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Student Life: What You Need to Know About Work-Study

It’s that time of year! I bet a lot of you are receiving your award letters in the mail.  Within them, you might see a line that says you are eligible for money through a grant called “Federal Work-Study.” Do you know what it means? Well I am here to explain to you just what the Federal Work-Study program is, because unlike most grants, you have work for this money.

College Student Work-Study | Image source: / Photographer: Ekaterina Pokrovsky

The Federal Work-Study program offers part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need. It allows them to earn money to help pay education expenses. The program encourages community service work and work related to the student’s course of study. A perk of the program is that you don’t have to be a full-time student to be eligible! It is also a great way to earn money without interfering with your classes, as well as a chance to begin networking with people who could become potential life-long employers — or lead you to others who may be.

Don’t See It?

If you aren’t seeing that option on your award letter, you may not have checked the box on your FAFSA that asks if you are interested in work-study as part of your financial aid package. Unfortunately, if you didn't check it this time around, you can't be considered for a position for the upcoming school year. You'll have to wait until you submit your forms for next year. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek out alternative part-time work, so you can have extra spending money while you are in college.

Job Positions

The Federal Work-Study program encourages employment in community service-oriented jobs and in fields related to your major of study.  You have to accept the Federal Work-Study once you’ve seen it offered in your award letter. From there, most schools will send you information on the steps you need to take to secure a position. Always check with your school's Financial Aid office to ask about the process and to get a list of available jobs.

On-Campus or Off-Campus Jobs?

Job positions can be either on campus or off campus. A majority of off-campus positions will be at private, non-profit agencies or public agencies and will be in the public interest.  However ,most jobs will be right on your school’s campus. Typical on-campus jobs include tutoring, or working in the school's cafeteria, library, or bookstore.


The average work-study student works between 10 to 15 hours per week. Check with your school to see what their limits are on how many hours you can work per week. When your employers go to assign your work hours, they keep in mind the total award allotted to you in your financial aid package.  Work-study hours are flexible, and they will work around your schedule. Be sure to give them a copy of your semester’s classes so they can schedule around them. Remember: School is your first priority!

How Much Money

Depending on your financial need, you can normally receive up to $3,600 for the academic year in wages. Most of the time, you will be paid the current federal minimum wage, but that amount could be higher depending on where you work and the type of work that you perform. Sometimes, if you work off-campus, you may get paid more in order to compensate your driving expenses. Like with any other job, your income will be taxed!

How Will I Be Paid?

If you are an undergraduate student, you will be paid by the hour. If you are a graduate or professional student, you could be paid by the hour or by salary. Your school will cut a paycheck for you at least once a month and must pay you directly (unless you specify that you want them to send it to your bank account or to be applied to your school-bill.) If at all possible, it is always a good idea to use that money to pay for your education costs - like tuition, fees, and room and board.

To learn more, check out these links that inspired this blog here and here.

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