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    Everything You Need to Know About Work Study

    By Will Geiger

    Will Geiger is the co-founder of Scholarships360 and has a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. He is a former Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at Kenyon College where he personally reviewed 10,000 admissions applications and essays. Will also managed the Kenyon College merit scholarship program and served on the financial aid appeals committee. He has also worked as an Associate Director of College Counseling at a high school in New Haven, Connecticut. Will earned his master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania and received his undergraduate degree in history from Wake Forest University.

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    Reviewed by Bill Jack

    Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: October 2nd, 2023
    Everything You Need to Know About Work Study

    Federal work study is a program that helps college students with demonstrated financial need get part-time jobs to pay for their college education and related expenses.

    Work study can be funded by the Federal government, as well as specific states. Generally, the part-time jobs that students receive from work study are for on-campus jobs, but in certain situations students might work off-campus.

    Don’t miss: Scholarships360’s free scholarship search tool

    In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about work study including:

    How do you apply for Federal work-study?

    Work-study is a federally and sometimes state-funded program, so to qualify, students must submit the FAFSA and qualify for need-based financial aid.

    Once you are accepted to the college, you will receive a financial aid award letter that will include specifics about your financial aid. Work study is one of the funding types that could be included in your letter if you qualify.

    In the financial aid award letter below, you will see Federal Work Study as item F:

    Source: Whitman College

    Note that the formatting of financial aid award letters will vary from college to college.

    Accepting Federal Work Study

    Just receiving a work study offer in your aid letter does not guarantee that you will simply receive the funds. Next, you will need to actually find a job! While some colleges may match students to specific jobs, it is usually up to students to find, apply, and accept a job opportunity.

    We recommend that you get in touch with your college’s financial aid office for more details about how the work study process works!

    Similar to other forms like financial aid like student loans, students do not have to automatically accept their work study. However, as students will be gaining valuable work experience and earning some money, work study is preferable to student loans.

    Another benefit of federal work study is that your earnings will not count against you when you apply for financial aid through the FAFSA for the following year (as long as they are used to pay for educational expenses like tuition, room, or board). If a student deposits their work study earnings into their bank account, this will be factored into the financial aid office’s review for aid the following year.

    How much does work study pay?

    According to a 2022 report from Sallie Mae, the average Federal Work Study recipient earned $1,531. As far as hourly rate, your work study job must pay the federal minimum wage. Of course, you might be attending school in a state or city where the minimum wage is higher.

    It is also important to note that some work study jobs may pay more or less than others depending on the specific responsibilities of the position.

    Related: Is work study worth it?

    Is there a maximum amount of money I can earn?

    Your annual federal work study wages can’t exceed the amount listed on the award letter. However, in practice it is up to the individual colleges or work study employers to determine what happens if a student wants to keep working after they have reached their limit. So if you are a student who wants to work more, you should contact your financial aid office and work study employer for more information.

    What if you don’t qualify for work study?

    If you don’t qualify for or receive work study, you can still apply for on-campus and off-campus jobs! We recommend that you still get in touch with the financial aid office, because that’s where student employment is usually managed.

    Other places to look for jobs include the office of residential life, tutoring or academic services, and specific academic departments. Of course, you are able to find and apply for other jobs and internships that are off-campus!

    Related: What to do if financial aid is not enough

    Tips from a work study student

    My experience with work-study was unique as I found a math tutoring job for middle school kids 10 minutes away from my college through an email sent to me by a school organization. Through this experience, I learned how to teach others and boosted my communication skills by collaborating with my coworkers, my college, and the school I tutored at. 

    For students interested in work study, I would say to check any resources your college or university may have as there are a lot of work-study jobs available in different interests. There are many mediums to find work-study opportunities, so be sure to go through organizations or professors you have an interest in in order to find the perfect position for you! 

    Work-study taught me a lot about time management, as I completed homework in between my classes and my work-study job. Additionally, I learned to be organized in order to ensure I showed up to any meetings or other activities I needed to attend for school and my job on time. I recommend using a calendar platform such as Google Calendar in order to keep track of all of the events you have during the day. Doing so allowed me to keep track of when my classes and work-study shifts were. 

    Overall, work-study was a very beneficial experience. I was able to obtain an on-campus job that had flexible hours and allowed me to build important skills and relationships at my college. 

    Carrie Gilmore


    Manhattan College

    Additional resources for students seeking financial aid

    As you’re considering work-study, make sure that you’re also aware of all your other financial aid options. Students eligible for work-study also typically qualify for Pell Grants and Stafford Loans. You can also consult our free scholarship search tool to find custom-matched, vetted scholarship opportunities to suit your situation and interests.

    Sometimes, even with all of these resources, the financial aid package a school offers you is just not affordable. In cases such as these, it’s a good idea to consider writing a financial aid appeal letter. If the financial aid officers overlooked something or your finances have changed since submitting the FAFSA, you may manage to adjust your aid.

    Also see: Are work study earnings taxed?

    Next Steps

    Next Steps

    • Complete and submit the FAFSA by the FAFSA deadline
    • If you are awarded federal work study in your financial aid package, you will be responsible for securing a job through your college or university
    • If you are not awarded work study, you can still look for jobs on your own on-campus and off-campus
    Next Steps

    Frequently asked questions about work study

    How many hours a week can I work in a work-study job?

    The number of hours you can work in a work-study job is often limited to part-time hours, which is typically around 10-20 hours a week. This is done on purpose to ensure you can balance work with your studies.

    What types of jobs are available through work-study?

    Work-study jobs can include many different positions, such as in offices, libraries, research labs, tutoring centers, and many more. Some work-study jobs can even be related to your field of study.

    Can international students participate in work-study programs?

    Work-study eligibility is typically restricted to U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens. International students may have other options for on-campus or off-campus employment but may not qualify for work-study. 

    Will work-study affect my financial aid package?

    Work-study earnings are not typically counted as income when determining financial aid eligibility for the following academic year. 

    What should I do if I have a work-study job, but struggle to balance it with my academics?

    If you find it challenging to balance your work-study job with your academic responsibilities, consider discussing your concerns with your work-study coordinator or boss. They may be able to adjust your schedule or workload to better accommodate your needs.

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