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Articles / Paying for College / Working A Job While in College

April 15, 2014

Working A Job While in College

I don’t have to tell you how expensive college is. In fact, just the other day I saw a thread on the College Confidential discussion forum about the total per-year cost at New York University. By “total,” I mean everything: tuition, room and board, fee, living expenses in NYC, health insurance, etc. The figures are staggering. Take a look at the far-right column of this chart:

SchoolTuition & FeesLiving ExpensesHealth InsuranceTotal
Stern School of BusinessUS$ 46,516US$ 24,000US$ 3,439US$ 73,955
Gallatin School of Individualized StudyUS$ 45,028US$ 24,000US$ 3,439US$ 72,467
Polytechnic School of EngineeringUS$ 45,028US$ 24,000US$ 3,439US$ 72,467
Tisch School of the ArtsUS$ 49,422US$ 24,000US$ 3,439US$ 76,861
Silver School of Social WorkUS$ 45,028US$ 24,000US$ 3,439US$ 72,467
College of NursingUS$ 45,028US$ 24,000US$ 3,439US$ 72,467
The Liberal Studies ProgramUS$ 45,028US$ 24,000US$ 3,439US$ 72,467

The Tisch School of the Arts boasts (if that’s the right word) a total annual budget of almost $77,000 per year! Of course there’s the financial aid factor, but NYU isn’t known for its generous aid. So, Moms and Dads (and undergrads who will be facing massive loan debt) your four years at Tisch will come in at around $300K. The mind boggles.

Anyway, for those of you high school seniors heading to college this fall, and for you parents of those about-to-be frosh, it may be time to consider the possibility of students working while in college. I’m not talking about those relatively low-paying Federal Work-Study jobs. I’m talking about being an entrepreneur and finding a need among your college peers and filling it.


I did some research about college students working and found some interesting takes on that topic. Becoming an entrepreneur and interning rank high on the list of preferred initiatives. You may wonder why college students should run a business. Let’s take a look.

These days, it seems as though Americans are spending more for college while getting less value in return — a trend research validates, according to entrepreneur Matt Stewart.

“The average cost for an in-state public college is $22,261, and a moderate budget for a private college averaged $43,289 for the 2012–2013 academic year; for elite schools, we’re talking about three times the cost of your local state school,” says Stewart, a spokesperson for College Works Painting, (www.collegeworks.com), which provides practical and life-changing business experience for college students who have shown potential for success. Interns operate their own house-painting business with hands-on guidance from mentors.

Making matters worse, adults in their 30s have 21 percent less net worth than 30-somethings 30 years ago, according to a new Urban Institute report.

“More students are being saddled with long-term debt while getting less value for their education,” Stewart says. “Because of the difficulty recent college grads are having finding jobs in today’s tough economy; today’s students may have even less worth in their 30s than 30-somethings today.”

To add value to their professional career, Stewart encourages students to seek outside-the-box avenues for increasing their career stock while in college. Running a business is a great way to do that. He explains why.

• Employers love ambition. A college degree is the minimum qualification employers are seeking. What hiring managers are looking for is that something extra when reviewing a stack of qualified resumes. At the heart of the economy is innovation; it’s the difference between simply existing in a market, and thriving in one. Employers know they need people with creativity and gumption for innovation.

• Real-world management of time and money. College is a time when young adults learn to live autonomously. It’s the rare student, however, who learns to manage his or her own affairs and  the most precious resources in the business world – time and money. Managing employees, driving sales, developing specific skills for a real market and building strong customer relationships are best learned with hands-on experience.

• Learn where they need help. What do you do well and where do you need help? The best way to know with any certainty is through experience. Running a business while attending college allows students to circle back to their education and focus on their trouble areas by adjusting their curriculum in future semester.

• Develop meaningful bonds. One of the most meaningful aspects of the college experience is the relationships students develop with each other, which often have professional consequences after college. Enlisting the help of fellow students for a common business purpose tends to have a powerful bonding effect.

• Immediate ROI — Finding phenomenal success. Most students who run a business during college will not prove to be the next Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg or David Geffen, which is precisely why students should not drop out of college like those pioneers did. However, a student doesn’t have to be the next Zuckerburg to experience amazing success as an entrepreneur. College Hunks Moving Junk is just one recent example that began in an entrepreneurial student mind.

One can find Stewart’s ideals reflected in real-world campus initiatives, such as one I discovered from past years at Syracuse University. Jenn Carmona notes:

” … Last week’s clothing, class assignments and who knows what else are all on the floor, and just when it can’t get any worse, the dresser drawer reveals the last pair of clean socks. Hunger’s set in and rather than take out, a good meal would really save the night. At this point there are two options: cloning to make another one of you or the money to hire a personal assistant to clean, do laundry and pick up food. Drew Austin, a junior entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises major, doesn’t hold the key to cloning, but he does have a way to save Syracuse University students’ precious time.

“Austin is the chief executive officer of the new college concierge service, Precious Time. His real last name is Greenfeld, but he replaced it with his middle name for his business. With the slogan, ‘You ask … we deliver,’ the completely student run company has provided SU and State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry students the same star treatment given to professional athletes, celebrities and high-powered executives since its founding …

” … ‘One of the best deliveries was this kid who called in said, ‘I need a box of cereal, bowls, spoons and milk’ … we also had an 11 p.m. call for hot dogs and buns once,’ Austin said. ‘If it’s possible, we’ll do it.’

“This company may seem too good to be true, but Austin explained it was meant to be easy and inexpensive. Customers put money onto an account and every time a delivery is made, it’s debited from the account. There is no membership fee, but students must put a minimum of $50 on the account when it is set up and also pay a small delivery fee. The company makes 10 to 15 deliveries a day, and just reached its 700th delivery, all by word of mouth … ”

The world of concierge services seems to be spreading. A year ago, the Wall Street Journal‘s Melissa Korn reported that “Salvador Neme needed some help, and fast. The 22-year-old Babson College junior was throwing a last-minute party at his Boston apartment and wanted to add a few special touches …

“So the undergrad rang his personal concierge. ‘I had no idea where to start,’ says Mr. Neme, who decided that an authentic mariachi band would be just the thing for his Mexican Independence Day soiree. ‘Mariachis are hard to find,’ says the Mexico City native.

“No worries. For $300 a month, Mr. Neme has unlimited access to the seven full-time employees of Boston Collegiate Consulting Group, a local concierge company that helps today’s moneyed students live like the privileged young swells of the Golden Age. BCCG helps its clients find and decorate apartments, get academic tutoring, snag coveted restaurant reservations and handle a litany of other bothersome chores.

“The company pulled off Mr. Neme’s September party, complete with a bartender and a three-piece costumed band. Although Mr. Neme declined to say what he spent on the 40-person affair, the concierge company says the tab ran into the thousands. ‘It wasn’t a matter of how much [it cost], it was how quickly we could get it,’ says concierge Elizabeth Chaplin …

“Student-centered concierge companies represent a relatively small sliver of the industry, but a growing one. Katharine Giovanni, founder and chairman of the International Concierge and Lifestyle Management Association, recalls how she at first dismissed a colleague’s idea for a service targeted to students … ”

Deborah Sweeney, writing in Forbes.com, cites 9 Tips For College Freshmen Starting Up Their Own Business. Here are three of them:

1) Think, Talk, Flush Out Ideas. You don’t have much to lose, so try everything out at least once. Talk about your plan with your roommates and test out ideas repeatedly until it works. Until something clicks. If you don’t feel like talking about your ideas aloud, keep a private blog or Word document of your work and record everything you’re working on and thinking about. Don’t neglect your schoolwork, but really take advantage of your time to evaluate and try our your ideas.

4) Find a Mentor who runs a successful business or works in a field close to the one you’re pursuing that you really admire, trust, and respect? If you know of somebody off the top of your head that fits those qualifications and you are already familiar with them, that’s your mentor. Ask them if you get coffee together sometime to discuss tips and tricks of the trade in going into business. If you don’t, start looking. Many universities, including my alma mater Pepperdine University, offer mentoring programs to the students to work alongside notable alumni in an effort to combine talent, academic study, and public service together to strengthen both the student and the community.

9) Don’t Give Up If You Aren’t Immediately Successful. Many entrepreneurs are serial entrepreneurs and if the business is a success, they may sell it and move on to establish another business. If the business tanks or doesn’t prove to be successful, try again. Keep thinking of unmet needs and evaluate ways that life could be easier with products and services developed to meet those needs.


It is possible to work an inspiring job while you’re in college. It can either give you some intriguing challenges while earning you possibly significant income and, hopefully, you can carry it beyond graduation and become your own boss. Remember, when it comes to a profession, the best company to work for is the one you start for yourself! You can take that to the bank … in any number of ways.


Don’t forget to check out all my admissions-related articles at College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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