All students who submit the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), are awarded some sort of financial aid by the federal government. The financial aid offered is different for every student. Your package is calculated based on the information you provided on the FAFSA form.
The financial aid package typically includes a combination of scholarships, grants, and loans. Scholarships and grants are free money, while loans have to be paid back with interest. In addition to this standard financial aid package, some students also receive work-study options as a part of the total cash award. Most but not all colleges offer this option.
If you’re applying to a college that offers work-study, it is worth considering this option. But first, it helps to understand how financial aid and work study affect each other.
What Is Work-Study & How Does It Work?
Work-study is a need-based form of Financial Aid, the same as grants. The difference between grants and work-study is that you have to work to earn an income through work-study.
The federal government typically offers the work-study option as a way to supplement low financial aid awards. The work study option allows you to earn an income through on-campus or off-campus employment. The additional income helps to fill the gap between the cost of college and the financial aid (grants and loans) received as part of the award package.
Three things to keep in mind about work-study.
- You must be enrolled at least half-time in an accredited institution to be eligible for work-study.
- You have to opt for it in the FAFSA form. If you don’t tick this option, you won’t be awarded work-study.
- Being awarded work-study doesn’t guarantee you’ll get a job. You still have to apply and go for interviews and the job you get may be on or off campus.
How Much Can You Earn Through Work-Study?
When you participate in work-study, you’ll earn at least the current federal minimum age. You could earn a higher hourly wage depending on the type of work you’ll be doing and the skills needed for that role.
Your total work-study award depends on a number of factors. Your level of financial need and your school’s funding capacity are the two main factors that are considered. When you apply may also affect your work-study earnings. The earlier you apply, the better your chances of getting a higher-paying job.
You cannot work as many hours as you want. The Federal Work-Study award will clearly define your work hours and the amount you can earn. You cannot exceed the work hours assigned to you. Your school’s financial aid office or your employer will take your class schedule into consideration when assigning
How Work Study and Financial Aid Affect Each Other
Work-study programs operate in different ways in different schools but they are all based on the same principle. Essentially, work-study is an opportunity for students to earn some money to cover college expenses through part-time jobs.
When you opt for work-study in your first year, your earnings for the year are deducted from your FAFSA calculation for the following year. This means you reduce the amount of loan that you need to take in the second year. If you continue with the work-study program in the second year, you will further reduce the loan that you’ll need to take in the third year. By the time you graduate, you will have taken on a significantly lower amount in student loan debt. This means you’ll graduate with much less debt than your peers who do not participate in this program.
When you sign up for work-study, you will have to work harder while you are in college. More importantly, you’ll need to learn to balance your time between work and study. But, it’s only after you graduate, that you’ll reap the rich rewards of that hard work. The lower student loan debt that you’ll have to pay off after graduation is worth putting in the work while you’re in college.
Not sure how to read or compare your financial aid letters? College Raptor’s Financial Aid Offer Comparison tool cuts through the confusion and makes it easier for you to compare financial aid offers based on net price and expected debt at graduation.
How The Financial Aid Comparison Tool Works
You upload your financial aid letter or enter the information from your financial aid letter into the tool. The tool will give you a summary of your financial aid package highlighting the cost of tuition, the total cost of college, grants, and scholarships, net price, work-study, and estimated debt at graduation. The estimated debt at graduation is the only variable value. It is based on a number of different factors
After uploading all the financial aid offers you’ve received, the tool will display the information in a way that lets you compare offers from different schools. This will help you determine which school is offering you the best financial aid package with work-study.
Check out the Financial Aid Offer Comparison tool to compare the financial aid awarded to you by different schools.