About 4 out of 5 of college students work while going to school. For some people, it’s a great way to help pay for college. For others, it’s the only way. If college is the key to a great career, it can feel like you need to get a job to go to college... to get a job.

The good news is that college jobs can be worth more than just a paycheck. Here are three ways to make a college job work for you.

1. Treat it like an internship (that actually pays you.)

You might not be earning college credit from your part-time job, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get valuable experience. Here’s a little secret about the professional world: a huge part of work is simply knowing how to operate in a work environment! Especially in your first years at a job, it’s all about navigating the professional environment. It turns out that just knowing how to deal with bosses and coworkers is a pretty valuable experience in itself. Internships are incredibly valuable, but getting paid to learn it is pretty nice, too.

2. Sneak in study time.

Huge caveat: make sure your manager is cool with it if you do this. It’s just a fact that for a lot of part-time jobs, there’s a significant amount of down-time. A lot of managers are pretty understanding that you’re a student. Ask them if it’s okay for you to catch up on some reading during the slow periods. If they agree, you’ve just scored some built-in study time. Nice! Now you’re clocking hours at double-duty.

3. Rock those employee benefits.

Part-time jobs can come with some pretty sweet perks. Retail jobs tend to have product discounts (working at a clothing store can keep you looking stylish!), and restaurants are known to give deep dining discounts to employees. It can be a nice way to save a little cash, but did you know it can be so much more? At 25 hours per week, a lot of companies actually start offering benefits like 401ks. That’s right - your part time job can help you get through college AND start saving for retirement. Not too shabby.

Besides tuition, there are other college expenses that can add up quickly. Think about housing, food, and books. Not everyone pays the “sticker price” for tuition, so make sure you know how much college actually costs to figure out if you need a part-time job.

Authored by Jared Meyer

Jared specializes in communication in higher education. He writes about getting into college and succeeding once you're there. He's the editor of the American Honors Blog.