University students might get better grades if they work in meaningful, enjoyable and challenging jobs while studying.
New research from Griffith University shows that a demanding job can be a path to a stronger tertiary experience. In fact, the research shows that programs designed to slash the time students spend in paid work could be counterproductive.
“Participation in one role is enhanced and made easier by engagement in another role, especially when the other role is meaningful and satisfying,” the research said.
The findings rest on the idea of how positive job experiences can influence a university student’s feeling about their study and how they manage learning challenges, including their time.
It assessed a sample of Griffith University students working in a “range of settings, including hospitality, tourism, retail, health care, and construction”.
“When university students, who work while they study, are engaged in jobs, which … are perceived to develop useful skills, teach responsibility, bring rights and privileges not attainable elsewhere, improve self-image and status, and generate meaningful and satisfying activities, they also report that these benefits make them better students.
“They assist them to manage personal and academic issues at university.”
While the report surveyed a limited sample of students, “the study was the first to assess a comprehensive range of benefits and demands with university students” in relation to job/study conflict.
One conclusion noted that “receiving fewer rewards at work (status perks, responsibility, privileges) was associated with more work–university conflict”.
“Students are trying their best to be the master of all trades … job and study balance is a struggle is my experience,” President of Monash University Student Union, Andrew Ware, told The New Daily.
His response to the study was mixed, saying he sees how practical work experience can benefit university life, but also rob students of precious time.
Mr Ware said students take jobs with the biggest financial payoff because getting into money trouble can cripple course satisfaction.
“It’s really hard to get students the right amount of time to do all these things,” he said. “A lot of the time it means students can’t financially support themselves.
“A lot of students are quite time poor so as things begin to mount up they’ve also got to support themselves financially.”
Tips for every student’s “big issue”
“Pretty much every student seems to be working nowadays, more than in the past … it’s a big issue,” said University of Melbourne’s Academic Skills Unit Manager, Guido Ernst.
“Behind academic writing, time management is our biggest area we need to deal with.
“In the past we had a lot of students that weren’t working and just living at home. We now hardly see any students that don’t work.”
He noted the report’s claims make sense to him because students suggest they do better when they are busier because it forces organisation.
“One student told me in their first year she didn’t work and in the second year she did,” Mr Ernst said. “She thought she got more done in the second year for her studies because she was planning.”
Mr Ernst offered some simple to tips to manage university when you are spending a lot of time at your job: