Looking for money for college? A lot of students make ends meet and get great work experience by participating in the federal work-study program. Through work-study, undergraduate and graduate students take jobs during the school year to help cover college costs.
But money is only one reason to apply. Students who participate in work-study gain valuable employment experience, build great resumes and develop a useful support system outside of class through the people they meet on the job.
Applying for Federal Work-Study
To apply for work-study, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and answer yes to the question: "Are you interested in work-study?" Answering yes does not gaurantee that you'll be offered a work-study position, nor does it require you to accept one if it's offered.
Work-Study is a campus-based program, which means the money comes from the school's budget and is limited. Work-Study is given to students based on the results of their FAFSA. If you're eligible and funds are available, the work-study award will show up on your award letter.
If you're not assigned work-study as part of your financial aid package, then you won't be eligible for the program. In some cases, eligibility may not ensure you a work-study position. On some campuses, the number of positions is limited and every student must pass an entry interview.
If you're not awarded a work-study position the first time around, there is hope. Some schools have waiting lists and will contact you if funds become available for your work-study job.
Types of Work-Study Jobs
The work-study program tries to match students with jobs that relate to their major or help the community. You could get assigned to an on- or off-campus job. If you get an on-campus job, you'll probably be working for your school in a department or office that is related to your course of study.
Off-campus assignments often serve private non-profit organizations or public agencies and the work has to benefit public interest. Sometimes schools have agreements with private for-profit employers, but in that case the work must be relevant to your studies.
Ah, the paycheck ... your well-deserved reward for working so hard. Your federal work-study salary must match the current federal minimum wage, but it may be higher depending on the nature of the work. Your total federal work-study award depends on when you apply, your level of need and how much work-study money your school has to give out.
Undergraduates are paid by the hour, and graduate students are paid by the hour or by salary. You can't earn commissions or additional fees. No matter how you get paid, your school has to pay you directly at least once a month.
Remember, you can't work as many hours as you want: The amount you earn can't exceed your total federal work-study award. And in many cases, your employer or financial aid administrator will take your class schedule and academic progress into account when assigning hours.
Things to Keep in Mind
Before you sign up for your work-study job, consider all of the factors and make sure it's worth it. Think about whether the job is conveniently located and if it fits your life as a college student. Keep in mind that getting to the job and doing your work shouldn't be a heavy burden on your budget or your schedule.
Also, make sure you've adjusted to college life and can take on the responsibility of a job before you sign up. Your job shouldn't take a toll on your grades.