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Everything You Need to Know About Work-Study

Last updated October 30, 2023

For the vast majority of college students, working at least part-time is a necessary part of affording college and general life expenses. Finding a job in college can be tricky, which is why the federal work-study program exists to help college students find part-time jobs on or off-campus to help them pay for their education.

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What is work-study? 

Work-study is a federal student aid program that provides students at participating colleges with part-time job opportunities. It’s a great way to help pay for your education expenses while gaining career skills and experience in the process.

How do I qualify?

Work-study eligibility is determined by completing or renewing your FAFSA. Question 31 on the FAFSA asks “Are you interested in being considered for work-study?” - be sure to check “Yes” if you are.

If your college or university participates in the work-study program, and you meet their eligibility requirements, you’ll see “Work-Study” listed on your financial aid award for the quarter or semester, and will be able to either accept or decline it.

Note: Because work-study eligibility is determined by filing the FAFSA, undocumented students unfortunately do not qualify for it.

What kinds of work-study jobs are out there?

Work-study jobs typically vary by college or university. The opportunities offered can be both on and off-campus depending on your school and how many jobs are available. With this in mind, here are some common work-study jobs:

Library Assistant

Working in a library might involve data entry, helping students find books and resources, supporting librarians, and checking resources in and out of the library. Since you’ll already be in the library, your work environment will likely be quiet and calming, and may even offer you time to read or do homework for your classes when it’s slow. This job will likely help hone your organizational and data management skills.

Research Assistant

This kind of job is especially great if you already have chosen a major or want to explore a specific subject or area of study in more depth. You will most likely be paired with a graduate student and/or professor working on a specific course of study. You most likely will help with research, writing, and data entry. You may discover that you really love this subject and decide to explore it further!

Peer Tutor

Are you highly confident in a specific subject area? Do you have a great system for studying and staying on top of all your work? Chances are there is a tutoring position available to you! If you’re interested in education, helping other students learn, and want to become great at explaining hard concepts, definitely keep the tutoring center in mind.

Fitness Center Assistant

A campus fitness center is a high-traffic place and always needs work-study students at the reception desk, to help sanitize machines, and maybe even become a manager for a sports team. If you like the atmosphere of a gym, this position is for you.

Off-Campus Jobs

Your campus career center will likely have partnerships with local non-profits and/or small businesses with positions for work-study students. Ask a career counselor at the career center about what partnerships they have and be sure to share what you’re passionate about exploring.

Close up of a student at their desk. They have papers scattered across the desk and writing with a pen - How to Find Jobs & Internships in College

How do I choose the best work-study job for me?

It’s up to you to decide what kind of jobs you want to apply for! Some work-study jobs are great because they provide flexible hours and convenient on-campus locations - while others will provide more career-oriented experiences. Here are some tips for landing the best job for you:

Start early

Head to your college’s career center as soon as possible to learn about any available work-study positions. Narrow down the list of jobs you’re interested in to decide which ones you actually intend to apply for. After that, make sure you have your job application materials ready - like your resume and cover letter - and begin submitting your applications!

Know your schedule

Do you know when your classes are? Do you know how long it takes to get from your dorm or off-campus housing to class? Do you want to be able to work off-campus or on-campus? Are you joining other activities or clubs that could take up more of your time? These are all important considerations to think about before applying or committing to a work-study job. Choosing classes that work for you and your schedule is a key skill in college, and knowing what will and won’t work for you based on that schedule will be helpful in helping you narrow down your work-study job choices.

Search from the heart

What are you interested in learning? What gets you energized? What are your passions? What skills do you want to build? What are you interested in pursuing as a career when you graduate? Being able to answer these questions will help you find the right work-study job.

Be sure to share all of these things with the counselors in the career center so they can help you find the right job. Even if you’re not completely sure of your major or career path, that is totally fine - just be sure to ask for things that align with your interests and try things out. Hot tip: sometimes knowing what you don’t like is just as valuable as knowing what you do like!

Have more questions about work-study? Text #Jobs to 33-55-77 and one of our job advisors will walk you through how to find a work-study position, how to complete your FAFSA to qualify for work-study, and more. If you're using a mobile device, click here to have the text message set up for you!

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