How Your High School Job Will Prepare You for College

Whether it’s retail, babysitting, life-guarding, flipping burgers, or anything along those lines, your high school jobs are teaching you valuable lessons. It may not feel especially worth it at the time–what with nagging bosses and annoying customers–but you are getting the benefits of life-lessons and experiences (and a paycheck, too).

Your part-time job will prepare you for your eventual full-time career, of course, but it also imparts lessons that will be relevant to your college years as well. Take these lessons to heart and they will help you in the long run.

College student sitting at an office desk.

Your High School Jobs Will Teach You Time Management

One of my first bosses had a saying: “Early is on time, on time is late, and late is not acceptable.” One of the very first lessons I learned was that of punctuality and time management. My first job was as a concession worker in a movie theater, so timeliness was key. If I had an opening shift, I had to be there early enough to set up cups, bags, and the money drawers–as well as pop plenty of popcorn–to be ready when we opened. If it was a closing shift, I had to clean everything and store away materials before I could go home. I had to prioritize tasks and work quickly–odds are you’ve had a similar experience at your job as well.

Time management is paramount in college. You may have a more flexible schedule than you did in high school, but you still have to juggle class-time, travel time, homework, studying, your social life, more studying, and potentially a job. Not to mention keeping track of deadlines and due dates. You don’t want to be late to class and you definitely don’t want to be late on a paper.

Money Management

Receiving your first paycheck is a sweet, sweet feeling. But what did you do with that paycheck? Go buy new clothes or games? Did you invest it? Put it towards your college fund? Money is a precious commodity, and likely your first interaction with being responsible with your paycheck was your first part-time job. You really learn the value of it, how to save up for something you really want, how to balance wants vs. needs, how to prioritize things.

In college, this is a necessary skill to have. College is expensive, even if you have scholarships, grants, and other forms of aid helping out. So managing your money is imperative. Whether you’re working part-time during school or riding on student loans (or a mix of the two), being responsible with your money is an important life lesson to cultivate.

Working with Different People

You interact with a lot of people while working a job–bosses, co-workers, customers, etc–and chances are you may not like every single one of them. However, you still have to get along with them. First jobs are an excellent time to start learning how best to interact with people who are different than you–who have different beliefs, different strategies, different experiences.

In college, you will meet a plethora of diverse people in your classmates, roomies, professors, and faculty. That’s one of the greatest aspects of college, meeting new people who are different than you. But you’ll still need to get along with everybody regardless of similarities or differences. Always use respect, courtesy, and patience–things you hopefully learned from your high school jobs.

Problem Solving

Murphy’s Law:  Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. And odds are, something has gone wrong during one of your shifts. So how did you handle it? How did you work to resolve it? Problem-solving–especially on-the-fly–is one of the most useful and practical skills you can harness.

In college, something will go wrong. A printer will breakdown right before you need to turn in a paper for class. Your bike has a flat tire and you have to be halfway across campus in five minutes. A partner will fall through on a project due tomorrow. You’ll forget to set an alarm. Don’t panic, problem solve. Find a way to fix it. Use those skills you developed in high school.


There were many days where I wasn’t sure I could make it to the end of my shift. From rising frustration with customers, to incredibly sore feet, to numerous burns I’d earned from the popcorn popper spitting out hot oil, I was sure I’d collapse or just quit on the spot. But I never did, and I’m glad for it. It taught me that I could make it through the day and that a reward was always waiting for hard work–for me, it came in the form of a minimum wage paycheck and sleep. I know you can make it through your shift too.

You’ll need boatloads of perseverance in college. It can get frustrating at times. Deadlines, grades, money, social problems, pressure, lack of sleep, being sick to your stomach because all you’ve eaten for the past three days is Ramen, Cheez-its, and leftover pizza (I may or may not be speaking from personal experience). I remember calling my dad one day in tears and told him, “I don’t know why I thought I could do this.” He told me to stick with it, to hold on, and keep going. And I did. I’m sitting here writing this at my first full-time “real” job with a college degree at home. If I can persevere, you can too. You really can.

While there are certainly more life lessons you learn during your high school-era jobs, these are all key to college success. So keep an open mind and work hard!

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