What is Work Study?

Financial Aid, Saving Money

As you evaluate your financial aid offers, you may see an item called Work Study, with amounts ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. What exactly is this?

Work Study is a Federal program that provides jobs to students to help pay for educational expenses. If you qualify for Work Study, you are eligible to work a part-time job and earn up to the amount listed on your award letter.

Work Study money comes in the form of a paycheck that goes directly to you and can be used for whatever you wish. This includes direct expenses like tuition, but also things like personal expenses, food, etc.

Even for students who are hesitant to work while in college, Work Study jobs great because they are created with students in mind. They are usually on-campus, and the hours are flexible. You may work 10 hours during most of the semester, but only 2 hours during finals week. And you won’t be expected to work during Winter Break, when most students return home.

Work Study jobs are often a great way to become more involved in your college community or department. For example, being a tour guide is an excellent job for an outgoing student who loves the school. When I was at UC Berkeley, I worked for the student advisor in my department, which gave me access to my professors that most students don’t get at a large university. Work Study jobs are often fairly easy – checking out books at the library, or staffing the gym entrance, for example.

When you look at the amount of Work Study money being offered on your financial aid award letter, it’s important to remember that you must actually get a job and work the hours in order to get this money. If you don’t work the hours, you’ll never see the money. And if you see a Work Study amount upwards of $3,500, be aware that it might be difficult to fit in enough hours to earn this full amount each year.

If you qualify for a Work Study job, ask your college where to find job listings and how to apply. And if you don’t qualify for Work Study, you can absolutely still get a part-time job on campus – it just won’t be funded by the Work Study program.