Paying for College

What is Federal Work-Study?

Question: What is Federal Work-Study?

I think that you’ll find a lot of information about Federal Work-Study here (maybe TOO much?):


http://www2.ed.gov/programs/fws/index.html

The shorter version is this: Students who apply for financial aid from the college they plan to attend are usually offered “Federal Work Study” (FWS) as part of their financial aid “package.” (The rest of this package may include grant … which is money you won’t have to repay …. and possibly loan, which you do.) What “work-study” really means is a job. The reason it’s called “Federal” Work-Study is that the U.S. government pays a portion of the salary and the college itself pays the rest. This is also why only U.S. citizens and Permanent Residents are eligible for Federal Work Study.

The majority of FWS jobs are right on campus. Some may even be in your own dormitory. Typically, freshmen hold minimum-wage jobs such as serving food or washing dishes in the dining hall or checking I.D.’s at the front desk of a dorm or at the gym. When you begin college, your initial job options may be limited. But after your first couple semesters, as you get more seniority, they will probably expand. You may be able to assist a professor, administrator, or other staff member. You may even work off-campus in a non-profit agency, tutoring program, etc. The more “responsible” your job, the higher the pay is likely to be.

FWS students are not allowed to work more than 20 hours/week, and colleges often put greater restrictions on allotted hours, especially for freshmen who may only work for 6 to 8 hours.

Although it can sometimes feel difficult to hold down a job while you are also trying to attend classes, complete assignments, participate in extracurricular activities, and maintain a social life, most work-study students are glad to be part of this program. The work is usually convenient and rarely demanding, and it is often a good way to meet other students. There are SO many work-study students on campus that you won’t feel like Cinderella sweeping up in the cafeteria while your friends are off having fun, and some of the more responsible work-study jobs can be good résumé items when you’re seeking a “real” job down the road.

(posted 12/18/2011)