Chasing the bag: Tips for employed students

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Photo courtesy of Tori Reidenbach

Tori Reidenbach, a recent University graduate, worked multiple jobs during her time as a student.

By James Kim, Assistant Sports Editor

When it comes to paying the expenses of your college education, having extra spending cash or finding the funds for rent, working a job on campus is a great way to have an income during the semester.

Understandably, many incoming students have questions about life as an employed student at the University of Illinois. How difficult is it to balance a job with classes? Is having a job worth it? How do you even begin the job search on campus?

While there are challenges that come with being an employed student, there are also immense rewards that are not only financially beneficial, but socially too.

Recent University graduate Tori Reidenbach has lived the employed student life and worked at multiple places on campus during her time at the University. Some of her past jobs include the on-campus COVID-19 testing sites, University Housing and Caffe Paradiso.

“Working a job during the semester is daunting at first, but it really does have a lot of benefits,” Reidenbach said. “I met a lot of my current friends during my freshman year through my on-campus job.”

Reidenbach also said that jobs were a great opportunity to find a place to fit in,  and that jobs during college look great to future employers.

“Jobs also allowed me to talk to other freshmen about classes, professors and RSOs, which made me feel more comfortable on campus,” Reidenbach said. “It’s also a great resume booster to show future jobs that you’re responsible enough to handle school while working.”

A useful tool that helps new students find employment is the UIUC Virtual Job Board — a site that allows students to search for opportunities based on their preferences.

“That’s where I found three different on-campus jobs, and they offered me federal work-study, which is really helpful for those on financial aid,” Reidenbach said. 

While having an on-campus job is rewarding in many ways, there are still challenges that come with the experience.

According to Reidenback, time management – finding the balance between work, class and leisure — is the greatest challenge of having a job on campus. She described a method that helped her.

“One of the biggest things that makes having a job easier with academics is just learning when you can do homework,” Reidenbach said. “It’s really helpful to fit homework in during the day if you have weird gaps between classes — those hour to two-hour breaks between my classes really allowed me to get all my work done before going to work and still have time leftover for my social life.”

Mastering time management can make a busy schedule less stressful and more rewarding. Reidenbach said her worries about having little time for class and friends dwindled after she learned how to manage her time properly. She said she began focusing on the more enjoyable things in life.

“It’s important to remind yourself that you’ll have plenty of time to make those memories and that working will be worth it,” Reidenbach said. “Taking classes and working part time on campus (while not always easy) is doable and worthwhile in the end.

Having worked up to two jobs simultaneously at one point, Reidenbach embraced the employed student lifestyle and the challenges it brought.

“Working and going to college can feel like a lot sometimes,” Reidenbach said, “But there’s an entire campus that feels the same way and (there’s) plenty of resources to help you.”

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