Every student can always use some extra cash while going to school. It also never hurts to gain some work experience. A part-time job can be a great way to supplement your income and add to your work history. But finding a part-time job that will gladly work around your school schedule and can be close to campus might be harder than finding a single occupancy dorm room. That is where your school’s federal work-study program can be a great option. There is more to it; though, then just demanding a job from your school. Just like anything in college you have to work for it to earn it!
What is Federal Work-Study?
Federal Work-Study is a program funded by the Department of Ed that allows colleges to use these federal dollars to help fund part-time jobs for students. There are a wide range of jobs both on and off campus that qualify. Everything from reading and math tutors to administrative duties can all be covered under Federal Work-Study (or FWS as it’s called for those in-the-know).
With anything concerning the federal government; there are some rules and regulations. One big one is that the FWS job must be part-time. You have to have plenty of time for school so they set the limit on how many hours you can work. So if you are looking for a full-time job, FWS is not for you. You also must be eligible to participate in the FWS program. We’ll cover this portion in the “First Steps” section. Also, FWS jobs must pay at least minimum wage. Just like any job you also get a paycheck, instead of other types of financial aid that get paid to the school to cover your direct expenses.
First Steps to Getting Work-Study
The first thing you want to do is make sure you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA. Any student who would like to participate in the FWS program needs to complete the FAFSA in order for the financial aid office at your school to determine if you are eligible to participate. When filling out the FAFSA there is a questions that asks, “Are you interested in being considered for work-study?” Make sure that you answer yes to this question. After you have submitted your FAFSA and you receive notification that your school has received the results, stop by to check if you are eligible to participate. The financial aid office will check to make sure your EFC (Expected Family Contribution) doesn’t exceed your school’s Cost of Attendance. The great thing about FWS is that even if you don’t qualify for grants you can still qualify to work in the FWS program.
Once you have filled out the FAFSA and ensured that you can participate in FWS the next thing is to find a job. Check out the campus career center, student life office, financial aid office and the campus website for the various job postings. Be proactive and start searching around campus; especially in the areas on campus that deal with your major. Maybe you are going for Library Science and they need a library aide or you’re a Biology major and your lab needs an assistant. Another option is being a math or reading tutor at a local school. Check with your campus’ financial aid office to see if they participate in this particular program.
Now that you found a FWS job that you want to apply for, make sure you complete all applications and paperwork that are associated with that job. The hiring manager for that position at school is going to select the best qualified candidate so make sure you do everything to show that you are that person. Make sure you have an updated resume ready and meet the deadline for submitting the application. If you are selected to interview, treat it just like any other job interview. If you’ve never interviewed for a job or the last job you had treated the interview process pretty informal, stop by your school’s career center to get some pointers. This is great practice for when you start your real world job after college.
Some Last Tips
When you land that FWS job, sit down with your manager and review all the details of the job. You will want to know how many hours a week you are going to be working and verify that the Financial Aid office at your school received all the information that they needed for their records. Also, find out the length that you will be working at that job. It may only last for the school year or you may be able to work in that position for multiple school years. If you have to reapply every year for the job, know when the position will be posted again for next year.
Keep your grades and attendance up at school. If you fall behind in your classes you can be at risk of losing your FWS job. Also, falling below less than 1/2 time enrollment can also put your job in jeopardy. Your FWS job is there to help assist you with some expenses while you are in school but not expected to take over your college life. If you find yourself falling behind in school, you will want to reassess your FWS job.
Finally, since the other point of the FWS is to gain work experience, it can be the start of gaining valuable references for your future job searches after college. A high recommendation about your good work ethic and reliability can go a long way in impressing a future boss so make sure you don’t blow off this job. You may have started the FWS job with only some extra money in mind but for many students this can be the first step in building their career.