Following high school graduation, heading off to college is often the first major (and exciting) milestone in your life, but we’d be foolish to pretend it’s not also one of the most financially stressful experiences you’ll go through.
Given that your surname probably isn’t Kardashian, we’ll go ahead and assume you’re in the majority of students to whom money is an everyday concern. As such, you’re probably weighing up the pros and cons of picking up some part-time work around your already-busy study schedule.
Here’s the low down on the considerations you’ll need to consider on working while studying.
Paying Taxes While Working
Do you have to pay taxes on any income you earn while studying? If so, how much?
In reality, trying to answer these questions in full would result in a 50,000 word article which would probably look better as a hard copy, bound in leather.
The reason that we can’t cover everything in this overview article is that the rules governing income tax, eligibility and possible tax credits are famously complex and depend largely on which state you’re studying in (as well as how much you plan to work, where you’re working, what schemes operate in your area/company, your tuition fee and funding situation and a myriad other factors).
The best advice to contact your local IRS office directly to talk about your situation in real time, but the IRS website itself may be worth a look. They have a dedicated Student section here.
Taxes for International Students Studying in the U.S.
Things get a little more complex if you’re working in the US as a nonresident while you’re studying. This page serves as a good overview and is the best starting point for wrapping your head around nonresident tax, but as you’ll see, it’s mind-bogglingly complicated at times.
The key points to take away from it are:
1) You’ll need a Social Security Number if you plan on earning income in the U.S., which you can get at the nearest Social Security Office.
2) Despite the necessity for the SSN, you don’t have to pay Social Security or Medicare in all but the rarest of circumstances.
3) You’ll need to file an 8843 form in order to establish your status as a nonresident whether or not you’re planning on working. If you do start working, the employer will have you fill out a W-4 form which is fairly self-explanatory and sets you up for paying taxes to the US on any money earned while there.
However, as with resident taxation, there are a few variations on the rules depending on which state you’re studying in.
The Practicalities of Juggling Work/Study Life
Needless to say, you don’t want to have your part-time job impact on your studies in a way which affects your grades. After all, working your butt of to pay for your tuition only to flunk at the end of the course!
Being realistic, most “student jobs”’ aren’t particularly well paid so the temptation to put in more than part-time hours in order to rake in a substantial amount of cash at the end of the month is easy to fall foul to.
However, with proper budgeting and carefully working out exactly what tax breaks you’re entitled to, you should be able to easily work out exactly how much income you need in order to get by. Try to stick to this amount when picking up hours waiting tables or serving drinks, even if it means you have to forego some of the more pricey luxuries. A little bit of sacrifice now will pay dividends after college.
If you get the opportunity to work from home (or from your dorm!) grab it with both hands. Such work is beneficial as it’s easy to slot it around your studies and can be lucrative if it’s within your specialty (as above).
Craigslist is a good source for this, particularly the local sub-sites, but do beware of scams. This cannot be understated; since working from home is as desirable as it sounds, plenty of cons abound but the good news is that they’re easy to spot from a mile away. There is genuine work out there (contrary to popular conception) but be prepared to sift through the dirt with a keen eye for the odd gem.
Putting Specialties to Work
Retail and service work are time-honored traditions for students and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of elbow grease. However, depending on what field you’re studying, it may be possible to gain work which is higher paid.
Let’s say you study at the New York Film Academy (NYFA), one of the top schools for cinematography professions. If you’re studying something technical such as video editing, which is largely coursework based (and therefore affords a more flexible schedule), you’ll have knowledge of a technical skill which can not only pay well but counts greatly on your resume. Naturally it can be slightly trickier to get work in your specialist field, but the rewards are more than worth it.
Best of luck, and happy studies!
*Note that the advice presented in this article is not intended to be taken as financial or tax advice. Seek professional assistance on specific matters before making financial decisions.
About New York Film Academy
The New York Film Academy was founded on the philosophy that “learning by doing” combined with best industry practices is more valuable than years of theoretical study for filmmakers and actors. This educational model allows students to achieve more in less time than at all other film or acting schools in the world. Get More Info
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