When applying for financial aid, there are a number of things you can do to show that you deserve to get a break in your tuition. One of them is to literally work for it, by participating in a work-study program. You work in pre-approved jobs, and the money from your effort is applied against the cost of your college’s tuition. The Federal Work-Study program is a very basic option of financial aid, and we want to help you answer the question of how the FAFSA incorporates work-study.
The Idea of Work-Study
The official definition of “work-study,” as provided by the Department of Education, is a program that “provides jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay educational expenses.” The program focuses on community service work, as well as work related to the student’s degree. If you want to work outside of these categories, you may not receive work-study aid (and may even jeopardize your eligibility to receive aid). For example, if you earn income from a job that is not part of the Federal Work-Study program, that income must be declared on the following year’s FAFSA, potentially diminishing your chances of obtaining financial aid because it reduces your level of need.
Work-Study and the FAFSA
When you fill out the FAFSA, you simply have to answer “yes” to the question that asks, “Are you interested in being considered for work-study?” Note, this question does not guarantee acceptance into the work-study program. Your school will take into account the other financial information you disclose on the FAFSA before deciding whether or not to invite you to participate in the program. This other information could be:
- How soon you filed your FAFSA (the earlier you file, the greater your chances of being considered)
- The level of your demonstrable financial need (for example, an Expected Family Contribution
- The level of funding your school will receive
Since there is a cap on the level of work-study funding schools receive, you may be placed on a waitlist – that is, you will be eligible to start working in the Federal Work-Study program as soon as the school has the sufficient funds to begin paying you for your work. This is another advantage to filing the FAFSA as soon as possible.
All this information will determine the amount of the Federal Work-Study award you are eligible to receive.
You can elect not to participate in the Federal Work-Study program, either by answering “no” to the question above, or by declining work-study aid if it is offered to you.
Since the funds available through the Federal Work-Study program are limited, you should complete a new FAFSA every academic year to continue to be enrolled in the program, and to receive its financial aid.