Commentary: Is working in high school worth it?

Jake Miller, Staff Writer

Click on the image to read a December, 1984 Paper Lion article about high school students working as newspaper carriers. Be on the lookout for our special Throwback Edition coming in a few weeks!


High school is an essential step in most teen’s lives. However, upperclassmen may struggle to do their best work in high school while starting to join the workforce. Jobs are a massive undertaking at our age but are a necessary step for anyone looking to start driving and learning skills for the future. While it may be necessary, I believe that working too much can cause severe struggling in academics.

Many studies have been conducted to test the effects of working on a teen’s academic and social life, as well as their well being. According to The University of Michigan, students who work more than 15 hours a week are more likely to fail to get a degree. They also found that working more in high school and college led to higher rates of smoking to handle that stress. Now obviously there are positives to working a job while in school, but most experts agree it’s best to work less than 15 hours a week at that age. Walden University published an article weighing the overall pros and cons of working while in school. Some pros are that it teaches the value of money and budgeting, builds confidence, and can even decrease violence in underprivileged teens by 43%. Some cons they drew from this study were that working leads to fatigue, takes away personal time, and they also found that it hurts academic achievement similar to The University of Michigan study. Statistics may back up the fact that working too many hours as a teenager has many downsides, but how do students feel about it?

I myself am a senior in high school as are my friends. We all also carry jobs in order to pay for our wants and needs. My classmates seem to all have similar feelings about the balance of work and school. Senior RJ D’Ambrosio comments, “Senior year kind of feels like I’m just going through the motions. I couldn’t tell you a single thing I’ve learned.” He went on to describe how school felt like an after-thought when balancing it with work and his social life. I personally feel similarly. Work is by far my main focus; I have to make money to pay for my car, and that pocket money that I keep after my dues feels a lot better than any grade in school. It seems when I’m out to lunch with my friends, the only conversations we have are about work and what we do with our free time. At this point in our school careers, it’s more about pushing through it just to get to college. The stress and struggle of working at 17 leaves many of us exhausted and our brains not nearly as energized as they should be for a day of school. Obviously studies and students find that there is a significant struggle balancing grades, work, and social life, but it is a necessity for some to work a lot.

There is one main reason we work while in school: money! There are of course more reasons, however. Senior John Salsano talks constantly about how he works nearly seven days a week every week to make money, but he also speaks highly of the job. He enjoys it, and has been able to manage his time and keep his grades fairly high. Many students are able to manage their time pretty well, I found, but the biggest loss from working during senior year seems to be clubs and after school activities. I was hard-pressed to find someone who worked more than 15 hours a week while balancing school and a club. I have to commend anyone that is able to work, get good grades, and manage a sport or after school activity all in the short amount of time we have a day. I implore those people to take a moment to appreciate the effort they put in every single day.

Some students don’t have an option when it comes to working long hours while in school. They may need to help pay rent, or provide for their struggling family. They may need to start paying off their student loans and everyday college expenses. Many people of lower income households need to work hard at the expense of their academics in order to survive. I personally work to pay for car insurance, food, gas and a few other expenses, but I’m fortunate enough to not live in fear of being short on rent. My family is comfortable, yet I still find myself having to work hard to keep myself afloat. I cannot imagine what it must be like for kids who are practically taking care of their families. 

So working while in school has its pros and cons, but most agree working too hard hurts academic achievement. So is it worth it? Well that really depends on you. Do you have to work long hours to help out your family? Do you want to go to an expensive college? Do you want nice things? How important are your grades to you? No matter how much research is put into it, it ultimately comes down to your wants and needs.