Does a Part-Time Job in High School Affect College Preparation?

Some experts say a part-time job can teach a teenager responsibility.
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As teenagers mature and want to become more independent, they often seek a part-time job for extra spending money. Some experts feel a job can detract from high school students' academic performance, while others say a job helps them learn responsibility. Achieving that balance between work and school is the key to making a part-time job worthwhile for high school students.

1 Trend

The part-time job rate for high school students was only 16 percent in 2012, according to an article in "The Washington Times” citing U.S. Census Data. That’s a 20-year low, down from 32 percent of high school students working in 1990. Part of the reason is that more adults are snatching up jobs in fast food and retail due to the down economy, leaving fewer options for students. But some students either choose not to work or are not given permission due to the damage working can have on academics.

2 Cons

Students who work more than 15 to 20 hours a week experience decreased school success, according to the College Board. A 2011 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report showed students did an average of 49 minutes less homework on nights they worked, which could result in a grade dropping two levels, from a B to a D or from an A to a C. Schoolwork needs considerable time and attention. Students also face pressure to join extracurricular clubs and activities to strengthen their college applications. Add a part-time job, and there isn’t much free time left for friends, family, personal interests or even rest.

3 Pros

But part-time work can teach a student responsibility. Working can help students learn how to budget money. It can help pay for college. A job in an area of possible career interest can help high school students learn whether they truly want to pursue a career in a particular field. A part-time job can open doors later in that field should the student ultimately graduate college with a degree related to the job. Some part-time jobs offer scholarships to dedicated students. And some colleges count a part-time job as an extracurricular activity on an admissions application.

4 Conclusions

Part-time work for high school students should be exactly that: part-time. It’s important for students to balance the job duties with their school work. Students need to decide whether it’s worth cutting out some things they enjoy doing in order to take on a job. One education blogger recommends students work only in the summer and focus exclusively on school and activities during the rest of the year. Parents and students need to find out whether the job fits in with a student’s schedule and just how flexible the student is willing to be before applying for part-time work.

Rudy Miller has been writing professionally since 1996. Miller is a digital team leader for, a local news website and content provider to the Express-Times newspaper in Easton, Pa. Miller holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Miami.