The culture shock that comes from students transitioning from high school to college can be startling. The biggest change is all of the new found freedom, in terms of both behavior and time. While there are a great many unproductive (yet totally fun) ways to fill all that free time, getting a job is probably the smarter play. Not only will it help to keep you out of trouble, but the extra cash can’t hurt either…Can it?

Student Income and Financial Aid

The amount of need-based financial aid a student gets is based on the income and assets of that student’s household. That includes the student’s income and assets as well. While a certain amount is protected from financial aid calculations, if the student’s finances exceed that certain amount, it will begin to lower their financial aid award. So, this is one instance where, yeah, the extra cash could hurt a little. Actually, student income is assessed at a pretty high rate when it comes to determining need. If the student makes too much it could hurt quite a bit.

The sweet spot is $6,570; anything lower than that won’t mess with a student’s financial aid award at all. It shouldn’t be too hard to stay within that space. Students might have more free time than they’re used to, but they still have to go to class sometime.

It’s Not All Bad

Did you know that students with part-time jobs tend to achieve higher academically? It seems crazy, right? You’d think the added burden would stress them out more. For whatever reason, the opposite seems to be true. Maybe it’s because they are so conditioned to the structured lifestyle of a K-12 student that the familiarity is helpful. Maybe having to actually work for their education makes them appreciate it more. There’s not really a conclusive answer, but if it works, it works.

Potential Jobs

Frankly, getting a job in college (if you’re concerned about a financial aid award) is like playing The Price is Right. You want to get as close to that $6,570 number as you can without going over. You also don’t want to do something that’s going to take up too much of your time. You will need to study and do assignments, and, you know, go to class. If work-study is a part of your financial aid package, you’re already ahead of the game. For one thing, they set you up with the job. For another, your earnings won’t affect your financial aid award.

For everyone else, here’s a quick list of some jobs likely to put you in the sweet spot without giving you too many headaches.

Dining Hall Attendant or Residence Assistants: These are typically low-stress jobs. Plus, you can’t beat the commute.

Barista: Customers might be obnoxious, but hey…Free coffee.

Freelance Writer: Getting paid to write sure beats the paying to write you’ll be doing the rest of the time (I guess you can beat that commute).

Uber Driver: Or any ride-share or delivery service, really. Be careful with that one though, it’s probably not that hard to hit that 6k cap.

These are just a few ideas to inspire you. Plus, if you can find a job that blows that six grand allowance away, but will set you up for a great career or pays well enough to justify the hit to your financial aid, consider taking it. Don’t let financial aid become a prison.