Work-Study: The Complete Guide

VD October 10 2021

If you are a student struggling to make both ends meet along with studying full time in college, this article is for you. There’s no need to be ashamed of or something like that, and it shows how strong you are in your spirits. You’ve got what it takes!

You know what? If you can read this article, not only are you doing great in life but most likely you’re already the best thing that has ever happened to your bank account. You can do it!

As they say, there is no time like the present. With that being said, let’s get right down to business; here is everything about work-study programs and how to make them work for you. There are even tips on how to make your job more interesting by exploring other options like extra-curricular activities, alumni networks, or using technology (social media) to search for jobs online. First things first;

There are basically two types of financial aid available for students at both secondary and post-secondary levels of education. While the first one is based on need, it means that there are fixed financial requirements to meet for eligibility, and the latter is given out on merit or by way of academic achievement. It usually depends on how long you have been studying in college as well as your grades.

So what do these two types imply? For needs-based programs, they are generally within the form of grants and similar support either coming from federal sources (e.g., state governments) or through colleges themselves. On the other hand, those under merit-based ones include scholarships and work-study program preferences that don’t require any loan applications whatsoever.

Another thing that makes them different is that you can apply for them at different times. For needs-based ones, the application is usually around October while merit-based scholarships or grants; are handed out to students who have completed their second semester.

How does work-study work? 

A work-study program allows college students to help get funds from their college, federal organizations, and other institutions, only if they commit to work and study simultaneously. 

The federal work-study program is one of the most preferred programs by thousands of students each year. Just make sure that your college/school supports the work-study program, if yes then go for it with everything you have got. If not, don't be disappointed. There are many other trustworthy sources that you can take advantage of to help finance your college education.

So what can you expect from work-study programs?

You are given a job that relates to your course of study for example if you're studying marketing; the workplace might be an advertising agency. However, it does not always have to depend on what field of study you opt for. On the contrary, there are cases where the working place is more like doing clerical or office work. At times they even hire students who wish to go into teaching. It’s just good to know that any kind of work experience goes a long way in helping students apply for a thesis and further academic records.

Moreover, don't limit yourself to just one particular company or similar small businesses. That’s just too restricting! Instead, explore your options. You might even want to ask for referrals from alumni networks or friends who are graduating soon, about their experience with working for larger companies.

Work-study programs are flexible and convenient as well. For example, if you’re already given a position by your college/university and then find something better; there is nothing that should stop you from looking into other opportunities. On the other hand, it would be wise to work on your current job first before implementing any changes along those lines.

Federal Work-Study Program: How does it work?

If you think that finding out how to do work-study work is an easy job, you are seriously wrong. If we talk about the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program alone, there are specific requirements that you need to meet before getting accepted into the program.

The following are the requirements:

  • You must be either a United States citizen or an eligible non-citizen.
  • You must maintain satisfactory academic progress.
  • You need to have financial needs and in most cases, your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) should not be more than $0.
  • Your college/university must participate in a federal work-study program with respect to student employment. Some schools offer it as optional, while others offer it as mandatory for all students who qualify with regard to financial aid eligibility criteria.

Last but not least, you need to fill out an application form that includes providing necessary information about yourself before you can receive your work-study award notice from the school’s administration office.

It is important to remember that the amount of money you are offered varies with each college. The University of Alaska, for example, offers around $4,000 while some other universities might offer up to $12,000.

How does work-study help?

Well before you accept any FWS award or decline it altogether; make sure that your school supports this program at first. This will not only save you from losing out on future opportunities but also ensure that your school's administration can provide enough work-study jobs for almost all students who qualify with regard to both the financial aid standards as well as eligibility criteria.

As far as employment goes, most universities give priority to their own faculty and staff members. However, sometimes they even hire graduate students and non-students as well.

To sum it up, participating in a work-study program is like taking your chances with more than one employer at the same time. It gives you an opportunity to earn money while still attending college or doing that thing that you really love; plus it makes working flexible and convenient as well.

An important thing to know about Work-Study

The FWS will allow federal fundings to be streamlined directly to you under the supervision of the college’s management. There are currently 3400 colleges in the USA that have teamed up with the FWS to provide work-study opportunities to their students while attending full-time college classes. 

The basic framework of the Work-Study program?

You might be thinking about whether specific organizations keep an eye on the Work-Study program and decide how work-study will work, right? In case you have applied for the FWS program, there are three basic steps the FWS program will work on,

  • First, the federal funds will be released directly by the Department of Education. All the released funds will be distributed among respective colleges/schools depending upon the ratio of need or any reserved quota. The institute will then distribute the amount to each of the awardees.
  • Second, the respective colleges/schools have the right to distribute the amount and determine the amount necessary for each awardee based on the submitted application. Once the quota is reserved, you will get paid for your services directly through your college/school.

Once you are labeled eligible or your application is approved for the final step, it is time for you to find work opportunities in your college/school or the community. Don’t worry, whatever kind of role you will be playing during the job will be of ‘part-time’ nature, and you can easily focus on your studies with a little extra effort.

Does this mean that I will be getting a job for sure?

Unfortunately, no. This is the main reason we encourage everyone to know exactly how does work-study works before widely going out and applying for it.

Getting acceptance for the FWS or any other work-study program doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed to get a job. 

That’s something you need to sort out yourself. Apply when the right opportunity pops up, gain acceptance and leave the rest to the FWS program. It is that simple and straight.

Ways to get hired:

Regardless of whether you've been given a work-study award or not; there are plenty of things that you can do to ensure that you’re on your way to securing yourself a job for this summer or maybe even part-time during the school term!

Here are some ways to find out what kind of jobs are available so that hopefully, eventually you can find a work-study position:

  1. Utilize your school's resources and contacts. If you're still waiting for your award letter to arrive, then it would be wise to ask around or check with the administration office of your college/university about possible jobs on or off campus. This way you'll have an idea as to what kind of jobs are available so that you don't settle for something less than perfect. Apart from this, your professors might also know someone who’s currently looking for help at their place of work which is another option that you should keep in mind as well!
  2. Find out if there are any summer job fairs going on our near your area Attending a job fair is a great way to find out about possible job openings and companies that might be looking forward to hiring you. This is one of the best places where you can inquire about work-study jobs, so make sure you pay it a visit!
  3. Research online. Your college's official website should have all the updates regarding work-study programs as well as other opportunities for funding your education through different sources. You can also check out their career center or simply type in “Federal Work-Study Jobs” into Google and see what kind of results pop up!
  4. Don't forget to tell your professors & TA's that you're looking for work. Most graduate students are looking for ways to gain an extra income which means that they might just need help with research, tutoring, grading papers and other stuff that you're especially good at!
  5. Talk to your friends and classmates. Believe it or not; who knows how many of them might already have a job lined up for themselves? If yes then certainly they can spread the word about their own jobs and contacts so that you can get in touch with them as well. A job is a job after all so don’t forget to keep yourself busy this summer by doing something worthwhile!

What to do if you suddenly lose your work-study position:

It’s important that you always stay in contact with your school's administration office just in case something like this happens. Having said that, there are still plenty of other opportunities out there for you.

  1. The first thing you should do is to talk to your boss and tell them what happened so that maybe they can take you on as a regular worker or even give you some other kind of job.
  2. If you're still in school then it would be wise to approach the dean of students office if possible since it deals with all types of personal problems. In addition, they might also have work-study jobs which you can take up while looking for something permanent during the academic year or while finishing your degree.
  3. Finish whatever job(s) that are left before going back home. It's not exactly a great option but at least it will keep things moving and eventually help secure yourself that permanent position that you always wanted.
  4. Or else, if things can’t wait then just take a break and stay home for a few weeks (or months). Save up some cash by living at home and spending less until everything is cleared up! There will surely be many more opportunities waiting for you in the near future so don’t ever lose your motivation.

Final note

By this far, you probably have understood how does work-study works here in the US. Don’t be disappointed if you think that the FWS program will ensure that you get a job as well. A bright mind like yourself can figure that part out yourself.

Plus, the job opportunities must not be confined to the college/school territory alone. You can also look for opportunities in the community where you can play a positive role. The FWS will make sure that you are going to get paid for your efforts. Don’t forget to check the application deadlines before applying.  

Take your time and apply for the FWS funding after you find a job. You can get paid even though you aren’t doing anything which means that this money is free to use and spend. Nowadays, students need all the help they can get and it's just not right to let such great opportunities slip by without trying them out!