Should your child work while in college? - Nancy McKenna ––

Should your child work while in college?

Will your child work while he's in college?  Or high school?  Or both?  I know my kids will work while they're in college.

I worked while I went to school.  So did all six of my siblings.   We were fortunate enough to have parents who paid for our school, but that was it.  We did not expect, nor did we receive spending money. 

Books, clothes, toiletries, entertainment - on us.

I had a job in the college cafeteria freshman year, then got an office job in Menlo Park.  I was at that job till I graduated.

This was back in the dim and distant past, before Menlo Park was the Silicon Valley darling it is today.

It was a great work experience, and I met people outside my college bubble.  I also was able to get an accounting job within weeks of graduating.  It helped me to graduate well ahead of my peers.

The handsome devil you see above is my son Tommy, on his first day of his first job.  He was quite determined to get this job at Burger King.  He'd even ride his bike back and forth on the days I worked or traveled.  It's a 4 mile ride, along scenic Lake Mohawk.  This summer he'll be able to drive, which will open up more opportunities.  Did you know that you can't drive till you're 17 in New Jersey?  

But I digress.

Back to the discussion about working...

I have a friend that I've worked with on and off for about 20 years ago.  Back when we first started working together, I remember him saying that he would "never hire someone who didn't work while going to college."  Fast forward fifteen years - do you think his kids worked while they were in college? (Hint, they didn't).

When did working become synonymous with child abuse?  

Think of your child when they're applying or their first job.  There are several candidates for a job - your child, who didn't work at all, and four other candidates that all did work.  Four candidates that balanced working with school and their social life.   Kids who dutifully went off to their job while the other kids were hanging around the pool.

Working in their prospective field would be best, for the tactical skills they'll pick up, but even if it's some other type of work, it shows that they were responsible.  It shows they weren't pampered.

I've also read that people who work while going to college have higher GPAs.   They learn to budget their time better.

Having your child pay for his costs is a way to have them contribute to their education. 

I remember a classmate I was very friendly with in college.  She is from East Los Angeles, from a tough neighborhood.  I had never met anyone from that background before, as I was from a leafy, middle class neighborhood in Montgomery County, Maryland.  

I went home for Christmas break.  It was the only time I went home during the school year.  After Christmas, this friend was showing me the stereo she got from her parents.  You remember those?  A combination turntable, tape deck and radio?  They cost a few hundred dollars.    I got a sweater for Christmas.     I came from an expensive ZIP code, but my parents were very frugal.  Which is how they paid for 7 kids to go to college.  This classmate was on scholarships and loans.  

Even at the tender age of 18 I marveled at the different ways our parents managed money.  She didn't work during school.  I remember her father routinely sending her cash.  I'm sure they meant well, as she was the first in her family to go to college.

So, will your children work while they go to college?    Please say yes.

About the Author Nancy McKenna

I'm a personal finance geek. A real estate investor. An accountant, a single mother. And I'm going to get my kids through college without student debt! Will you?

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