Work-study jobs are part of a student’s federal aid package and are typically based on campus. They offer a student both flexible scheduling and a chance to gain job experience. Not every student qualifies for work-study, but if you do, taking that work-study position is almost always a good idea. You’ll earn money you can put toward college expenses and get job experience in a flexible environment. Work-study is tailored for college students and is the ideal job situation for many incoming freshmen balancing academics and life.
You Qualify for Work-Study by Filling Out the FAFSA®
When you fill out your FAFSA® and receive your SAR, you’ll find out whether you qualify for work-study. If you don’t fill out the FAFSA® every year, you won’t qualify, and qualifying in a previous year doesn’t mean you’ll qualify the next year. Similarly, if you didn’t qualify last year, that doesn’t mean you won’t qualify this year because financial circumstances change all the time.
If your SAR says you’re eligible for work-study, you do not have to accept the work-study offer. You may decide to seek out a traditional part-time job at a coffee shop or clothing store, to focus solely on your academics, or to wait until you’re more comfortable with school and your study schedule before adding a job into the mix.
Work-Study Jobs Are Diverse
The work-study positions available on campus are quite diverse. Most academic departments have a few work-study positions where you’ll gain experience on how an office runs, or you may become an assistant in a lab. Campuses also have work-study positions available in dining halls and other campus buildings.
You can seek out work-study opportunities within the community, too. Some community members will hire work-study students through an agreement with the university. These are usually at nonprofit organizations or jobs in the public sector. However, even private businesses may hire a work-study student if the work is relevant to the student’s major and academic path.
You Must Apply for Work-Study Positions
If your SAR says you’re eligible for work-study, that does not automatically mean you get a position. You must seek out work-study positions at your university and apply for the ones that interest you. Do this early because most students who are eligible for work-study will be applying, too. You want to increase your chances of getting the position you want by being one of the first people to apply.
To find out what work-study jobs are available, talk to the financial aid office. Either they will have a list for you, or they will direct you to the correct place on campus where you can find the list. If you’ve already declared a major, you can also ask in the department directly. The administrators will know which work-study positions are open.
You Can Only Earn a Specified Amount
Your SAR will specify the amount of money you can earn through work-study. If it’s $3,000 a year, what you want to do is earn as close to that number as you can. Say you get a work-study job paying $10 an hour. Make sure the schedule allows you to work enough hours that you can earn that $3,000, but not so many hours that you’ll hit the cap halfway through a semester and be unable to work anymore. The financial aid office is a resource for figuring out how much you need to work for your work-study.
Work-Study Is Ideal for Students
A work-study position is ideal for many college students who have class schedules and exams. Many traditional jobs may not allow you flexibility when you have exams coming up. A traditional job may also want you to work 20 or 30 hours a week when you might really only have time for 10. Learning to balance a job and a rigorous study schedule can be difficult, especially when you’re new to college and away from home for the first time.
That’s why work-study makes more sense for most students. A work-study position can offer you a flexible schedule so that your work doesn’t impact your academic performance. Your work-study supervisor is also more likely to be sympathetic when midterms and finals roll around because they’ve dealt with lots of students and study schedules before.
Also, consider commuting. Work-study jobs are usually on campus; a traditional job may require you to use your car, bike, or take public transportation. Ultimately, you might find it more comfortable to do work-study your first year in college so you can get the hang of balancing work and school.
You Keep the Money You Earn
One place work-study and traditional jobs are the same: the money you earn goes into your pocket. Though work-study is a type of financial aid, the money you earn belongs to you but you will have to pay the taxes included in your stipend. You can spend it on academic supplies, save up for a new laptop, or put it into your savings account. If you’d like it to be applied directly to your tuition or other school expenses, you can arrange that with the financial aid office, but otherwise, the checks will come to you.
Work-Study Helps You Gain Job Experience
Getting internships that will help future employers seriously consider your resume can be difficult. You can leverage your work-study opportunities to gain job experience. Seek out work-study that directly relates to your major and your desired field. That could mean working in the department office or looking in the community for an opportunity related to your field of study. Work-study students have an advantage when looking for a job after college, thanks to that job experience during school.
You can opt to seek out a traditional job instead of your offered work-study position, just as you can opt to focus on academics for a year and not add any complications into the mix. You have to decide which choice fits your college schedule and your abilities best. Remember that work-study is crafted around the college student life and often provides you with relevant job experience and the most flexibility.