What Is the Work-Study Program?

Discover how work-study can benefit you

Work-Study Program for College-Bound StudentsAs financial aid becomes a necessity for more and more students, many are looking toward the popular Federal Work-Study Program—a federally funded program that assists students in getting part-time jobs—to help pay their school expenses.

Through this program, the government pays some or all of an eligible student’s wages. In return, in addition to earning money for school, work-study students gain real-world work experience and make contacts with employers and others who may become references for future employment.

If you qualify for financial aid, you may be eligible for a work-study program. The total award depends on several factors, including the funding levels of the school and your level of financial need. You’ll need to specifically request the program on your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), and to be considered, you must have a high school diploma or equivalent, must demonstrate financial need, and must be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen.

Jobs may be located on or off campus, and the program will make an effort to match the type of work you are assigned to with your courses of study or other abilities, based on the personal information you provide on your application. On-campus jobs are usually working for the school itself in areas such as dining halls or administrative work. Off-campus work is usually completed with a public agency or nonprofit organization

Work-study students earn at least the federal minimum wage, though some make more if the job requires special skills. You can specify whether you want to be paid directly and use the money for your own expenses or have the money deposited directly into an account to pay for school expenses such as tuition or room and board.

Once you have been accepted into the program, you’ll receive information about your prospective employer in a referral letter from your school’s financial aid office. But you will still need to contact that employer and be accepted for the position. Then you can work out the specifics of the job, such as salary, hours, and any other obligations. And once work begins, don’t forget to keep up on your classes as well: the work-study program requires students to maintain satisfactory academic progress in their courses throughout the year in order to keep the job.


This article was written by Paula Andruss

Paula Andruss is a Cincinnati-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in publications including Parents, WomensWallStreet.com, Marketing News, Crain's Chicago Business, and Cincinnati magazine.

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