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Apply yourself. A basic guide to on- and off-campus student jobs

by Matt Klein

Perhaps you don't need a job to pay for college. Maybe Mommy and Daddy put everything on their AmEx black card, including a generous stipend to cover all-night Indian buffets and Prada-related shopping emergencies. Maybe you're really, really smart and the College Fairy magically made all your bills disappear with a wave of her "free ride" wand. But more than likely you're one of the millions of college students scraping by, taking out loans and trying to figure out how to cover next semester's tuition and pay for some food in your belly today. You may be a full-time student, but you're probably going to need a part-time job. Here's some basic advice for would-be student workers.  Finding a job, whether off- or on-campus, might seem like a trying process. And it can be. But according to Burt Nadler, director of the career center at the University of Rochester, it's not all that complicated. "There are three ways to go about it," he says. "Postings, people, and places."

            Every school is different, of course, but most have offices devoted to student employment and/or career services (see sidebar below for direct Web links). Generally speaking, the Career Services Office is more geared towards post-college work, and the office will help with things like resumes and internships. Mostly, the campus Student Employment Office will have more to do with part-time jobs as an undergrad.

            You shouldn't hesitate to use any of these school-provided resources. But Nadler says that in the digital age, frequently the smartest place to start is the Internet. Most of the area schools have jobs posted on their website, usually on the career center or the student employment page. Some allow you to apply directly to jobs online, others give contact information for employers looking to hire. The same things that would look good applying to a regular job appeal to campus employers too: references, experience, and a demonstrated interest in being hired all help.

            Besides postings, many schools attempt to place students with employers through job fairs. Nazareth holds a fair each fall, with a variety of potential employers of both the campus and non-campus varieties. Businesses like restaurants or country clubs scout for help, as well as the traditional campus employers, like food service or various departments looking for administrative help. Other schools have fairs, with or without outside employers. Talk to Career Services or the Student Employment Office to see if your school holds one.

            Beyond that, there are more traditional routes to employment. Take a bus, a bike, or a car and look for off-campus businesses that are hiring. Or, if you see some place you want to work -- especially on campus -- ask: some people may be willing to hire a student even if no position is posted.

Before you think about applying for a job, make sure you explore all your options. In addition to the on-campus/off-campus dilemma, there's another thing to keep in mind that you've probably heard about, but might not fully understand: work study.

            Though the name might suggest it, work study does not mean that you get to study on the job. Work study is a federal program that gives tax dollars to students with financial need in exchange for part-time work. It generally applies to on-campus jobs but can also be used for work at some off-campus not-for-profit organizations. According to Amy Bauer, assistant director of the CareerCenter at NazarethCollege, the first concern students should have about work study is whether or not they are eligible. The deal is, basically, that you have it or you don't. You apply for it when you apply for financial aid, the federal government decides whether you get it, based on need, and notifies you on your FAFSA.

            If you are eligible, the process for actually obtaining a job depends on the school you go to. The UR's Nadler says that students have varying degrees of choice over what job they will end up with. "Some schools give you an envelope with your job," he says. But at UR, and many other area schools, the selection process is more open. Schools will post campus jobs, on paper or online, for both work study students and non-work study students.

            Because of the nature of work study, eligible students may have an easier time getting hired. Bauer says, "the big difference [between work study and non-work study] is where the money comes from to pay people." Since the federal government pays a high percentage of work study students' paycheck, it's more economical for employers to hire those students.

            Besides that, the application process is not all that different. The last thing to remember, says Bauer, is that students can't sit back and do nothing, "because even if they have work study, they aren't guaranteed a job."

            Work study or no work study, just remember: search, then apply. And if that doesn't work out, there's always Ramen noodles.



Student job Web resources




St. John Fisher:

SUNY Brockport:

SUNY Geneseo:

University of Rochester:

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