There’s a reason college students and Ramen noodles go together. After shelling out thousands for tuition, fees, resident halls and meal plans, the impoverished student has little money left to stock a dorm room pantry. Five packages of the fried noodles for one dollar is all a student’s budget will allow.
The time demands of college study makes generating some income with outside employment nearly impossible, but a work- study job, either on or off campus, is a viable option for college students that need a little cash during the semester.
The federal work-study program is part of the U.S. Department of Education’s student financial aid program. It is offered to undergraduate and graduate students that demonstrate financial need. Most positions are with the college, but some schools may contract with outside nonprofits to provide off-campus work.
What type of work is available?
Positions vary by campus, but you can often find work related to your program of study. For example, students in culinary or hospitality programs may wish apply for a job in the college’s food service department. Athletic training and sports medicine majors may find positions in the campus fitness center or assisting with a college athletic team. You may find a job helping the soccer team carry equipment to and from the field, and get paid to watch the game in-between times.
An early childhood education major may work a few hours a week at the campus daycare center. Other common positions are clerical work in the school’s businesses offices and work in the student center or campus bookstore.
How many hours will I work?
When applying for a work-study position, you will specify how many hours a week you would like to work. If you have a heavy class schedule, you may need to limit work to four or five hours a week. There is a limit on many hours you may work. This limit is set by the amount of your grant. If your award for the semester is $600, that is the maximum you will be able to earn. Because the employment is through the college, your employer will be aware of your status as a student and generally will understand your need to avoid conflicts between your work and class schedules.
How much will I be paid?
Work-study jobs must pay at least the federal minimum wage. Depending on the skills required for the position, you may be paid a higher rate. Graduate students may find positions that pay salary rather than an hourly wage.
How do I apply?
When you complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you will be asked what type of assistance you are seeking. Along with the options of grants and loans, you will see the work-study option. Be sure to check that box. When you receive your financial aid package from your college, it will include a form for work-study asking you to select the type of jobs in which you are interested.
Colleges are granted a limited amount of funds for these jobs. Positions are awarded on a first come, first serve basis, so it is crucial that you apply as soon as possible if you are interested in work-study. For more information, contact the financial aid office at your school or access the Department of Education website.