“I don’t have time to work and study” is a feeble excuse

If you're constantly tired of being that poor student, maybe it's time you got a job?
  • @Jem_Collins

Baked beans, pot noodles and overdrafts larger than your laundry pile; students are renowned for being poor. With rocketing costs, withering bursaries and expectations of a thriving social life it is perhaps unsurprising that so many students struggle to make ends meet. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The answer is simple; get a part time job.

According to the Sodexo University lifestyle survey, a mere 25 per cent of students were doing any paid work during term time last year, yet it is commonly accepted that most will live in the red area of their bank throughout their university existence. It is a peculiar situation to get into – at any other stage of life most people would be horrified at the suggestion of living on borrowed money, especially with no plans to pay it back. Shockingly though, many students make no absolutely no effort to get out of it.

One of the most commonly cited reasons for such a strange financial mismatch of ingoings and outgoings is a lack of time. After all, universities are a full-time occupation, who could possibly find time to work a four-hour shift at the local corner shop considering the countless hours a day students spend locked to the desk in the library? Or taking into account the immeasurable amounts of extra reading they do at home? Or with the massive lengths of time spent doing nothing productive whatsoever?

The average student spends just 14 hours a week in lectures and seminars each week, with an additional 14 set aside for self-study. Factor in the idea that you probably want to get some decent sleep at some point, that food is quite essential and parties are also rather fun, and the average student is still left with well over 60 hours a week to spare. With a little time management and bit of proactive job searching almost every student has the opportunity to swap their £1.99 litre of wine for a nice Chardonnay.

Of course averages are exactly what they say on the tin; the middle ground. Some students will study a lot less, both in terms of teaching time and self-study, while medics, for example, can find themselves working a 40-hour week in class time alone. Working a part time job is not a feasible option for everyone, but it is an achievable venture for the majority of students once you shake off the idea that university is supposed to be a jolly supported entirely by other people.

Jake Butler, editor at SavetheStudent.org, a site dedicated to advising students on money matters, agrees that in certain circumstances a part time is not only a viable option, but a favourable one. He explains: “For the majority of students the basic maintenance loan is not enough to cover living costs such as rent, food and bills. I would suggest that having a part time job whilst studying for a degree is a great way to earn extra money as well as gain some excellent experience for your CV.”

He does, however, recognise that students should exercise a degree of caution when taking on large amounts of hours. “I must stress how important it is for students to make sure that work does not affect their studies,” he adds. “Students should be on the lookout for part time roles that have flexible hours that do not conflict with their university timetable and allow them enough time to carry out their studies.”

Even universities themselves acknowledge that many students will have to work throughout their studies, with most suggesting a limit of around 15 hours a week. Many offer their own opportunities for employment, from working in bars and shops to being a tour guide or clearings advisor. Some even go as far to actively encourage the benefits part time work can bring. The Employability Points scheme at the University of Kent, for example, sees students awarded points for things that make them look more attractive to prospective employers – including part time jobs – which they can then trade in for rewards.

It is clear that students can successfully manage to juggle a job and studies. All it takes a pinch of common sense, a dash of pro-activeness and a desire to try and actually support yourself.