When I started school at UCSD, my parents thought I could earn my half of my college expenses by working really hard over the summer. That may have been true when they were in school, but college costs have skyrocketed, and for most kids, that just isn’t possible. I had to work and take out loans to finally get my degree.

But is it really a good idea to get a job during school? Here are a few things to think about as you make that decision.

You are a Student First

Both you and your employer need to be aware that your top priority is your education. That means that you need to decide how many hours a week you can work and still thrive as a student, and schedule work hours around class and study time. You also need to talk to your employer ahead of time if you will need time off to take an exam or to study extra.

You Need Balance

For most of my college career, I was a full-time student taking 16 units (4 classes), and I worked about 12-15hrs/week while school was in session. Some students can handle more, some need to work less. I had to plan my time carefully so I could study, do homework, get to work on time, and still have some time to hang out with friends.

Using Student Loans

Should You Get a Job in College?Most students can’t earn their entire tuition and do well in school, so don’t think it’s a bad thing if you do have to take out student loans. The goal is to keep your debt low, but you also need to perform well in your classes (so you don’t have to pay even more to retake them!). You also need to consider your physical and emotional health—overworking yourself can be seriously harmful to both. So cut yourself some slack, and if you need to use loans to supplement your earnings, just be sure you do your research so you get the best deal!

You can learn more about paying for college at the Pay For College Blog. Browse through the archives for articles like how to get a discount on tuition and other smart tips.