Getting ready to attend college is an exciting time. Once you decide where you’re interested in attending, the next step is to find ways to pay for your education. Many students on this path like to keep their options open, and decide to see what financial aid they qualify for. The easiest way to do that is to apply with the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) because it will let you know what grants, scholarships, loans, and even work study positions you potentially qualify for.
If you’re interested in finding out if a work study job is a viable way to help finance your education--but aren’t sure how to get started--you’ve come to the right place! In this post we’re going to discuss:
- What the federal work study program is
- How you can land a federal work study job
- Quick do’s and don’ts of landing and keeping a federal work study job
What is the Federal Work Study Program?
The federal work study program might be a great opportunity for you to help finance your education!
The federal work study program is a form of financial aid that you may qualify for and is a great opportunity to not only earn money for school, but to learn some useful skills along the way. The work study program is available at 3,400 post-secondary schools, and any student that qualifies can be considered for it. How do you know if you qualify? You’ll have to fill out the FAFSA of course! To see if you qualify for the program you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA and submit it to your school(s) that you’re interested in receiving financial aid from. Schools use the FAFSA to determine the amount of financial aid they award you by taking the total cost of tuition and subtracting the expected family contribution (EFC). They will then put together a package of financial aid that can include scholarships, grants, loans, and even a work study opportunity.
When you fill out your FAFSA, you will have to mark that you’re interested in work study in order to be considered for this option. Keep in mind that many schools dole out work study opportunities on a first come first serve basis. This means that you’ll need to get your FAFSA completed early in order to have the best chance at participating in the program. Even if you apply early and you qualify for financial aid, there is still no guarantee that you will get a work study job. You will also need to apply for a work study position each year, just as you complete your FAFSA renewal form each academic year in order to apply for financial aid.
Work study jobs are a great opportunity to have a part-time job while you attend class, allowing you to pay for everyday expenses as a student, or to save your earnings and put it towards your tuition costs.
How Can You Land a Federal Work Study Job?
Ways you can land your own federal work study job
If you’re interested in landing a federal work study job, it’s important that you first fill out your FAFSA form and enter in the correct information (more tips on that here!) regarding your family’s income and assets. That’s the best way to ensure you’ll receive all the financial aid that you’re qualified for. If your financial aid package includes the offer of a work study program, your school will award available jobs on a first come first served basis. This is why we always stress to complete your FAFSA as early as you can each academic year, especially if you want a work study opportunity.
If your school is able to offer you a work study job, there are two ways they’ll go about it:
- On campus job. These jobs will typically involve working for your school, and could even possibly be something in your field! Jobs can include working with professors, helping out in labs, working in the cafeteria, or putting your time in at one of the administration offices. On campus jobs are great because they’ll definitely save you time with your commute and won’t require a car or other form of transportation.
- Off campus job. Some schools have arrangements with off campus non-profit organizations or public agencies that can offer you some very useful workplace skills you might need in the future. The only downside to an off campus job is that you’ll have to secure your transportation to and from campus.
Now that you know how to get qualified for a federal work study program, and what types of opportunities are available, it's time to see how your job will be awarded to you. Some schools choose for you, putting you where you’re needed or potentially in a position that matches your field of study. Other schools require you to apply to jobs that you’re interested in and interview for them. Although it may seem a little scary to have to interview for a position, in the long run you’ll gain valuable insight and practice into this useful professional skill!
Whichever process your school follows for assigning work study positions, they all follow a few basic guidelines:
- Employment will be part-time
- Your coursework comes first
- You will be paid at least the federal minimum wage
- There is a limit to the amount of hours you work (up until your financial aid award)
Once your work study job is lined up, you’ll work with your supervisor to determine the right kind of schedule that works with your course load. One of the best parts of landing a federal work study job is that your boss will always understand that your studies come first, and can adjust your schedule and hours accordingly.
Do’s and Don’ts of Landing and Keeping a Federal Work Study Job
Helpful tips for landing and keeping a federal work study job
In order to make sure you’re prepared to land a federal work study job, we wanted to sum everything up with a couple of quick do’s and don’ts to make sure you hit the ground running.
Do complete your FAFSA early! This is the best way to determine what amount of financial aid you’re qualified for. You can start to submit your FAFSA as early as October 1st for the next academic year. We know the following year is the last thing on your mind when you haven’t made it through the current one, but if you want to be considered for a federal work study job, apply early!
Don’t wait to reach out to your school’s financial aid office to determine the process you’ll follow to secure a job. Remember, just because you qualify for and accept a work study job, doesn’t necessarily mean the process is over. Follow up with the financial aid office to see if you need to apply to and interview for jobs, or if they will take care of matching you with a job instead.
Do realize that your job could be either on campus or off campus. While many schools work to find students jobs on campus, there might be a great opportunity for you at an off campus school or non-profit organization. Remember, these jobs are there to help you not only earn money to put towards your education (or everyday expenses!) but they’re also there to help you learn valuable professional skills and perhaps even make useful contacts.
Don’t worry about how many hours you’re assigned each year. This is a predetermined number that is based on the amount of financial aid that you qualify for. Your hours may also need to be adjusted based on your course load, since academics always come first!
Do realize that this is a part-time job and don’t slack on your academics. It’s important to find a balance between your work and school, and if you find that your work study hours need to be adjusted, make sure to reach out and do so.
Don’t forget to reapply to the FAFSA and federal work study each year! Just because you landed a work study experience one year doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed one the following year. Submit your FAFSA early so that you have a better chance at being awarded a work study job from the funds set aside by your school.
If you’re interested in a federal work study job, it’s important that you successfully complete your FAFSA. The federal work study program is a great way to help earn money for your education, so remember to apply early!
Hero image courtesy of Shutterstock.