Summer jobs are a good idea – if you can afford it

May 7, 2012

Aaron Collett

There is a very narrow period of time in someone’s life when they experience the phenomenon of the “summer job.” Not only is it a narrow period of time, it’s one of the most tumultuous times in someone’s life – their high school and college years. There are only about eight years when society says that it is universally good to have a “summer” job.

Because of this, those same jobs tend to be scarce unless you’re in a college town. Colorado Springs isn’t really a college town in the same way that Boulder is, for example. This means that summer jobs tend to be difficult to find around here.

This problem ends up hurting out-of-state students the most. Those students will not have the network of family and friends that a local student will probably have, so they won’t have anywhere to go during the summer – which means living at the dorms and going to class during the summer.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not cool to be forced into a choice like that, especially if the summer semester doesn’t offer any courses that you need. Then you’re stuck not only with the extra course that you have to pay for, as well as the extra $3,000 or so for the summer semester residence.

And that’s if you’re able to get enough financial aid to cover the extra semester – I know I can’t get more financial aid after I’ve finished the spring semester.

The classic summer job is camp counselor, which tends to be a pretty good deal – if you are willing or have the ability to work for basically no money over the summer. Also, most camps in this area are of the religious persuasion, and if you’re unwilling to profess faith in their chosen deity, they won’t hire you.

So while that can be a fairly decent job, it’s not available if you happen to be one of the 22 percent of the population that doesn’t identify as Christian, or if you happen to apply for a camp that doesn’t match the denomination that you claim (Evangelical church camps will rarely hire Catholics, for example.)

The other classic option for college students is an internship. Internships can be really great; they’re in your major, and they give awesome job experience. The catch is that most of them are unpaid. So yeah, they’re really good if you can afford to not have a summer job that pays you.

The issue here is not really a lack of summer jobs. The issue is the culture which says that getting a job is super-important during your school years, and yet makes it impossible to do so during those same years.

To a certain degree, this kind of thing is a symptom. Yes, the economy is down right now. We just had the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression – and we’re still not completely out of it.

So jobs of any stripe – summer or otherwise – are in short supply. At the same time as jobs are scarce, and a college degree is absolutely required to get a job much above minimum wage, schools are raising their tuition by leaps and bounds.

Summer jobs could be really beneficial – they could give experience to students, and give them a taste of being out in the real world. But the realities of American culture right now make it incredibly hard to either have a job or for it to actually make a difference.