A greater proportion of students in Canada are working part-time while attending university than ever before. Furthermore, the primary reason students give for attending university has slowly shifted from the pursuit of knowledge to the pursuit of a better career. When taken together, these factors suggest that part-time work, either pre- or post-graduation, is a part of the new reality of pursuing higher education. However, very little is known about how working part-time while studying impacts the overall student experience. This study explores the experiences of sixteen business students who worked part-time in an effort to gain a better understanding of their experiences. The existing, primarily survey-based, literature was used as a starting point for this exploration and allowed the author to identify several key factors associated with student success, namely: academic performance, health, engagement with the on- and off-campus communities, and competency development. This study made use of in-depth interviews to deepen the understanding of the working student experience in ways that complement the existing scholarly research in this area. The results of this study, presented in a comprehensive model, illuminate a number of immediate and longer-term impacts of part-time work on the student experience. Personal, academic, and workplace factors that were shown to impact the working student experience are highlighted as considerations for future working students to keep in mind when selecting an ideal part-time role. This study concludes with call to action for institutions of higher learning to better support working students, and a series of recommendations to consider in doing so.
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Thesis advisor: Magnusson, Kris
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