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Oct 22 2017
by Nancy Canevari

The College Student's Guide to Work Study

By Nancy Canevari - Oct 22 2017
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Whenever I tell someone that I’m on federal work study, I’m often met with a lot of questions from people who don’t understand what that means. Whether you’re a student on work study who doesn’t understand what that entails, a high school senior who thinks they may qualify next year or just a general student who wants to learn more, here is the college student's guide to work study. 

1. What is federal work study?

Federal work study is a government program that gives part-time jobs to students who have demonstrated financial need while they’re enrolled in school. Students who qualify are granted a certain amount of work study income per year, which they then have to work a certain number of hours in order to earn. That money is then the students’ to use, whether for educational expenses or personal ones.

2. How do I know if I qualify?

In order to find out if you qualify for work study, you have to fill out federal and college-based financial aid papers (the FAFSA, your college’s application for financial aid, etc.). Make sure you check both your aid award page on the FAFSA website and your financial aid page on your college’s website, so that you can see the amount of money you’ll be able to work to earn.

3. What kind of jobs are available for work study?

Work study offers jobs in many different areas across campus: many students work in dining halls, in campus offices at reception desks, as lab assistants, in libraries and numerous other positions. In addition to working on campus, some students are able to work off-campus, usually at nonprofit organizations, that are approved through the college.

4. How do I find a job?

Most colleges have websites where you can apply for jobs on campus and approved locations off-campus. You’ll likely need to submit resumes and do interviews for each job you apply for, so make sure you have a resume on hand. Fortunately, most colleges do prioritize students on work study for on-campus jobs, so if you put yourself out there, you should be able to find something.

5. What are the benefits to having a work-study job?

Having a work study job means that you’ll more than likely be working on campus, so you won’t have to deal with traveling long distances to work. You also may be able to find a job that relates directly to your major (I’m an English and education double major, and this year I split my time between working as a peer tutor in the writing center and working in the elementary school on my campus), which will be great to put on your resume after you graduate. Finally, on-campus jobs are more likely to accommodate school schedules, by having flexible hours, less requirements for how often you have to work and more options for shifts, so that you can schedule around classes.

6. How much money can I earn?

You can only earn the amount of money that is included in your financial aid award each year. If you go over that amount, you will not be able to work anymore.

7. Do I have to report work study income on tax forms?

Yes, you do. Money you make in federal work study counts as income, so it does have to be counted on income tax forms. Fortunately, when you’re filing your FAFSA for the next year, there’s a separate space on the student income section to file money earned from work study, so that money won’t count against you in financial aid for the next year.

8. Can I turn down my work study?

If you don’t think your schedule can handle a job in addition to classes, or you want to look for an off-campus job with more hours instead, you can turn down your work study offer. Remember, though, that very often turning down work study is a privilege – it means that you can afford to not work on-campus and support yourself during the school year – so make sure to check your privilege when talking to students who have accepted their work study.

If you find yourself wondering about work study, hopefully this article provided you with some helpful information. Good luck job hunting, and remember to practice time management skills!

Lead Image Credit: Fabian Blank via Unsplash 

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Nancy Canevari - Smith College

Nancy is a junior editor for Fresh U. She is a sophomore at Smith College and plans on double majoring in secondary education and English, with a concentration in creative writing. She's originally from New Jersey, a place she views with one part love and one part exasperated disgust. She loves dogs and young adult high fantasy novels a bit too much and spends most of her time drinking tea and yelling about politics. Follow her on Instagram @fearlesslynancelot for some solidly mediocre content.

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