Common Questions About Work Study Programs

Work study programs are need-based student aid programs that allow students with financial need to earn an income through part-time employment while they are still in college.

The work study program is funded by the federal government. The aim of the program is to give needy students the opportunity to earn money that can be used towards their college expenses. This helps reduce the amount they would otherwise need to borrow by way of federal or private student loans.

Do all students qualify for work study?

No, all students are not eligible for federal work study. Only students who file the FAFSA, and who demonstrate financial need, may qualify to participate in this program.


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Is there a time-limit for applying for work study?

The work study program is very popular and places fill up fast as the majority of students are looking for ways to reduce their overall debt. With that in mind, the earlier you submit the FAFSA, the better your chances of qualifying.

What types of work study jobs are available?

There are several different types of work study jobs available both on and off campus. The jobs can be as varied as working as a library assistant, to crunching numbers in the accounting office, or serving food in the campus cafeteria.

Will I get a job through the work study office?

No. The work study office posts up job listings as and when they become available. You are responsible for reviewing the listings and determining the criteria and application requirements. You then apply for those jobs that you qualify for and are interested in, just like any other job applicant. The success of your application depends solely on the prospective employer who will evaluate all applications. The work study office has no say in the matter.

What are the chances that I will find a job that is relevant to my choice of major or career?

It is up to you to browse through the job listings and apply to those openings that are relevant to your prospective major or career. Fortunately, with the diverse job opportunities available, the odds are pretty high that you’ll be able to find a relevant work study program.

Are there any upper or lower limits on the number of hours I work or how much I can earn?

When determining the number of hours per week, your prospective employer will take into consideration their own requirements, your class schedule and your Federal Work Study (FWS) allocation. You are not allowed to earn more than your allocated FWS award for the academic year.

At the very least, FWS participants earn federal minimum wage and may earn more. Undergrads generally get paid hourly wages, while graduate students may be paid by the hour or they may be paid a monthly salary.

Is work study mandatory for all students who demonstrate financial need on the FAFSA?

No, work study is an option given to you to earn your own money towards college and lower your overall debt when you graduate. However, it is optional and not mandatory. It is to your advantage to accept it but if you think you cannot manage working and studying simultaneously, you can choose to convert your work study to student loans.

You must be aware of the repercussions of making this decision though. If you decline the offer, you are less likely to receive it as part of your financial aid the next year.

How does the money I earn through work-study affect my next year’s financial need?

The money you earn through the work-study program will not have any impact on your financial need the following year. However, if you take up a job outside of the work-study program, that will be taken into consideration and will lower your calculated financial need.

What are the advantages of participating in the work study program?

The biggest and most widely recognized benefit of participating in the work study program is that you need to borrow less money and graduate with lower debt. The less debt you graduate with, the more freedom you will have in choosing a job you like instead of feeling pressured to take up any job.

In addition, you will also pick up a wide range of professional skills such as writing a compelling cover letter and answering interviews, which will hold you in good stead when you are looking for a job post graduation. You will also gain valuable experience in a related field, which will give your post-graduation resume a huge boost.

Last but certainly not least, you will get the opportunity to network with professionals who may serve as references for future jobs.

Are there any drawbacks to participating in work study?

The only work study drawback is in the tight schedule that you will have to keep in order to do justice to both, your studies and your job. Some students seem to manage it more easily than others. The key is to recognize your limitations and only take on what you can handle and no more than that or you risk falling behind in your class and delaying your graduation, which could end up with you paying more for college in the end.

How do I use my work study earnings to cover my tuition expenses? 

Schools typically pay work study participants directly. If you want your earnings to be applied towards your tuition expenses directly, all you need to do is put in a written request to the accounts office with explicit instructions.

How long can I keep working if work study is offered to me?

You can keep working as long as you are enrolled in a program in the participating school. You are not eligible if you withdraw your application, or are dismissed from the institution. Your eligibility terminates after graduation. Your employer can choose to continue your employment, but this will not be considered part of the work-study program.

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