Work-study: kind of a misnomer

work-studyWhen I received my financial aid package from my college, they gave me a $2,000 work study award for the entire school year. At this point, I had no idea what that meant or how the money would be coming to me. Now, I know what I have to do to even get anywhere near that two grand mark.

I thought the money would be more regulated or well-tuned. Getting $2,000 seemed almost magical in the beginning – that’s how naive I was. Work study just sounds like an interesting play on words. There’s no study, and the work is kind of menial. But that’s OK for now. I’m just a freshman who just wants to buy some pizza once in awhile, and put the rest in the savings for the next semester’s tuition bill.

On the original sheet that my college gave me, it put that nice even $2,000 number with no explanations. Let me explain it to those who don’t have a clue, just like I didn’t have a clue.

When you actually get to college, the reality is very different. They didn’t take into consideration when they awarded the $2,000 that I was going out for the football team. The hours of practice, games, and strength training really cuts into any hours I can commit to a job on campus. And when I am free, many of the jobs aren’t available to me.

The real problem is that the job seems disorganized. If you are assigned work study through the federal government like me, one semester of your college career must be spent in the cafeteria services. I selected the first semester because I knew I wouldn’t have to work that many hours.

I basically ended up my first semester with just four hours a week at $7.25 an hour. I also am scheduled to work four weekend nights per semester. I already skipped one of those to come home for a weekend.

I already have one unexcused absence because I couldn’t find a replacement. Who would want to replace me and the job I do? As a freshman on work study, you are required (well, most people are required unless they get special permission or know some professor) to work in the cafeteria in one capacity or another. Not a pleasant place to work. It’s messy, smelly, and loud.

The first day, I was told by the woman in charge of work study that I would be trained. I went into the dish room, received zero training, and immediately had to work. I was never told what to do or how to do it. Since that day, my job has been to take clean plates out to the students. You aren’t assigned to anything and you basically just float around to whatever area needs help.

One kid’s job is to take off the dirty napkins from the trays as they go down the assembly line. Not much brain power being used in these jobs.

We get a check once a month. My first check came out to be $111 but they didn’t take out any federal taxes, Social Security or FICA. That helps to keep the check amount higher.

I’m hoping after football ends in November – potentially, because if we keep winning, the season doesn’t end until after Christmas – I’ll get my schedule figured out so that I’ll be working about ten hours a week.

I still have $3,500 in tuition bills coming in January and every bit I make will help. During the second semester, I’m praying I’ll have a chance to work anywhere else on campus. There are people who just sit at the sports center desk to sign people in. They seem to love that job. I think I’ll try for that one, but I bet there’s a long line of students bidding for it.


Financial Decisions