What is work-study? A student guide


Work Study is a federally and sometimes state funded program that helps students in financial need find part-time employment.

It won’t cover all of your college costs – you’ll need a combination of personal savings, scholarships, subsidies and student loans, too – but it’s good for qualifying students.

“Work experience at any level while you’re in college will be an advantage,” says Megan FitzGibbon, head of state scholarship programs at the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. “Especially if it’s related to your degree.”

Federal Work-Study FAQs

  • You must complete the free application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) be eligible.

  • Students are generally responsible for securing their own work-study jobs. Just because your financial aid grant qualifies you for a work-study does not mean that you are guaranteed a job.

  • About 3,400 colleges and universities have a federal work-study program, according to the United States Department of Education, but not all schools do. Check with the financial aid offices of the schools that interest you to see if they offer work-study placements.

How to apply for federal work-study

When you complete the FAFSA, check the box of the application which indicates that you wish to be considered for the work-study program. You should complete the FAFSA as soon as possible as some grants are awarded on a first come, first served basis.

Selecting this option does not guarantee that a work-study option will be included in your financial aid award, and it does not require you to accept the work-study option if it is offered.

A few weeks or months after completing the FAFSA, you will receive financial aid indicating the amounts you are eligible for loans, grants, and work-study study. Colleges provide work study funds based on the availability of funds, student financial need, and other financial aid a student is eligible for.

Although your help financial aid award letter may list a certain amount allocated for work-study – say, $ 5,000 – that doesn’t mean you automatically get that money. You must find a job that qualifies for work-study and then work enough hours to earn that amount.

Should I accept work-study assistance?

If the work-study is part of your financial aid grant and you do not intend to use it, you can refuse the grant. However, in most cases, getting a work study job is a good idea, especially if it lowers your student loan and the amount of student debt you will need to pay after graduation.

“We would much prefer our students to turn to scholarships, work-study – any other source of help – before turning to loans,” says Austin Gentry, admissions advisor at New Mexico State University.

Where to find an eligible work-study job

Once you have been offered a work-study opportunity, you must find a job that qualifies for the program.

Many work-study concerts take place on campus and may include research assistantships, administrative duties in a campus office, or work in the library. Other work-study jobs may be off-campus in nonprofit organizations or private companies. A portion of the work-study positions are community service jobs, including tutoring, babysitting and health care.

Many schools have online portals with work-study job listings, and students are encouraged to apply for jobs related to their field of study. Work-study jobs promise flexible hours so that you can more easily balance work and study.

Typically, you cannot earn as much from work-study as the financial assistance grant stipulates, although some employers make exceptions.

For example, if your scholarship allocated $ 5,000 for work-study, you could work as many hours as needed to earn that amount. But let’s say you hit that amount with two weeks left in the semester. Some employers may allow you to continue working for the rest of the semester and exceed your allotted amount, but that depends on the employer, Gentry says.

Average work-study grant

With a work-study job, you are guaranteed to earn at least the federal minimum wage, $ 7.25 an hour. If the state minimum wage is higher, you will earn at least the state minimum wage. The average work-study scholarship for a student with a qualifying job earned $ 1,847 in 2020, according to Sallie Mae annual report “How America Pays for College”.

How does alternation-work pay?

You can choose to be paid by check or direct deposit, or have the money credited to your school account to cover tuition, fees, or room and board. You don’t have to use the money for anything specific; FitzGibbon says many students use their work-study paychecks to cover day-to-day living expenses.

Does work-study affect future financial aid?

The money you earn from work-study is taxable and you have to declare it on your FAFSA the following year in two places. First, include your work-study earnings when reporting your total work income that year.

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Second, a later question asks how much you earned from the work-study program in the previous year. Fill it out as well, because the money you earn from the work-study program will not count in the calculation that determines the amount of assistance to which you are entitled the following year.

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Next steps

Fill out the FAFSA. the application for the 2021-2022 school year is available October 1, 2020. If you have already been approved for the work-study program, check with your college for job openings.

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