Job Hunting For College Students

Learn where the best jobs and internships are hiding and learn expert tactics for maximizing your chances of getting hired.

Updated February 28, 2024 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Getting a Job in College

Working as a college student does more than help cover tuition, groceries and weekend festivities – it's also a great way to attend career fairs and have meaningful experiences in areas of personal and professional interest. See where the best jobs and internships are hiding and learn expert tactics for maximizing your chances of getting hired.

Part-time College Jobs

College students can get part-time jobs either on or off campus. While campus jobs can more easily fit in with a student's class schedule, off-campus employment allows students to meet people they ordinarily wouldn't – and the work may be more in line with their interests.Did you know?

Studies conducted by researchers at Ball State University and Brigham Young University show that students who work part-time while going to school have higher retention rates than those who work more or don't work at all.

Sources: BYU Employment ServicesJournal of Student Financial Aid

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School career service centers are great resources for students looking for jobs both on and off campus, but there are plenty of online resources that students may be interested in checking out as well.

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Students can follow these tips and tricks to lock up the part-time job they have their sights set on:

Asking about a position in person is a great way to get a leg up.“Showing up in person is something that can give you an advantage. It can personalize you right away. If you dress how people typically do in the workplace, you can create the image that you fit in right away before you ever
introduce yourself.”

Matt Ishler, Associate Director of Career Counseling and Planning at Penn State University

Be prepared

When students inquire about a position, they should dress appropriately, bring a resume and be ready to talk about the position they want. This means they should do some research on the organization ahead of time.


Students should write a cover letter specific to each position they apply for, even if a cover letter isn't specifically requested. They should tailor their resumes for each position as well.

Expert's Advice on Resumes and Cover Letters:

According to Ishler, students without much work experience should showcase school and personal projects along with school activities they are involved with currently or were involved with in high school. Any certifications may be good to add as well. “It communicates a certain level of responsibility and openness to training.”

Follow up

Assuming an interview has taken place, students should follow up by sending a handwritten or emailed “thank you” note. It's also a good idea for students to call after a week or so if the potential employer hasn't made any contact to let the employer know that they are still interested in the position and would like to know where they stand as an applicant.

Keep applying

Looking for jobs takes a significant amount of time and effort, but only applying for a few at a time is not a strategy for success. Applying continuously for many jobs, even if they don't seem immediately appealing, increases students' chances of getting a job – and ending the search process – sooner.
I'm cautious about students taking on more than 20 hours a week, Ishler advises. “That sounds like a lot to balance with a full course load. Each student needs to know how much time they need for their studies and social activities. It's not enough to say you have these great work experiences or internship experiences if the grades suffer as a result of all the time that's put into them.”

College Internships

Both paid and unpaid internships can be great ways for students to receive in-depth mentorship in an area related to their academic or career goals. They may also open doors to future part-time jobs or even full-time careers after graduation. In many cases, students can talk to an academic advisor about getting school credit for their time interning.

University Job/Internship Board

Whether physical or digital, many university career centers have posting boards where students can find internships.

Personal Network

Students can ask academic advisors, teachers and other connections if they are looking for interns or know anybody else who might be interested in hiring one.

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Students can use the following resources to jumpstart their internship search:

Target Acquired: Prime Internships There are also a number of high-profile internships that can give students experience at industry leaders:

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“Students often perceive that it's too late to secure an internship, or that there's some magical deadline to which all internships have been filled. My best advice is for students to reach out, apply and ask questions and not worry so much about the timing of it.”

Matt Ishler, Associate Director of Career Counseling and Planning at Penn State University

Start early

While there is no single deadline for many internship applications, starting early means students have more time to polish their resumes and practice their interviews – and they may get to be more selective about which internship offers they accept.

Practice the interview

Students are often hired based on their personalities and whether the organization feels they will fit in with other employees. Doing mock interviews before the real thing can help students get comfortable with the interview process, allowing them to show their character rather than their anxiety.

Know the organization

Those who really want to stand out have to go beyond the “About Us” section on an organization's website. They should prepared to talk about the company, whether it's things they like, would change, or are curious about.

… and where you fit in it

It's important that students sell what they have to offer. This step is highly connected to thoroughly researching the organization, because students need to be familiar enough with the organization to know exactly what they can contribute.
Smarts certainly count for something, but showing a genuine interest in the work an organization often counts for even more. This doesn't necessarily mean insisting in the interview how much you love collecting water samples, for instance. Instead, as Ishler recommends, students can showcase school or personal projects that suggest an interest in the organization's work, like a video made to promote a university's clean water initiative.

Work Study Programs

Work study is an aspect of federal financial aid that helps provide part-time jobs to students who have financial need. These jobs can be both off and on campus, but off-campus work-study jobs will usually be offered by private nonprofits or government organizations. Work study positions tend to be community service related or closely tied to a student's field of study. Since work study positions are dependent on financial need, the number of hours students work is limited by their work study award.

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Financial Aid Office

Students who are unsure if their school has a federal work study program should start with a visit to their school's financial aid office.

Career Services

Most schools have a list of on- and off-campus work study positions that students can check out, so college career centers are great places to start when looking for a work study job.

Government agencies

Students can also get work study positions at public agencies, usually working for their city, town or county. Students can check out their local government websites to learn about potential work study opportunities.


Nonprofit organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, the American Red Cross, community food banks, and a variety of local charities, organizations, research groups and special interest groups may have federal work study agreements with universities.

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Apply fast

Work study is limited and distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, so students should apply as early as possible.

Be professional

Qualifying for work study does not guarantee job placement. Like with any job, students who act and dress professionally during the application and interview process have better chances at landing the job.

Cast a wide net

The broader students spread their searches, the more likely they are to get a position – so art students shouldn't hesitate to apply for a job in the business department and vice versa.

Jobs while Studying Abroad

Studying abroad can be a very rewarding experience, but it often comes with financial stresses. Beyond paying for the program itself, students have to be able to support themselves while they are out of country. Unfavorable exchange rates can further complicate the situation. Getting a job while studying abroad can help students earn some extra cash and even let them practice local languages and customs.


Both jobs and internships may be available for U.S. students studying in other countries, as long as they get the right visas and work permits. Work exchange programs are the most common ways students can legally get jobs overseas. Another option that may interest students is a university-sponsored internship that allows students who study abroad to earn credit toward their degrees. Some countries don't allow foreign students to have jobs. In that case, an unpaid internship might be the best option to gain work experience, meet new people and practice their language skills.

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The first steps in choosing a job or internship are determining what type of work is best suited to your goals and knowing what opportunities are available in whichever country you go to. Students can explore these resources to get a better idea of their potential work positions abroad.

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International → USA

To work in the U.S., international students need to obtain one of three types of visas:

In general, it's harder for organizations to hire international students, but work exchange programs smooth the process by giving international students the sponsorship they need to gain employment in the U.S.

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The easiest way for international students to find on-campus jobs is by going to their school's career services center, but for those seeking to gain experience off campus, work exchange programs are good ways to go. Generally, work exchange programs partner with various types of businesses and organizations to give international students work, intern or volunteer opportunities, simplifying the process for all parties.

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International students should make sure they have a good grasp on U.S. application procedures before handing out their resumes. These tips should help them get started and make a good first impression to U.S. employers.

Jobs for Graduating Students

Going to college is supposed to make getting a job easier, but landing a job after graduation usually requires a little more than a freshly earned degree. Here are some ways graduates can find success during the hunt for their first job.

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Many of the resources used to find part-time jobs while in school can help students find full-time careers after they graduate, but there are a few others geared specifically toward those with newly minted degrees.

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Keeping it all in focus

Going to college can be a full-time job on its own, but it doesn't necessarily pay the bills or provide practical work experience. Not immediately, anyway. Adding a part-time job or internship to the mix means having to learn how to balance studies, work and personal life. It's daunting, but it can be done.

  • 1. Start slow. You can always increase hours as you get more comfortable with the workload.
  • 2. Let employers know you're a student.
  • 3. Don't be shy about asking for time off to get school work done.
  • 4. If you need help, get it. Many campuses offer counseling, tutoring and other helpful services.
  • 5. Create a support system to help you through stressful times.
  • 6. Be willing to adapt. Those who aren't flexible will find themselves frustrated when obligations overlap.
  • 7. Be patient with yourself. Balancing work, school and everything else isn't always easy right away.

“Students should look at their course and exam schedules and whatever projects they may have to plan in advance. Most faculty and employers will be understanding if potential conflicts are communicated well in advance. When they're communicated in the last minute, students often find really stressful or challenging situations.”

Matt Ishler, Associate Director of Career Counseling and Planning at Penn State University

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