The rising price of tuition has made summer jobs necessary for many students. Average college tuition and fees in the United States are hovering around $20,000 per year, and the total cost (including room and board) has climbed to more than $28,000, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. However, it might be worth your while to try and stick it out at school through the summer; you can take extra credits and be able to finish school early while saving some money in the process. (For related reading, also take a look at 6 Tips For Finding A Summer Job.)
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The Pros of a Summer Job
Taking a Break
When you're doing nothing but school, you can forget that there are other options out there for you to pursue. This four month break can allow you to evaluate your current schooling and job prospects, and plan for the coming year, as well as allow you the chance to plan some changes to your education to more closely match your interests and goals.
Going to school for eight months full time can really put a drain on your finances. Working full time can allow you to partially pay for your schooling - depending on where you go and whether you're paying rent and expenses - and cut down on the amount of loans you have to take out.
If you luck out and arrange a job that lies within your interests, having a summer job is just as good as studying through the summer, money aside. If you're at a job that you enjoy, where you're learning and are able to apply your skills and gain new ones, it's almost a no-brainer - take the job, make some money and return to school with a healthier bank account, more knowledge and the feeling that you already have better job prospects than your peers.
The Cons of a Summer Job
Interrupting Your Learning
Sure, a summer job will give your mind a break and allow you to collect your thoughts and gain perspective, but it may also set you back. When you're not at school, and not focusing on the things you've learned, you have to play some catch up when you get back. Will you remember those new formulae, literary terms and accounting rules when you return in the fall, or will it take up even more of your time to catch up to where you left off?
Wasting Your Time
If you're at med school and are spending your summers as a life guard, you might be putting off getting a degree where you'll be able to make multiple times the money. If taking the summers off makes you stay in school a year longer, just think of the wages and experience you'll have missed out on while hanging out by the pool.
If you're going to school out-of-state or even just living away from home, returning home for the summer to get a job and live Chez Ma and Pa can be a real hassle. Subletting your apartment, moving all of your belongings home, having to then move back to school - you could be missing one to two weeks of the summer break simply by having to organize all of that. And if you get an unreliable subletter, guess who's on the hook for that missing rent? You.
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The Pros of Summer School
Saving Time and Money
If you're doing a four year degree, where you are taking eight semesters in total, you can shrink that by one year just by going to summer school. For tuition, you may not save any money, but if you are already paying for your dorm or apartment throughout the summer, you may as well live there.
If you can't take on a full-time job in the summer, you're probably going to have to take out a bigger student loan. However, you'll then have more time as a degreed worker in the workforce, commanding a higher wage than if you were working as a summer student.
Getting a Head Start
While your cohort is mowing grass for the summer and getting out of school when they're 22, you'll be able to get out when you're 21 and get into the work force, giving you valuable and relevant work experience by the time the rest of your cohort is graduating. You'll always be a year ahead of where you should have been, and with that experience comes seniority - and, of course, higher pay.
The Cons of Summer School
The biggest thing going against you when you do all study is that you have no work experience when it comes to actually applying for a job. Even if you're working in the summer at a job that is not at all related to your field, it still shows an employer that you are responsible for work, and there are always applicable skills that you can apply between jobs.
Taking On More Debt
If you don't work full time, you're not able to refill the education coffers. This can put you in more debt sooner, and the sooner you accumulate debt, the sooner it accumulates interest and the larger your debt becomes. Be sure the experience and wage you're going to be making with your degree will make up for the increased debt and the decreased experience.
The Bottom Line
There are a lot of considerations you should make before you decide whether you should take your summers off to make money and gain experience rather than power on through and join the workforce with a full degree and start at a higher wage sooner. Keep all of these factors in mind and make the decision that's right for you. (For additional information, also see Can't Get A Summer Job? Be Your Own Boss!)
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