A work-study program is a type of financial aid that allows students with financial need the opportunity to earn money that can be used to cover part of their educational and living expenses. It is offered to eligible students as part of their financial aid package.
Do all students automatically qualify for work-study?
No, students who do not file the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) do not qualify. Filing the FAFSA is a mandatory requirement for being considered for the work-study program.
Those who do file may or may not qualify, depending on their financial need as demonstrated by the information submitted through the FAFSA.
Do all colleges offer work-study to students who demonstrate financial need?
Not all colleges. Only those colleges that participate in this program offer students the work-study option.
What does my eligibility for the work-study program depend on?
Only those students who demonstrate financial need may be eligible for the work-study program. You can demonstrate financial need by filing out the FAFSA. The financial information you submit will be assessed and if it is determined that you are eligible, you will be notified about the amount of eligibility through the Student Aid Report (SAR).
The earlier you file your FAFSA, the better your chances of qualifying. This is because many schools award aid on a first-come, first-served basis.
How do I find work-study jobs?
Many colleges post all open student employment positions on their Student Employment Job Board. However, different colleges have different systems in place. The best place to check is with your school’s Financial Aid Office.
What kinds of work-study jobs can I expect to find?
The kinds of work-study jobs vary widely from one school to another. You could work at an off-campus or on-campus position, at anything from cataloging books as a library assistant to documenting experiments in the laboratory or serving at the cafeteria or book. Off-campus jobs are generally with private nonprofit organizations or public organizations. Jobs at for-profit companies are usually only available if they are relevant to the course you are attending.
What are the benefits of participating in a work-study program?
The biggest benefit is that you get the opportunity to earn extra cash while you are studying. Over the period of four years you will earn a considerable amount that you can put towards your college education. This will reduce the amount of money you will need to borrow so you can graduate with lower debt. Although this is a huge benefit by itself, it is not the only one.
Participating in a work-study program also gives you the opportunity to learn critical professional skills and broaden your professional network much before your non-working peers. Your work experience will make you a highly sought-after employee after graduation and the contacts you make may be an invaluable source of advice or even serve as a future job reference.
Are there any drawbacks to participating in a work-study program?
The only drawback is the time involvement. You will have to manage your time very carefully in order to juggle study and work schedules without compromising on either.
Participating in a work-study program will put your time management skills to the test. Approaching this without a plan or without some thought as to how you are going to balance both aspects may cause you to lag behind in your studies and prevent you from doing your best at work.
If you fall too far behind in your coursework, you may end up delaying graduation and ultimately paying more to complete your college education. And if you do not give your best in the workplace, you may not get that all-important reference for future jobs.
How much can I expect to get paid?
When you participate in a federal work-study program, you are considered to be a federal work-study employee and can expect to earn the federal minimum wage at the very least. Appropriate taxes will be deducted from your paycheck.
Undergraduate students are paid by the hour at the standard hourly rate, while graduate students may either earn a monthly salary or hourly wages.
How will I get paid?
Unlike most other forms of financial aid which are deposited into the school account, the money you earn through work-study is deposited directly into your bank account. This is generally in the form of a semi-monthly paycheck.
Can I do anything I want with the money I earn?
Yes, it is money you earned and you spend it any way you want to. However, the best use of your money is to put it towards your college costs so that you lower your overall burden of debt.
Is there any limit to how much I can work?
Most colleges limit students to a maximum of 20 hours per week during the fall and spring semesters. Check with your college’s financial department to get an understanding for any other rules.
Is there any limit to how much I can earn through a work-study program?
Your SAR will have details about your federal work-study allocation and the corresponding wage range. Your work-study allocation and hourly rate will determine how many hours you can work in a semester or an academic year.
Can I keep working if I drop out of school?
You can only participate in work-study while you are enrolled in a program. Your work-study position and benefits end on the last day of your enrollment, whether you withdraw, graduate, or are dismissed.
If your employer offers to keep you on, you are free to accept but it is no longer considered a work-study.
Do I have to return the money if I do not work?
Unlike loans where you get the money at the outset, with a work-study program you have to earn the money. You only get paid AFTER you’ve put in the work so the question of returning any money does not arise.
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