The Students' Guide to Working During College

Holding down a job during college is a challenge, but it’s one that is becoming increasingly common for undergraduate and graduate students. Find out how to manage a busy schedule and make the most of your education and career at the same time.

There's no way around it: college is a big financial burden for all students, graduate and undergraduate alike. One way that many students are mitigating the costs of college and keeping themselves afloat throughout their education is by working a job. In fact, a 2018 report from Georgetown University found that 70% of full-time college students also have jobs.

Working and studying is increasingly common, which is no surprise given the high cost of college tuition. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported that in the 2018-2019 academic year, the average annual cost of one year of undergraduate tuition (including room and board) was $18,383 at public institutions and $47,419 at private non-profit institutions.

Coming up with this kind of dough is a major hurdle for many students. For many, the days of making it through college with a part-time job are long gone; students need to work through their post-secondary education now more than ever. That's why we've put together this guide -- to give you options for making money during school and giving you tips for staying sane while you do it.

Why Work and Study?

For most students working through college, work is a necessity. Getting a college education has a lot of upsides, so working through school is worth it despite the workload of college employment. There are some important advantages to working through college that can help set students up for future success; these include:

  • Professional Experience: Many jobs look not just for education but also work experience when interviewing potential candidates. If you have been working in your field (or indeed working at all) throughout your education, you are likely to be more appealing to potential employers.

  • Time Management: Virtually nothing will teach you time management planning like working and studying at the same time. Understanding how to manage your time effectively even with a very busy schedule is something that can keep you in good standing for the rest of your life.

  • Less Debt: Working may help you graduate with less college debt. This is essential for many; more than half of all American college students now graduate with debt, which averaged $37,500 per student in 2020. Together, all of this debt adds up to a whopping $1.6 trillion that American students collectively owe. Working can help alleviate that financial burden and can make you less reliant on student loans to make it through your education.

  • Future Flexibility: Graduating with less debt and professional experience often offers students more flexibility in their future employment and life prospects and can be an all-around positive experience. You might also find, upon graduating, that you have a lot more free time now that you no longer have your studies to worry about.

While these benefits are not inconsiderable, it is important to note that working during college can still be a major challenge for many students. That is why students who have to or choose to work through their college careers need to make carefully considered choices about what kind of work to pursue and how to strike a good balance between work, school, and the rest of their lives.

Types of Work

You might be entering college with a full-time job that you don't want to give up as you pursue your studies, or you may be job hunting while enrolled. A job can help you supplement your income or reduce the amount of student loan debt that you will have by the time you graduate. There are a few different kinds of work to consider; each has pros and cons that we'll dive into below.

Types of Work Advantages for Students Disadvantages for Students
Full-Time Work You will probably have enough money to live on and some money to put toward your tuition fees. You will not disrupt any employment that you had before you started studying. A full-time job can be difficult to balance with coursework and can lead to burnout if you are not careful. It can also be hard to manage your time effectively.
Part-Time Work A common choice for working college students, part-time jobs offer flexibility and some financial help toward your education. This can be a great option for graduate students who have partners. You may experience some financial stress if your job doesn't pay enough to live on plus enough for tuition.
On-Campus Work You will be able to work around your classes and put money directly toward tuition fees. You may be able to work in an area of interest and your school and work obligations will all be in one place. On-campus work is often restricted to your time in college and may not be a part of your broader career. You may also struggle to get enough hours, depending on your position.
Freelance Work Working on your schedule and working from home are major advantages that can make freelance work a good choice for college students. Freelance income can be unpredictable, and the work requires a lot of self-directed effort.

Everyone's situation is different, so think about all of your options carefully when designing your work and school schedules to make the most of your time and to meet your financial and educational needs.

Preparing for a Work-School Balance

If you have the opportunity to spend some time planning before starting or returning to higher education, there are several things you can do to smooth the transition to working and studying at the same time. These five tips can help you figure out the best ways to plan for this new chapter in your life and help you get the support that you need to be successful.

Apply for Financial Aid
Make a Financial Plan
Set Up Childcare
Get Organized
Get Support

6 Tips for Working College Students

You've got a job and you're about to start classes. You've done everything you can to prepare for this experience. Now, it's time to look carefully at your circumstances and make the most of your education. There are lots of things you can do to carefully strike a work-life-school balance, maintain your mental and physical health, and get the help you need to be successful and happy throughout this journey. Check out these six top tips to see how you can succeed as both a student and an employee while earning your degree.

1. Take Care of Yourself

School and work are important, but so are you. Taking care of your health is of the utmost importance while you work and study. If you are not careful, you might find yourself burning out. Burnout is common and can be challenging to recover from. Avoid it by doing the following:

  • Get Enough Sleep: Sleep scientists recommend that all adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. It is common for students to stay up late studying, but it is essential to sleep enough, especially if you will be expending energy at your job as well as at school.
  • Eat Enough Food: Making sure to eat full and balanced meals can help you have enough energy for your brain and body to work well during the day. Eating healthy during college can be a challenge. Avoid the temptation to grab unhealthy things when you're busy; one way to do this is by always packing a healthy snack like fruits and nuts.
  • Spend Time Outside: Fresh air and sunlight can help you manage your mental health while in college and can keep you from getting overwhelmed. Prioritize access to the outdoors when you can. You could bring your studies to the park or give your brain a rest by going for a hike; many experts say this is a surefire way to refocus.
  • Take Time Off: Taking breaks and days off is essential for preventing burnout. Fight the temptation to just keep studying and instead work on prioritizing time away from school and work so that you have the chance to reset and come back refreshed.

2. Don't Do Too Much

Now that you are working and studying, you might be busier than you are used to. Because of your work and school priorities, you will have to find ways to manage expectations and not take on more than you can handle. This might mean saying 'no' to extra shifts at work, passing up extra credit activities, and delegating tasks when you get the chance. It means understanding your limits and keeping from stretching yourself too thin for activities that are not strictly necessary.

There are only so many hours in each day, and you cannot be everywhere at once. accepting those limitations will clear up guilt and anxiety about not 'doing enough.'

3. Work on Time Management

Time management is perhaps the most important skill that you can learn during your college education, especially if you have a job. There are lots of ways that you can practice good time management skills, including:

  • Making a Plan: Make a plan for each day and do your best to stick to it. If necessary, plan your day out in half-hour chunks to make sure that you can get everything done.
  • Being Flexible: Understand that sometimes, unexpected situations will arise. Be flexible about reworking your plan based on unforeseen circumstances.
  • Finding Time: You might have some spare time on your commute where you can spend time studying while you sit on a bus. You might be able to do a little bit of reading on your lunch break. Finding these little bits of time can make a big difference to your ability to stay on top of everything.
  • Prioritizing: Sometimes, all of your obligations might pile up and you might be forced to prioritize some over others. Understanding how to do this effectively and how to deal with the consequences is an essential skill for anyone with a busy schedule and conflicting obligations.
  • Using Technology: Another thing you can do to get better at time management is to invest in technological solutions. There are a lot of apps and pieces of software designed specifically for people in your position that can relieve some of the pressure of keeping all of your deadlines and obligations in your head or a paper planner. Some options include:
    • Remember the Milk is an app that lets you input all of the tasks you need to complete along with their deadlines. The app will remind you by email, message, or notification and integrates with other calendar systems.
    • Focus Keeper lets you customize study sessions and helps you focus on tasks. It will also help you track your productivity and set daily goals for various activities.
    • TimeTree is a collaborative digital calendar that you can share with your family or roommates. It's a great option for students with children or for anyone who needs to coordinate their daily schedules with others while making sure that nobody's obligations are forgotten.
    • Todoist is another time management app, much like Remember the Milk. It has an intuitive interface, helps you track your productivity, and can also help with habit-building over time.

    Everyone manages their time differently. It may be worth trying out a variety of different systems to find out what kind of strategies and pieces of technology work best for you.

4. Find School Resources

As a student, you should use resources on campus as much as possible. Many of these resources are designed for students who are working, who have children, or who might otherwise be experiencing challenges that other students do not face.

Resources that might be helpful for you include:

  • On-Campus Childcare: If you have children, you may want to see if your campus offers any childcare services. Many colleges, especially large ones, do offer childcare for the children of current students.

  • Tutoring: If you are feeling overwhelmed with your schoolwork or are struggling to keep up because of your work obligations, you may want to consider working with a tutor or with the writing center at your college. There are also online tutors that you can work with one-on-one in subjects such as physics, calculus, and statistics. These resources can help you manage your workload, catch up on concepts you missed, and improve your school experience.

  • Course Load: Many students who work through college are full-time students, but at many colleges, being a part-time student is also an option. If you find yourself struggling with your school obligations, you may want to consider reducing the number of courses that you take each semester.

  • Extensions: If you are short on time, it is okay to ask for extensions on projects and papers. If you speak to your professor and explain your situation well in advance of the due date, you will very likely be able to take extra time to complete your assignments without jeopardizing your grades.

  • Mental Health Resources: Most campuses provide some access to counseling, therapy, and other mental health resources for students. If you are struggling for any reason, reaching out to these services can make your life easier and help you cope.

  • Career Center: If you need to change your job or find a new job during your college experience, you may want to visit your school's campus career center to find information about potential job placements.

These are just a few of the resources that are common on college campuses. It is in your best interests to research the services that your school has available and to make use of them as needed.

5. Resolve Scheduling Conflicts Early

Scheduling conflicts happen to everyone at some point, and they are very likely to happen to you if you are working and studying at the same time. Maybe your boss will ask you to work overtime when you have a paper due, or maybe your finals will be scheduled during one of your shifts. If this happens, the best way to deal with a scheduling conflict is to communicate with all relevant parties about the issue as early and as clearly as possible so that you can find a solution.

Be honest about what you can and cannot do and no matter what happens, do not leave it to the last minute to resolve these conflicts. Honesty and openness are the best approaches to these situations so that everyone involved can have their needs met without any major issues.

6. Reward Yourself

Working and studying are both challenging endeavors that can wear you down over time. Finding things to look forward to and celebrating your accomplishments are therefore both extremely important. Celebrate the end of term, the end of midterms, and any big school or work projects that you complete. This can be something small like buying yourself an ice cream or something a little bigger like a trip; the important thing is to remember why you're doing it and be grateful for your accomplishments.

It can be easy to get caught in the grind of work, but you should remember that what you are doing is important for your future and that you deserve to be proud of yourself. The importance of how motivation affects learning is well established and can make a bigger difference than you might expect.

The Benefits of Online Learning

Online degrees are becoming more and more prevalent in post-secondary education. Online learning can have several benefits, particularly for those who have busy schedules and need an educational experience that is more tailored to their needs. Below are four of the biggest advantages that earning college credit online can offer.

Flexibility: Online degrees can provide a lot more flexibility than on-campus degrees. For instance, online courses can be done from anywhere, including from home: not having to commute to campus saves time and frees up more of the day. Many asynchronous online courses are available, meaning that they can be completed at any time of day. If you have work shifts at hours that might interfere with college courses, or if you work irregular hours, being able to take a course at any time can make a big difference to how you structure your day. Online learning allows you to develop a school schedule that doesn't interfere with your job.

Accelerated Learning: Taking general education courses can get frustrating if you already know some of the material. Online degrees often give you the option to take competency tests that allow you to test out of courses that are too repetitive for you. You can even earn college credit for the courses that you test out of, making it easier to complete your degree. Accelerated learning means that you can breeze through easy subjects while taking more time on difficult ones. Your learning is therefore more tailored to your personal experience and knowledge base, making your college experience more engaging and personalized.

Affordability: Generally speaking, online degrees in a variety of subjects, from Introduction to Biology to Chemistry 101, are cheaper than on-campus programs. This is especially true if you take into account the cost of room and board, which is often inflated on campuses when compared to the cost of rent and food. Studying online from home can also cut down on transportation costs and other day-to-day expenses associated with college. For students who are concerned about finances, looking carefully at the differences between online and on-campus programs can be very helpful in deciding about what kind of education would suit your needs best.

Easy Access: One of the great things about online degrees is their accessibility. First, online degrees are geographically accessible. While you might struggle to attend college in person on the opposite side of the country, especially if you have kids and a job, with an online degree you can study from anywhere in the world at institutions all over the globe. Because of asynchronous courses, you won't even have to worry about time zones. Self-directed online learning, for instance, may include pre-recorded lectures and other class materials you can watch and complete any time convenient to you. Finally, online courses are much more accessible for students with disabilities for whom a campus may not be physically accessible. Lectures are often subtitled or come with transcripts and there are no physical requirements for online education.

Expert Answers to Common Questions About Applying for College

Meet our Expert Contributors

Paying for college is a challenge for nearly all students. We asked several counselors and professors for their best college preparation advice, as well as a few of the most common questions we've encountered from students like you.

Read on for their answers below!

Erin Payne

Erin Payne is an Admissions Counselor from Evangel University. As an EU alum, she is equipped to help you transition into the community life at Evangel, and she would love to help you with an application! You can contact her at Admissions@evangel.edu.

What common issues do you see with students, whether it be with their application or college research process?

I feel like the most common issue I see is fear of being an annoyance. Your admissions counselor is there to answer any questions that arise, and if you don't ask the questions you have, you could be missing out on awesome opportunities. Take ownership of your college search!

What is the largest piece of advice you have for students going through the college application process?

Apply for as many scholarships as you can. Outside scholarships are accepted by almost every university, and if you don't try for the scholarship, then you definitely won't get it. A bank in my hometown was giving away ten $1,000 scholarships, and only eight people applied! Those eight people received the scholarship, and an extra two people missed out on that chance! Check out the opportunities in your hometown or state and see if any of your prospective schools have outside scholarships that they recommend. Also, your admissions counselor is trying to contact you for a reason, so check your email.

How can students find out if a school is a good fit for them?

The best way for a student to find out which school is the best fit for them is by visiting the campus. Colleges have such a variety of factors, whether it be campus size, faculty-student ratio, athletic fields, performance halls, or dormitories, that each prospective student has a different opinion on! The community life of a school is just as important as the academic offering.

Jacob Osterman

Jacob has been a Freshman Admissions Counselor for the University of Minnesota Twin Cities for roughly three years now. He primarily works with students who are out-of-state for the University, so he has a lot of experience talking to students about life on campus for someone who will be living in Minnesota (or maybe even being in) Minnesota for the first time. He is also an alumnus of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities with his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and his Masters of Education in School Counseling from Boston University. He worked as a high school counselor briefly before starting his role at the University of Minnesota.

What advice do you have for new students navigating college life?

College is like starting a new chapter of our life, and feel free to fill the pages how you want. For many students, they might have had all of their high school (or K-12) experience in the same general area. This might be their hometown where they spent most of their childhood life. Within that, students might have an established identity of who they are and what they should do by their families, community members, educators, etc. For many, College is the first time where they really are starting with a blank-slate. Most people you will meet have never met you before, you will find new places to eat, have fun, try out new interests. Use that opportunity to pursue new things and chase the things you are truly passionate about, as there won’t be any pre-established ideas of who you should be when you get there. *Bonus: Don’t be afraid to ask for anything. You pay plenty of money to attend college, so use every resource they have available to you. You are paying for it after all.

What is something that you encourage all students to do while on-campus?

If students are taking a campus tour, I encourage them to do two things: 1: Ask their tour guides what they do for fun on campus and how they found out about it. While students definitely should prioritize their academics on campus, thinking about what else they will be doing while on campus can be overlooked. College is more than sitting in a classroom for four years, and students who thrive on campus know how to have fun as well. 2: If possible, spend a night in the nearby town/city that is near campus. This is also where you will likely be spending free time, (or maybe a part-time job) during your collegiate career. Try to get a feel if you enjoy that as well.

What makes a student's application stand out?

Students who are engaged. This can be anything, like giving their time to their community, being in a student group, sports team, the arts, working or even supporting their family by watching their little siblings. I encourage students to not “sell themselves short” and leave out the activities they do, even if it’s things that may seem simple, like helping out their family by supporting younger siblings. What we are trying to see are students that can maintain strong grades while also maintaining other priorities as well. Because we see that the students who thrive on our campus are those that can keep themselves committed to their schoolwork, but also engaged in other activities as well.

What common issues do you see with students, whether it be with their application or college research process?

I like to suggest 4 things as the key reason someone would choose a school 1: Does it have their major? The school should have the academic interest of study available. 2: Will they have things to do? By this I mean student groups, intramural sports, part-time job opportunities, and surrounding community they can engage in. College is more than sitting in a classroom for 4 years. What will you do during your free time? 3: How does it feel to them? If possible, I always encourage students to tour campuses they are interested in. As they tour, take in the feelings, sounds, sights, and imagine living there for a number of years. Presentations can only describe a campus so well, it’s always best to try to take it in themselves. 4: Can they afford it? Make sure that all the financial aid options have been explored for their schools of interest. Affordability will always depend on the family circumstances, but making sure that they can, and thinking about student loans is imperative.

How can students find out if a school is a good fit for them?

I always think it’s valuable to see a student who is engaged in student groups, or their community, or working, etc. This demonstrates to me that the student is someone who can handle multiple priorities.

Andre Hill

Andre has over 20 years of experience working with students in the college search process. For the past 10 years, his primary focus has been on transfer and adult students and he serves and the Director of Transfer Services at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina.

What advice do you have for new students navigating college life?

College is a wonderful time to try new things. All students are trying to discover what is important to them as they start their educational journeys. I recommend that students think about trying a new hobby, joining a student group, study abroad for a semester. The stakes are low in college to try something new and it can lead to opportunities you have never considered.

What is something that you encourage all students to do while on-campus?

I encourage all students to take advantage of academic support. I think it becomes a source of pride for many students to think that they had academic success all by themselves, but none of us truly do it all alone. Parents, other family, and friends all contribute to our success in different ways. Taking advantage of academic supports make it more likely that you will succeed at the level you expect.

What makes a student's application stand out?

When an application provides an essay, use it as an opportunity to share your voice. It is near impossible to meet every student that applies to a school, so the essay becomes an important tool to figure out why my campus might be the best fit for them. Tell your story and use your own voice to do it.

What common issues do you see with students, whether it be with their application or college research process?

Online research is a great tool to help you start the list and then begin looking for options to take a tour. Virtual tours are widely available for campuses if you can't get there in person, but try to take a student-led walking tour if possible. There is no substitute for seeing the campus in person.

What is the largest piece of advice you have for students going through the college application process?

The biggest issue I see in the college application process is students starting the process in their senior year. With all the resources available online, students can begin the college search process as early as they would like. You don't have to decide on a school in your freshman year of high school, but you can begin to formulate a list of likes and dislikes to guide the search. Determining if you want a big or small school, in-state or out of state, public or private will help you expand or narrow your list as your interests evolve. Don't wait until you become a senior to start looking.

Lauren Humphrey

Lauren Humphrey has over 5 years of experience working in international higher education. This has been her passion since day one with an undergraduate degree in international studies and a master degree in leadership. She is fluent in many areas of the field from working with U.S. Department of State grant funded J-1 programs, F-1 students as a Designated School Official, and now the Assistant Director of International Admissions for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

What common issues do you see with students, whether it be with their application or college research process?

A common issue we see with International students in their college research and application process is failing to utilize their available resources and read through provided instructions. The majority of universities in the United States provide full details on programs, costs, housing, procedures and more on their websites. We consistently get students reaching out asking if our university would be a good fit for them, instead of the student researching on their own. We also see students submitting applications and failing to provide all necessary application components such as SAT scores or transcripts. Instructions are provided at the time of application and in follow-up, however some students still struggle to utilize these instructions.

How can international students find out if a school is a good fit for them?

An international student should start their college search by making a list of needs/wants for their college experience. This list should be utilized when researching school options. As mentioned above, the majority of universities provide details on their websites. Researching a college or university website is a great way to find out if a school is a good fit. If a student desires more details, they can schedule a tour (virtual or in-person), watch videos on the school, or reach out to admissions.

What are one or two of the most important factors you consider in a college application?

Two important factors when considering a college application are completion of the entire application and grade point average. An application that is missing details or does not include additional documentation (such as: reference letters, standardize test scores, essay) can be more difficult to evaluate. An application with full details is easier to consider. Grade point average is also a very important aspect of application consideration. Other factors are included but the grade point average provides a good snapshot of a student’s academic performance.

What is the largest piece of advice you have for international students going through the college application process?

A piece of advice for international students going through the college application process would be to take advantage of all of your resources. If a school a student is interested in provides tours, go on a tour. If the school provides one on one virtual or in-person meetings with an admissions representative, schedule a meeting. We are always happy to provide counsel for students and assist them with the application process.

Manuel Garza

Manuel Garza is a Transfer Admissions Counselor at the University of Colorado Denver. He was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, and moved to Colorado in 2014. He recently graduated from the University of Colorado Denver with a Bachelor's of Science in Architecture and Minor(s) in Urban and Regional Planning, and Entrepreneurship. He has been working in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions & K-12 Outreach since 2019. He is passionate about helping others and traveling anywhere he can! His hobbies include cycling, hiking, playing disc golf, swimming, and learning about nature & design!.

What makes a student's application stand out?

We make admissions decisions from a holistic perspective. For most applications, we provide admissions decisions from transcripts (GPA, AP or IB coursework, academic rigor, etc.). Additionally, we are a test-optional institution, meaning that students do not need to provide test scores (ACT/SAT). If a transcript is not able to provide an accurate picture of who the applicant is, we will ask for supplemental materials, such as a Personal Statement, Letters of Recommendation, Samples of work (especially if relevant to their major of choice.

What common issues do you see with students, whether it be with their application or college research process?

Not asking enough questions and/or not advocating for themselves. We are happy to help students and their communities in any way through their application and admissions process but sometimes applicants don't seek help or don't know how or where to start. This is why one of the duties of Admissions Counselors is to visit High Schools, Colleges, attend events, fairs, and many ways to connect with prospective students.

How can students find out if a school is a good fit for them?

I recommend students browse their college/programs of interest, contact the department if they have any additional questions. Attending information sessions is another great way for students to get a 'feel' of the institution. Visiting the campus (In-person or Virtual) is another way of answering the question of "do you see yourself here?".

What are one or two of the most important factors you consider in a college application?

Although I am not in the role of making admissions decisions. I go over dozens, if not hundreds of applications per week and I personally look at the transcripts (GPA, coursework, extracurriculars, etc.). Additionally, Personal Statements are another great way to know more about the applicant, knowing more of their life story, understanding some of the challenges some students might face, or recognizing their involvement through extracurricular activities and/or volunteer experiences.

What is the largest piece of advice you have for international students going through the college application process?

Do your homework! Research and apply to multiple colleges, contact them with any questions you might have. Advocate for yourself, I highly appreciate students who take the time of their day to ask me about the admissions process. Not only is it our duty to assist students and their families, but like most individuals in the education field, we have a passion for helping students achieve their goals! Let me know if this is helpful!

Addison Zane Mills

Addison Zane Mills has served as an Admissions Counselor and Recruiter for the University of Kentucky for 7+ years. After a 7 year journey, Addison graduate from UK with a Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Strategic Communications with a minor in English. He serves many roles in admissions including application workshops, essay writing workshops, personalized individual meetings with students and families, reading and assessing admissions and scholarship applications and many others. Addison has served on multiple committees in his time at UK including student hiring, professional development resourcing and hosting on-campus admissions information sessions. He is recognized by his teammates and colleagues as hard working, empathetic and positive.

What advice do you have for new students navigating college life?

Ask questions! Asking doesn't show weakness or ignorance; it shows a willingness to learn and improve yourself. Get used to asking for help! Network as much as possbile.Networking is a skill that you should develop and work to improve throughout your college career. Networking and developing relationships is essential.

What is something that you encourage all students to do while on-campus?

Get involved. Don't just go to class then shut yourself off in your residence hall. Spend time finding one or two (or more) favorite locations on campus where you can spend time between classes or at the end of the day. The most random benches, hallways, niches or rooms on campus can become your own personal quiet space. I always encourage my students to look for 3 things. First, get involved in something you're passionate about or familiar with. That helps foster a sense of belonging quickly on campus. Secondly, get invovled in something that suits your professional goals! It's never too early to think about your journey after graduation. Lastly, explore something totally new to you! Some of the most amazing experiences in college come from stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something totally different or new!

What common issues do you see with students, whether it be with their application or college research process?

Visit campus! Get connected to your recruiter/admission counselor. Explore how you can get involved socially, academically and professionally at each school you're considering. Ask to speak to a current student about their on-campus experience! Also, it's totally OK to consider finances as a major decision-making factor. However, don't let that be your only guide; schools can fit you in many ways in addition to finances.

What are one or two of the most important factors you consider in a college application?

Be resilient. It can be tedious and in know most humans can't stand tedious stuff. Set a schedule for when you plan to work on your applications, set half an hour windows only and once that half hour is up, be strict about finishing up whatever you're working on at that moment. This helps you avoid burnout and limits the amount of dread you'll feel when you're next working session is coming up. It helps you stay focused and ultimately makes the process feel less intense and time-consuming. You'll be surprised at how quickly you feel like you made it through the process!

What is the largest piece of advice you have for students going through the college application process?

Many times, students get so focused on what major or academic programs a college can offer them during their research process. Once they find a school or schools that have what they're looking for, they stop and wait for their financial aid info to arrive in order to make a decision. Finding a good fit is so much more than majors and finances! Spend time in your college search reaching out to admissions counselors, recruiters or whatever each school calls their admissions team. Visit campus if and when possible for your family. Ask lots of questions! Be certain to ask your recruiter "what am I not asking that you think I should know." It's ok not to know what to ask. That's what we're here for!

Ericka Thompson

Ericka Thompson is a Higher Education professional with over twenty years of academic advising experience.

What advice do you have for new students navigating college life?

Use your resources. Ask for help. Go to workshops, events and meet with your academic advisor.

What is something that you encourage all students to do while on-campus?

Attend scholarly events and network.

What common issues do you see with students, whether it be with their application or college research process?

Visit the campus. Talk to students. Sit in on a class or two.

Maria Elena Zendejas

Maria Elena Zendejas is a financial aid assistant director and her expertise is customer service.

What advice do you have for new students navigating college life?

I would say it is important to connect with as many resources as possible to make it an easier journey.

What is something that you encourage all students to do while on-campus?

I encourage all students to be prepared and take notes. To ask questions and make sure no opportunities pass you up.

What are the most common errors (or oversights) you see when someone is applying for financial aid?

Students do not take the time to read all instructions. Some students report incorrect information making their eligibility less.

What is the largest piece of advice you have for students going through the financial aid process?

Apply early to maximize your financial aid possibilities. Know your deadlines. Do well in your classes so you do not fail at making satisfactory academic progress causing your financial aid to freeze..

What advice do you have for students who are applying for scholarships?

Take the time to make a polished essay since these are competitive and always make sure you answer the question. Recommendation letters should be well written. Give author tips of what to write.

What advice do you have to ease the financial burden of higher education?

Contact your financial counselor. We have the knowledge to assist in brainstorming the financial aspect of paying for higher education.

Sara Streetman

Sara Streetman graduated from Toccoa Falls College in 2021 with Cum Laude. She is now TFC's Online & Graduate Admissions Counselor.

What is something that you encourage all students to do while on-campus?

TFC has many ways to get involved. Find an area that you enjoy and get plugged in! There are student government committees that range from media, to community engagement, to campus life! We also have many students who start their own clubs to find people who have similar interests. Don't be afraid to talk to someone new!

What common issues do you see with students, whether it be with their application or college research process?

The most common issue that I have seen is lack of communication. As admissions counselors, we not only want to help you get into school, we want to get to know you. Don't be afraid to let us know what is going on in your life. If there are areas that we can help you navigate or pray for you, we want to!

How can students find out if a school is a good fit for them?

Ask questions! We know about our different programs and would love to help you find which one is perfect for you. Let us know your dreams and plans and we will help you find the right fit for you.

What is the largest piece of advice you have for students going through the college application process?

Don't get overwhelmed. It can seem like a scary task as you move from high school to college, but we are here to help you! It is the admissions counselor's job to help the process move as smooth as possible. We want to help you!

Henry Janssen

I've been working as an admission counselor for a short three months at Truman State University and have yet to go through a full recruitment cycle.

What advice do you have for new students navigating college life?

Come in undeclared and you'll be all the happier for it.

What is something that you encourage all students to do while on-campus?

Spend time in the library, even if it's not to study and just to meet up with friends.

What makes a student's application stand out?

There's nothing more powerful to an admission counselor than a student taking their essay seriously.

What common issues do you see with students, whether it be with their application or college research process?

Honestly, there are incredible educators everywhere. It's just a matter of where you see yourself going to bed at night with a smile on your face.

How can students find out if a school is a good fit for them?

Since the whole world has switched to a test-optional route, essays and activities lists have become paramount.

What are one or two of the most important factors you consider in a college application?

Always remember that there are resources to help you through this strange, often overly-difficult process.

What is the largest piece of advice you have for students going through the college application process?

In my limited experience in this field, students spend far too much time with their parents in their ear. Students often don't acknowledge that this decision is ultimately theirs.

Jessica Lynch

I graduated from Arkansas State University in 2009 with a B.S.E. Upon graduation, I taught 10th and 11th grade English and later worked in several different public libraries in a variety of positions. I joined the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2017, starting with the Office of Admissions before transitioning to the Office of Financial Aid.

What advice do you have for new students navigating college life?

Speak up for yourself. Communicate with professors, peers, roommates and departments to minimize confusion and stress. Try to establish a positive "presence" in your new college environment, even if you're an online only student.

What is something that you encourage all students to do while on-campus?

Pay attention to the resources and opportunities available to you through the college. Look at the flyers, read your emails, follow your school's social media. If you hear music on campus, follow it and see what's going on! There might be free food.....

What are the most common errors (or oversights) you see when someone is applying for financial aid?

I've noticed that students tend to end up in tight financial situations when they assume that everything is "taken care of." Applying for and managing your financial aid requires action. Always check on the status of your financial aid, and ask if there's anything else you need to do, preferably well before the payment deadline!

What is the largest piece of advice you have for students going through the financial aid process?

Ask questions. The least stressed students are often the most informed. When you understand what's going on, there's less room in your mind for worry. If you ask a question and are still confused, ask again or even ask someone else. It's often beneficial to hear the same answer explained in different ways.

What advice do you have for students who are applying for scholarships?

Pay attention to what you're applying for. Know the eligibility criteria and application requirements for each individual scholarship. Not understanding the scholarship you're applying for is like trying to use a Kroger coupon at Wal-Mart. I've yet to see it work.

What advice do you have to ease the financial burden of higher education?

As a student, you have more control over your expenses then you might think. Yes, college is expensive, but how you manage your money can help tremendously. For example, if money is a concern, make sure each class you're enrolled in counts toward your degree. There's no need to pay for classes that won't help you graduate.

Cedric Sage Nixon

Cedric Sage Nixon is a first generation student from a small town in Colorado. He graduated with a degree in history/secondary education and now works in college admissions.

What advice do you have for new students navigating college life?

Visit every campus that you possibly can! If you don't fit into a community, you're going to really now enjoy the next four years. Visiting is the best way to really see if you'll feel happy on any given campus

What is something that you encourage all students to do while on-campus?

Connect with current students. Find out why they chose the university and why they are staying there!

What makes a student's application stand out?

Involvement is one of the main factors that helps students stand out. Many people think involvement is just clubs and sports after school. Involvement can be many things, including work! Include every experience.

What common issues do you see with students, whether it be with their application or college research process?

I sound repetitive, but visit if possible. Websites are great place to find general information, but by visiting a campus you can really see if you want to spend four years there.

How can students find out if a school is a good fit for them?

High School GPA is going to be a top factor at almost every university. I'd say involvement is a close second. Involvement can include many things though, not just clubs and organizations. Include work experience and really anything you're doing outside of the classroom

What is the largest piece of advice you have for students going through the college application process?

Students spend a lot of time looking at program rankings, graduation rates, and other statistics. Those do matter, but I think the campuses community really gets lost in the decision. Even if a college has the #1 program in the nation, if you hate being there, you won't perform academically. Find the university where you will feel happiest!