How to Apply for a Work-Study Program

A step-by-step guide for savvy, industrious students who want to take advantage of a work-study program.

By Ashley Henshaw | February 17, 2017

In addition to finding out what federal student loans and grants you qualify for, you’ll also find out if you qualify for a work-study position for the upcoming school year.
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Are you looking for ways to make college more affordable? Any student with financial need should get to know the Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program. Work-study is one of the many ways to offset the costs of college. Best of all, it’s offered at thousands of postsecondary institutions across the country and makes it easier for many students to find part-time work that fits in with their class schedules. Find out more about the FWS Program and learn how to apply.

Make sure you submit your FAFSA on time in order to qualify for these programs.

Find Out if You’re Eligible

Eligibility for the FWS Program is determined by a student’s financial need. Work-study positions can be offered to part-time and full-time students at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels. There’s no separate application to find out if you’re eligible for the program. All you need to do is fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

After submitting the FAFSA, you’ll receive an award notification by mail or email. In addition to finding out what federal student loans and grants you qualify for, you’ll also find out if you qualify for a work-study position for the upcoming school year. Keep in mind that the college or university you attend needs to participate in the FWS Program in order for you to take advantage of this aid offer. You can contact your college’s financial aid office to find out if they participate.

Choose a Work-Study Job

Once you’ve been approved for a work-study job, you can search for a position at your college. These employment offers can come from a number of places, including the college itself, a public agency, a non-profit organization or a for-profit organization. The work may take place on-campus or off-campus. The types of work offered can vary widely, though there’s an emphasis on civic education and work related to the student’s course of study whenever possible.

When selecting a work-study job, consider whether the position fits in with your academic and/or career goals. Work-study positions are often a great opportunity to get valuable work experience that you can put on your resume for future jobs. Also, keep in mind what your award notification listed as your total work-study award. The amount of money that you earn in your work-study job over the course of the school year should not exceed this amount.

Once you’ve been approved for a work-study job, you can search for a position at your college.

Applying for a Position

Contact your college’s financial aid office to find out how to apply for a work-study position. In many cases, schools set up a website where students can search through eligible work-study positions offered through the college.

Typically, students approved for work-study jobs are allowed to apply to as many positions as they like. However, you’ll only be hired for one work-study job. When filling out your application, it helps to have an idea of what your class schedule will look like and when you’ll be available. In addition, try to apply at least a few months in advance of the start of the school year in order to improve your chances of finding a position you like; some positions may already be filled if you wait to apply until the end of the summer.

Possible Work-Study Opportunities

You’ve probably already heard about the typical work-study jobs that colleges offer. While jobs as a research assistant, math tutor, bookstore employee or computer lab tech may be a great match for some students, there are also unique work-study opportunities available at certain colleges and universities.

For example, did you know that you can find work-study jobs as a bread baker, a museum docent or even a nude model for an art class at the University of Michigan? And at Lane Community College, students can get academic credit for some of the school’s work-study cooperative education learning experiences. Don’t be afraid to let your work-study eligibility lead you to new and challenging work opportunities.

The FWS Program is one of the best ways to offset college costs, especially since the money you earn won’t impact your financial aid eligibility. Make sure you submit your FAFSA on time in order to qualify for this program. For more information about the work-study opportunities at your college, contact the financial aid office.

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