Each year, the US Department of Education awards more than $120 billion in federal grants, loans and work-study funds to college students who qualify for need-based financial aid based on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). Unlike scholarships, grants and loans, a work-study award has to be earned through part-time employment.
Work-study may not be available at every school, so check with your school's financial aid office to see if they participate. Apply as soon as possible by filling out the FAFSA, since financial aid at some schools is often awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Be sure to select "yes" where the application asks if you're interested in work-study.
Your financial aid award letter will show how much you're eligible to earn from work-study, but it's up to you to find and apply for jobs. You're guaranteed to be paid at least minimum wage and you can typically set up direct deposit with the financial aid office.
Here are some of the advantages of a work-study job.
1. You Keep What You Earn
While you have to pay student loans back with interest, work-study earnings are yours to keep. How you spend them will depend on your individual situation.
2. Your Paycheck Won't Affect Financial Aid Eligibility
Like most financial aid, work-study awards are only guaranteed for the current school year, which means you'll have to fill out the FAFSA every year you attend college. Yet unlike other forms of income, your work-study job won't affect financial aid eligibility. You'll still have to report your work-study earnings on the FAFSA, but they won't count against you in the calculation that determines your award.
3. Work-Study Jobs Are Convenient
Most work-study jobs are located on campus, but there are also some off-campus opportunities. Employers are approved by the school's financial aid office and are generally private or non-profit companies or public agencies where work performed is in the public interest. Regardless of where your job is located, you can usually schedule your work hours around your class times.
4. The Reward Is More Than Just Financial
A work-study job in your academic field can offer valuable experience that may even guide your future career choices.
Since many schools offer convenient ways to find jobs that are flexible and accommodating to class schedules, work-study can be a great way for students to earn extra money while building a résumé.
FAFSA® is a registered service mark of the US Department of Education and is not affiliated with Discover Student Loans.