If you’re reading this, that probably means you’ve received work-study funding. Congratulations! Now you have to decide if taking a work-study position is the best option for you right now. It can be difficult to determine how much time in your schedule you’ll actually have to commit to working because college itself is rigorous. So if you find yourself asking, “Should I do work study?” take this work-study quiz to help you decide.
Once you’ve taken this work-study quiz (and we recommend that you take it twice), read on for more information on work-study programs that may be helpful in your decision-making process.
First of all, What IS Work-Study?
Work-study jobs are awarded to you as part of your financial aid package by the college that has accepted you because the college participates in the Federal Work-Study Program. Work study is part of the financial aid awarded to you when you fill out a FAFSA application, if you’re eligible. Work-study funding offers undergraduate and graduate students a part-time job as a way of making money to pay for college expenses. So basically, work-study funding is money that is awarded to you, but you have to earn it through a job you apply for and get through your college.
Work-Study Facts & FAQs
When deciding whether or not to do work-study it’s super important to know exactly what the situation entails, what a work-study job will provide you, and what it will not. Keep in mind that every college is different, but generally speaking, these are the facts about work-study positions, as explained through students’ FAQs.
How do I get a work-study job?
While the opportunity to do work-study is indeed an award, you won’t just be assigned a job at the start of the school year. You’ll still have to find and apply for a position. Most colleges make this very easy by providing a user-friendly search database of all the available positions.
How do I receive the money?
Unlike the rest of your financial aid money–for example, scholarships and loans–which is applied directly to your tuition or awarded directly to you to pay for it, you’ll have to earn your work-study money. Essentially, when you’re awarded work-study funding, you’re awarded a “dibs” of sorts on a job at your college that will pay you directly. You’ll receive a check from your work-study employer, and you can use this money to pay for college-related living expenses such as textbooks or food.
How is a work-study job different from a regular job?
Besides being awarded to you and likely being on-campus, it’s really not. Non-work-study jobs also pay you directly and you’re able to use the money at your discretion. The major difference is that a work-study job because it was awarded to you as part of your financial assistance, comes with a bit more of a guarantee. Many students want on-campus jobs but if you’re awarded work-study funding, you’ll be given priority when applying for work-study jobs.
How much work-study money will I get, and how many hours will I have to work?
First, you’ll need to consider the total amount you’re awarded by your college for the year. This varies, but many colleges award $3,000-$5,000 a school year, sometimes more, sometimes less. Almost all work-study jobs guarantee the hourly minimum wage, sometimes more, paying about $8.00 an hour on average. Workload and hours can vary quite a bit, usually falling somewhere between 10-20 hours a week. This can usually be negotiated with your employer.
Now, does this mean that once you’ve earned the amount awarded to you that you’ll hit a “cap” and be unable to work anymore? Not necessarily. Many employers often extend the number of hours you’re able to work. This, however, is not guaranteed and is handled on a case-by-case basis.
Am I guaranteed a work-study job?
This is tricky. In theory, yes. In practice, no. Depending on where you attend college and how many students are awarded work-study opportunities, jobs may be limited. You may have to apply for a while or accept a job that isn’t necessarily your first choice. That said, don’t worry! Colleges typically go above and beyond in helping you secure a work-study job if you need one.
Another noteworthy point: just because you were awarded work-study this year doesn’t necessarily mean you will be next year. Fluctuating factors such as your or your parents’ income will determine whether or not you’re eligible
What kinds of work-study jobs can I apply for?
All kinds! There’s usually a wide range of positions in various departments. You could apply to work in a dorm, science lab, recreation center, daycare, etc. Since you’re not assigned a job, you can apply for the ones that are most interesting to you or most suitable to your schedule. While most work-study jobs are on campus, sometimes they’re off campus, with affiliated organizations. So make sure to be mindful of location during your application process.
What If I don’t accept a work-study job?
You won’t be penalized for not accepting a work-study job, you just won’t make the money. If you don’t need it, no problem.
3 Quick Questions to Ask Yourself When Deciding Whether or Not to do Work Study
#1 – Do I need the work-study money?
The #1 factor in deciding whether or not to take on a work-study position is whether or not you need the money. If the money is pretty critical for affording college, then absolutely try a work-study job. But know that if you find another (non-work-study) job that pays more and/or is better suited to your schedule and lifestyle, you can certainly take that instead.
If money is not an issue and you’re already very busy with courses and extracurricular activities, don’t feel pressured to take on a work-study job just because the opportunity is offered to you.
#2 – Do I have time for a work-study job?
This question relates directly to the last one, obviously. Let’s be real: college can get super intense, and it may be easy to feel overloaded. As a general rule of thumb, it’s better not to spread yourself too thin, compromising your academic performance. So while the extra pocket cash may be nice, if you’re not actually in financial need, it may be better to pass on a work-study position.
#3 – Do I already have a job (work-study or otherwise)?
Has a great work-study job miraculously presented itself to you? One that seems pretty much perfect? Consider taking it! Perhaps a teacher or peer in your department has informed you about a position that sounds like it could be resume-building or highly rewarding. In these cases, it’s worthwhile to give it a try. Remember, you can always opt out if you find yourself overextended.
On the other hand, perhaps you already have a non-work-study job that you enjoy. That’s okay! By all means, if you have a job that’s going well, don’t feel obliged to take a work-study job instead.
The Pros and Cons of Accepting a Work-Study Job
To break it down simply, here are some “pros” of doing a work study:
- Money – Whether needed for educational costs or helpful for spending money, a work-study job will keep you in a consistent cash flow.
- Networking – Working on campus can be a great way to meet people in your academic community.
- Experience – It’s definitely possible to get a work-study job that builds the skills you’re looking to develop overall in college… making it easier to find a job after you graduate.
And some of the “cons:”
- Over-committing yourself – If you have a very full schedule or struggle with time management, you might get flooded and risk falling behind in your classes.
- Lower pay than other jobs (possibly) – This won’t necessarily be the case, but sometimes work-study jobs pay less than other jobs you may be interested in. However, if they’re on campus, they may be more convenient overall and cut down on commute time.
- Limited options – While there’s usually a wide variety of work-study jobs on campus, there’s no guarantee that the one you want will be open at the time you’re applying. You may have better luck searching elsewhere.
A Final Word on Doing Work Study
If you’re still asking yourself, “should I do work study?” remember that it’s not required, and that you can always change your mind if you do give it a try. You can also apply to more than one position, or switch jobs if you find a more ideal one. It’s always worth it to talk openly with your potential employer about your schedule and what you’re looking for; you may be able to negotiate more flexible hours, for example.
And if you need the work-study job but are worried about burnout, remember to look for one that lets you do homework on the job (a lot of them do!). For example, working in the library or writing center is often great for productivity.
Good luck and happy and job hunting!
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About Nadyja Von Ebers
Nadyja von Ebers is one of Magoosh’s Content Creators. She writes for the Magoosh High School Blog, where she shares helpful resources for students searching for test prep tips and advice. Her content includes advice on college admissions, from how to get into the University of Chicago and how to complete financial aid forms to tips on asking for a letter of recommendation. Nadyja has extensive experience working with students to prepare for standardized tests, from AP exams and the GED to the ACT and SAT. After receiving an MA in English from DePaul University, Nadyja went on to teach English at the high school and college levels for over a decade. She loves helping students reach their maximum potential and thrives in both literal and virtual classrooms. When she's not teaching or contributing to the Magoosh blog, she enjoys reading, writing, and spending time in or near the ocean. LinkedIn
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