work-studyWork 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.

How to apply

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.

How does it function?

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.

Not awarded work-study

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.

part-time jobFinding 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.

The benefits of working on campus

summer jobThe summer job search

As fun as it is, relaxing your way through summer break is not a very good way to earn money. And since another semester, and therefore another tuition bill, is just around the corner, it pays to plan ahead and do a little labor. The problem, though, is that most college students want summer jobs and, naturally, there just aren’t enough of them to go around. You need to stand out.

The benefits of working during summer

It builds your resume:
Getting a job now makes getting one in the future easier. Future employers will be glad to see prior work experience on your resume and higher-level jobs require it. Also, when you start working you begin building your network of personal contacts, many of whom you can (and should) use as future references.
You increase your savings:
The most obvious benefit of having a summer job is that you’ll be making money. Even if you’re working part-time and making minimum wage, having a summer income is great. It can help alleviate the cost of college, even if you’re saving a few hundred dollars here or there. Put aside as much as possible toward your college savings. A mantra: every dollar you earn now is one you don’t have to borrow later—which is one less dollar you have to pay back with interest.

A Word of Financial Aid Warning:

Making money over the summer is great, and it will be a big help to you when it comes to paying off college costs. However, if you rake in too much, your earnings can impact your financial aid award. You can make about $4,000 per year without a significant effect on your financial aid eligibility, not including any income from a work-study program. Once you cross the $4k threshold, your expected family contribution (EFC) will be increased by as much as 50% of every dollar you earn above that $4k.


Financial Decisions in College