Work Study vs. Part-Time Jobs
Work-study is a kind of financial aid that helps students earn funds they can use for their education. It’s money you don’t have to pay back but it is definitely also money you have to work for. Work-study is federally-funded but administered by your own school and is, in essence, a guaranteed part-time job where you will earn at least the federal minimum wage for the duration of your work-study award.
The program is based on financial need and students need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to qualify. Once you file the FAFSA, the federal government and your school will decide if you will be awarded any work-study as part of your financial aid package. If you are awarded work-study, it will appear on your award letter.
Work-study is, in essence, a part-time job on campus that helps you earn money, which is meant to help you pay for your higher education. If possible, the program seeks to employ you doing something related to your field of study, but that is up to the institution to facilitate. If you’re an English major, for example, you may end up working in the library. How many hours you work, or any other restrictions, are also set by the school.
Sure, you just won’t be guaranteed to get one. Instead you’ll have to apply to each employer individually as a general applicant, just as you would if you were applying for a job off-campus. Your best bet is to try applying at places that hire lots of students, like the cafeteria or the library. Also, food outlets, coffee carts, bookstores, et cetera, are often independent from the university and therefore have their own hiring practices. However, the key here is applying early. Lots of students want on-campus jobs, so it pays to apply first.
Finding a job on campus
Consider, then, working part-time on-campus, which allows you the freedom to work as you want, which helps you earn the money you need. The best part? You don’t need a work-study award as part of your financial aid package to find a job on campus.
- Start looking early. On-campus jobs are the dream of most students. The commute is short and there’s a million other conveniences. That means there’s a lot of competition and it pays to submit your application early.
- Be energetic during interviews. Employers want to know you can function even when you’re stressed and tired, which is just the status quo in college.
- Know who is hiring. Don’t make assumptions. Call and ask. The library, cafeteria, and residence halls hire lots of students, so check those first.
- Have some references ready. Don’t use friends or parents. If you haven’t worked before, ask a professor.
- Consider independent employers. If the library, cafeteria, residence halls, and department offices don’t need any help, or there are too many work-study students filling all the vacant spots, check out on-campus banks, bookstores, retailers, coffee shops, and retailers. They’re often independent of the university system and don’t hold spots open for work-study, meaning there’s more room for you.
- The short commute. Think about it. If you live on campus, you can roll out of bed and walk there, probably in less than ten minutes.
- Flexible scheduling. Campus employers appreciate how hectic student schedules are. That’s why you can sometimes work before, between, and after classes, instead of one straight shift. Or work nights and weekends.
- Lots of personal contacts. Working on-campus means you’ll probably get to know lets of professors and other academics, which can prove to be great references later in life. This is especially true if you work in the library or in department offices.
- Potentially guaranteed summer employment. Many departments, shops, labs, and libraries need staff year round. If you put time in during the academic year, they might keep you on throughout the summer, meaning you don’t have to waste your time finding a new place to work while school is out.