Part-time as a student: Do's and Don't

By Max Denis · Aug 6, 2021

Going to University is a life-shaping experience that alumni look back on long after graduation. Whether its wild parties, rigorous study or simply pot-noodle emergency breakfasts, university living is something that attracts millions of young people every year.

In 2012, the coalition government made the controversial decision to triple tuition fees to £9,000 (after they had already been tripled to £3000 in 2006). But despite the higher prices, university attendance has only risen; roughly 50% of young people attend university. Today every group of young adult is now more likely to attend university then before 2012 – including the poorest. 

While more people than ever are going to uni, it is still widely recognised that it no cheap pursuit. The UK does have an effective student finance system which allows more flexibility to students entering higher education, but nevertheless living at university is a lofty expense. Many students (up to 45%) hold part-time jobs while studying. 

Here are a few tips for working-students to optimise their experience.   

Don’t: Make promises you can’t keep 

Before you sign a contract or make a commitment; put yourself in the employers’ shoes and consider what they expect from you as a worker. Weight up the importance of your free time to you before you sign up with an employer only to let them down a couple of months down the line. 

Do: Establish transparent relationships with your employers and higher education officials

Having a part-time job at uni and being a student worker is very normal, communicating with your professors and employers about your commitments makes it easier to negotiate hours and deadlines. They may still have strict expectations but keeping both in the dark will simply add to your stress.

Don’t: Let yourself burn out 

Sometimes we can feel invincible and just say “yes” to everything, but burnout can affect everyone. Reflect on what is a good work-life balance for you before signing up for too much, mental wellbeing needs to be at the forefront of any work-related decision.

Do: Put your education first

The down payment on university is far too high to be forgetting about your modules because the local pub pays a decent hourly wage. Of course, many may need this income stream to attend their university in the first place – but a balance must be achieved. There is no utility in spending all your time working part-time if your academic performance suffers; it becomes a vicious circle where you work to go to uni but can’t do uni because you are constantly working. If you really are struggling to finance university, consider these opportunities before working yourself out of your degree. 

Don’t: Be afraid to push yourself

Many may be afraid of taking on too much, but you won’t know if you never try. University is the time to branch out and experiment with what you like. Playing it safe over concerns of being too stretched will leave you thinking “what if?”. Throw yourself out there and backtrack if necessary – now is the time to make (reasonable) mistakes. 

Do:  Know your worth

Sometimes jobs aren’t what they were all cracked up to be. You might find yourself wishing you were out clubbing instead of working at the local restaurant. Everyone can misjudge a job fit. While it might sting at first, it will be better for all parties if you’re honest with the employer and optimise your university experience doing what you want.

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