Before we start answering this question, I just want to make one thing absolutely clear – studying for a degree is a full-time, 35-40 hour a week occupation, and anyone who tells you that you can get away with doing anything less than that is either lying to try and look big, clever or cool, or otherwise probably didn’t get the result that they wanted, and so is still bragging somewhat that they still managed to get a degree with only putting in the minimal effort.
The whole point of spending 9 grand a year on tuition fees, plus at least the same amount again on living costs, is so that you walk away at the end of it all with a decent qualification in your back pocket that you will use to put you in excellent stead when you start competing for graduate jobs when the summer’s over.
Of course, these large costs might amount to the very reason why you are considering finding some gainful employment during your time of study in the first place. But, I must reiterate one more time – studying for a degree is a full-time occupation, and it must come first.
If you’ve been in education your whole life, then the chances are that you might not have had a full-time job before. Sure, you will have had a summer job waiting on in a restaurant somewhere, put in a few shifts at the local supermarket, or perhaps picked a few daffodils at weekends in the early spring season. But, for the most part, you will have spent your waking hours taking in the delights of school and then college.
True, you will have most likely spent at least 30 hours a week at school (minus breaks and lunch hours, of course), and possibly a similar, though probably slightly less amount, whilst studying for your A-levels. But, frankly, as you will very soon realise, school and college are nothing like working a full-time job, and neither require as much time, dedication and hard work as studying for a degree.
As you have gotten older, wiser and have progressed through your education, you will have along the way began to have worked out what your priorities are in life, and, more specifically, where your academic interests lie.
In year 7 you are given a taste of more than a dozen subjects – English, Maths, Science, Geography, ICT, History, Religious Studies, Graphic Design, Music, Art, Textiles, French, German, Spanish, Manufacturing to name some of the most likely candidates. Then, in Year 9 you are asked to choose your options from these to pursue at GCSE level in Years 10 and 11. Normally, this will narrow the scope down to about 9 subjects.
By the time these are finished and you leave school, you will have worked out what your favourite subjects of those 9 or 10 GCSEs that you took are, and will once again narrow your academic efforts to just 4 or 5, which you will study for AS-level. And then, at the end of college, you will have picked 1 or 2 of these off again and will have only took 3 on to A2 and complete as full A-levels.
And now you are at university, you will have whittled those final 3 down to just 1 single subject, which you will now be pursuing with renewed vigour as you begin to really get your teeth into the real substance of your interests that will hopefully form the basis of your career.
The reason why I have gone at length to describe your academic journey thus far is to highlight to you what all those years – 13 of them – studying at school and at college have been about. This moment. Right now. You have made it. You have won your place at university and, what you do here will determine what you do next – and what you do next might very well dictate what you do for the rest of your life.
My point is that it is absolutely vital that you put your studies first no matter whether you decide to work while you are doing your degree or not.
When it comes down to it, there is no right or wrong answer to the overarching question of this blog post. In the end, a lot of it will come down to circumstance – some students’ parents will be in a position to help out financially, others won’t. Some students will want extra money in order to pay for those heavy bar bills that inevitably rack up, especially in the first year, or perhaps to fund a few more cultural or even gastronomic excursions to theatres and restaurants that they hadn’t expected – and again, others won’t.
If the title of this post had been ‘Should You Go Out Partying While Doing Your Degree?’, then there probably wouldn’t have been any point in writing it. Partying and socialising are part and parcel of university life – there’s just no escaping it. And that side of campus life will cost you in terms of both time and money – and so it’s also essential that you factor this in.
You will be spending vast amounts of time away from your studies enjoying the social scene of the town in which you are studying, and so the question really is – can you afford to spend any more time working a part time job as well? Of course, one will fund the other, but at the cost of time and energy, and they might very well prove to be the most valuable assets of the whole bunch.
I appreciate that I have probably been sitting rather annoyingly on the fence in this post. But, it would be remiss of me to advise anyone who reads this to take one decision over another. So instead I have given you my thoughts which you may take away to chew upon, as I’m afraid, as you will continue to find more and more from this point forth, it is an adult choice that each of you will have to make for yourselves as you embark upon your adult life in higher education. Good luck.
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