What’s Work-Study?

Resources to help you pay for college.

You may have heard about work-study when looking into financial aid for college but may not be entirely sure what work-study is. Work-study is a type of financial aid that requires you to work to earn money for college. Unlike grants, scholarships, and loans, work-study isn’t available immediately to help cover your college bill. You must apply and be hired for a work-study eligible job, usually on your college campus, and work a specific number of hours to earn a paycheck.

Who’s eligible for work-study?

Because most colleges offer work-study through the federal work-study program, your eligibility will depend on the information you provide on the FAFSA®. If your college offers state or institutional work-study, you should check with your college about your eligibility.

How do I know if I’ve received work-study?

If you see work-study listed on your financial aid offer, you’re eligible to apply for a work-study job at your college. Your college may provide instructions on how to secure your work-study job. Some colleges offer a job fair or may post openings on campus job boards.

What if work-study isn’t on my financial aid offer?

If you’re interested in a work-study job, but it isn’t on your financial aid offer, you should contact the financial aid office at your college to see if you may be eligible. Even if you haven’t been awarded work-study, you can still apply for a job on campus. Check with your college to see what part-time jobs may be available to you.

How do I get a work-study job?

At most colleges and universities, you must apply for work-study-eligible jobs via a campus job or careers website. Some colleges may ask you what type of work-study jobs you’re interested in and place you in a job. Contact your college to see how the process will work for you.

How much work-study money can I earn?

You usually can earn up to the amount on your financial aid offer. Depending on your financial aid, work-study job, and college, you could earn more than what’s listed. Find out more by contacting your financial aid office and talking with the manager of your work-study job.

How will my work-study money get paid?

Unlike other forms of financial aid , work-study is usually paid with a paycheck that’s deposited in your bank account. Remember there’s no guarantee that you’ll earn the amount listed on your financial aid offer. You’ll need to work the number of hours specified to earn that amount.

What types of work-study jobs are available?

Some typical work-study jobs include working in the campus library, research lab, or athletic department or at an information desk. Opportunities vary by college so be sure to follow your college’s instructions on how to secure a work-study job. You may find a role that aligns with your career interests, giving you valuable experience in your field.

What are the benefits of a work-study job?

Work-study jobs have benefits that other part-time jobs may not have. Because work-study jobs are geared toward students, they’re more flexible and can work with your class schedule. They can be ideal places to meet classmates and build relationships with people across your campus. In addition, work-study earnings won’t impact the amount of financial aid you’re eligible to receive.

What’s the difference between federal and institutional work-study?

If you receive federal work-study, a portion of the money paid to you comes from the federal government. If you receive institutional work-study, the total amount you're paid comes from your college.

Now that you know about work-study, here are few tips to consider:

  • If you’re a senior in high school and applying to college, you should indicate that you're interested in a work-study job when asked on the FAFSA. Choosing this response on the FAFSA doesn’t mean you’ll have to work in college or that you'll automatically be offered work-study. It does help your college know you’d like to be considered for work-study.
  • Pay careful attention to financial aid deadlines and college instructions. Work-study funds may be limited and offered only to students who meet application or other deadlines.
  • Create or update your résumé. Although a résumé isn’t always required to apply for a work-study job, it can help highlight your strengths, skills, and interests to potential employers. An effective résumé helps you in two ways. It can secure a position that’s perfect for you while it covers some college expenses.

Whether you’re currently enrolled or planning to enroll in college, work-study can be an essential part of your college experience. Work-study jobs not only provide you with money to help cover everyday expenses but also give you a chance to build a network on your college campus. Talk to your financial aid office to learn what work-study options are available.