Want to work while in college to help pay expenses? Work-study helps you do just that. It's a form of financial aid that helps you get a part-time job conveniently located on campus. Here's how it works.
How Do You Get Work-Study?
You apply for work-study just like you do all other forms of financial aid: by filling out and submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Your financial need usually determines the amount of work-study you are eligible for.
You find work-study jobs through job banks or postings by the financial aid or college employment offices. In most cases, students will have the opportunity to interview with potential work-study employers. The interviews help students and employers find out if the job is a good fit. Sometimes the college arranges these interviews; sometimes the student does. Even if you are eligible for work-study, there is no guarantee you'll get a work-study job. In the end, whether or not you are hired is up to the employer.
Why Choose a Work-Study Job Over Regular Employment?
Taking a work-study job does not impact your financial aid eligibility. That is because the federal government does not count your work-study job earnings as income. What does count as income is money you earn from other work. The government will count half of every dollar you earn over $6,130, and will deduct that amount from the potential financial aid you might receive. Earning $8,000, for example, would reduce your aid eligibility by $935.
How Much Can You Earn?
The amount of your other financial aid usually determines how much aid is allocated to work-study. How much you can earn also depends on your class schedule and how well you're doing academically. You should be realistic when working out your schedule and allow yourself time not only for study but also for recreational and leisure activities.
Your work-study salary depends on the type of work you'll be doing, the amount of money remaining in the college's work-study fund, your experience or skill level, and when you apply (there may be a deadline). Your salary is always at least as high as the federal minimum wage.
How Does Your Salary Get Paid?
Undergraduate students on work-study are paid by the hour and must be paid at least once a month. Your check will be sent directly to you to pay for your tuition, room, meals, or other college fees. Or, if you request it, your check can be sent directly to the college.
What Are Typical Work-Study Jobs?
If you get a work-study job on campus, the college will usually be your employer. Typical jobs include working in the library or bookstore, serving other students in the dining hall, and assisting with college events. Off-campus work usually benefits the public in some way and should relate as closely as possible to your course of study.
You may be working alongside other students not in the work-study program. In fact, in all respects your employment will appear the same as any other job. Only the college and your employer will know you're a work-study student. The only difference between a regular part-time job and a work-study job is that part of your salary may be covered by the federal government, the state, your college, or some other organization.
If you decide to leave your work-study job before the end of the school year, or you can't find a work-study job, you might be able to convert the work-study aid into a loan. Check with the financial aid office at your college.
Sometimes it's difficult to see how working part-time during college could be considered "financial aid." Keep in mind that the money you make from a work-study job does not need to be repaid, nor does it count against you when you apply for aid the following year. Plus, the smooth hiring process, flexible hours, choice and availability of jobs, and preset salaries of a typical work-study program usually make finding a work-study job easier than finding work on your own.
Note: Financial information provided on this site is of a general nature and may not apply to your situation. Contact a financial or tax advisor before acting on such information.