Finding a work-study balance can be a challenge for college students

Depending on the major, college students pour a lot of time and effort into obtaining a degree, with many moving on to get post-graduate degrees.
January 30th, 2017
Eric Schwartzman
Eric Schwartzman


Students will need all the education they can get because the U.S. job market is getting tougher and tougher as technology has ramped up the need for specialization in many fields.

College students face a challenge. Locking in on studies to maintain a strong GPA or trying to balance studies and part-time work. The good grades will help after graduation, however, employers will also want to see practical experience on that resume when you come knocking on their door.

Finding that work-study balance is the tricky part. Employers aren’t always as accommodating as students would like.

In recent years, the online marketplace or gig economy has created options for students in the form of online job matching services for students looking for work and employers looking to hire them.

It’s a win-win situation for the students and the companies that hire them. The students get some practical experience to put on their resumes and the companies get to test out some of the best and brightest while they are still students. It’s not unusual to see these “trials” turn into full-time positions after graduation.

Another positive aspect of the student as a freelancer business model is the ability students have to start paying back the massive student loan debt incurred to get an education.

U.S. students are carrying some $1.3 trillion in student debt and working as a freelancer while in school can take some of the edge off that bottom line.

To make it work, a student has to develop some strict time management skills. The concept of “free time” becomes drastically altered. Juggling class and study workloads with freelance work often means stretching the day into night and minimizing leisure time.

The payoff comes when students graduate and go into the job market with some solid, practical work experience that employers are looking for in a job candidate.

Some of the more common areas for student freelancers are art design, writing, software and web development and sales and marketing.

But if you are not majoring in one of those areas, don’t stop reading. Oftentimes students who are majoring in other areas do freelance work in these fields. Many students today have multiple areas of competence and can provide freelance work products in an area outside their major course of study.

Because technology is where it is today, a student with a laptop in a dorm room can be an efficient and productive employee for many companies.

As a freelancer, you control the amount of work you want to do and can work on a variety of services depending on where your interests lie.

Let me also mention the advantage U.S. students have in this arena. In the gig economy, U.S. workers compete with their counterparts around the globe. In some situations, companies prefer an offshore employee where rates are often lower than for U.S. workers.

The flip side of that coin is that many U.S. companies prefer U.S. freelancers because they understand cultural nuances and subtleties that many offshore freelancers do not understand.

The takeaway? Academic excellence is a worthy goal. Future employers, however, will want to see that you can actually do the work.  Organize your student life so you can keep your GPA in the green zone while also mapping out a plan to add real-life work experience to that resume in progress.

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