Guest Author - Susan D. Bates
Have you ever walked into an office on a college campus and saw a student working alongside professionals? If so, the student you saw may be a work-study student. Work-study students work at various settings at colleges helping out the staff and performing a variety of duties.
While some states have their own work-study programs, this article focuses on the federal work-study program because it is the largest work-study program in the United States.
What is Federal Work Study?
Work-study is a form of federal financial aid where the students earn aid money through employment. These students have a fixed amount of money they have been awarded based on their needs. The money will be earned by throughout the semester in the form of an hourly wage. Students are paid though the university.
Work-study students work part time in various locations on and off campus. Positions may be found in locations such as libraries, residence halls, student affairs offices, campus offices, and nonprofit organizations.
Colleges participating in federal work-study programs administer the work-study program. The majority of work-study positions are on campuses; however, some colleges offer work-study positions off campus. Off-campus work-study positions are limited to work that supports public interests and must be part of an agreement between the college and the organization. Students' financial aid office can provide information to students about available positions.
Do All Colleges Have Work-Study Programs?
No. Not all colleges participate in work-study programs. Students should check with their college to find out what forms of aid are available after school.
Will I Qualify?
Work-study is need-based student aid. Therefore, students must demonstrate a financial need as determined by the federal standards using both the student's and parent's information.
How Do I Apply?
The first step to apply for a work-study job is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students then receive an award notification indicating the amount of funding they have been awarded in work-study aid.
Colleges differ on how qualifying students obtain work-study positions. Some colleges simply assign students to positions. Other colleges require students to apply for open positions. Prospective work-study students should check with their college's financial aid office to learn how to secure a work-study position.
What are the Benefits?
Work-study positions offer students an opportunity to gain valuable work experience. Sometimes students are able to find positions related to their intended career field or in the department of their major. All positions, however, provide the likelihood of obtaining positive references from college professionals, which may help students obtain future employment. In addition, these positions can provide networking opportunities because students in these positions are often in contact with professors and other professionals.
In general, schedules for these positions are generally flexible and easily developed around students' class and exam schedules. Employers may allow students to study at work during slow periods and allow students to take time off to study for an exam or work on a project.
Work-study positions typically follow the same holiday and vacation schedule of the college. Therefore, work-study students are usually able to go home or on vacation during college breaks without having to make special arrangements that would be required of non-campus administered positions.
Students who hold work-study positions may also earn higher grades. Studies indicate students who work a moderate number of hours during the semester perform better academically.
What are the Drawbacks?
As with any job, a work-study position requires time and commitment. While students who perform well in their position may gain valuable job references and networking opportunities, students who perform poorly may lose their ability to work in other on-campus positions and may receive negative references hindering their opportunities for other types of employment. Only students who have the time required and desire to do well should apply for work-study positions.
The amount of money students are able to earn is finite and based on financial need. Students who wish to earn more money may need to consider other types of employment.
Where do I get more information?
To learn about college-specific procedures, available positions and further information, students should contact their college's office of financial aid.