Feb 24, 2021 Stacy Crooks

Work-Study: What It Is and Isn't



As you review your award letters, you may or may not see listed in your aid package a dollar amount award labelled work-study. Work-study is considered Federal Aid. Federal Work-Study provides the opportunity for part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need,

Eligibility for both work-study and the amount awarded is determined by the information provided on your filed FAFSA:


  • Not everyone is eligible; this is a need-based award
  • School must be a participant of the Federal Work-Study Program. Check with your school’s financial aid office to find out if your school participates.
  • Being awarded work-study aid does not guarantee you a job. Jobs may be limited on any given campus.
  • Must file FAFSA to be eligible each year

Work-study is the opportunity to apply for jobs that help students earn money for school while providing flexibility around course schedules. Often, jobs are on campus, but compensation and positions differ at each college. Important to note is that the student must seek out and apply for work-study jobs at his or her school. Many colleges and universities have online job portals that offer work-study opportunities. Students can also ask the department head for their field of study if they have open positions that might be a good fit. A job is not held for or appointed to anyone receiving this aid award.


Most commonly asked question: Will work-study deducted from the cost of education?

Work-study is not a reduction/discount of tuition costs or cost of education. Work-study funds are not applied directly to your tuition. Students who are awarded work-study receive the funds in a paycheck as they earn them, based on hours worked, just like a normal job. The student will be paid directly for the hours he or she works, and the amount he or she earns cannot exceed the total amount awarded by the school for the award year.


You’ll earn at least the current federal minimum wage. However, you may earn more depending on your work and the skills required for the position. However, your earnings cannot exceed your total Federal Work-Study award. Your school will work with you to allocate assigned hours throughout the semester to work within the award amounts. Some students may work 3 to 5 hours a week, others may work 15 or more.

Benefits of work study:

  • Valuable jobs for college students. Any type of work-study program reflects well on your time management, problem-solving, and other soft skills, which can strengthen your evolving resume.
  • Your work-study earnings don't affect your financial aid eligibility.
  • Your workplace is conveniently located right on campus.
  • Flexible schedules and schools work with you in mind.

One disadvantage to consider before participating in a Federal Work-Study program is that you can't work as many hours as you want.  If you need to earn more than the awarded amount and feel you can manage the additional work hours and responsibilities with your class schedule, applying for an outside part-time position may be best for you if the additional income will not interfere with overall aid eligibility when filing your FAFSA the following year.

Work-study may or may not be a good fit for your situation, but certainly something worth considering if you are awarded this type of self-help financial aid in your aid package. As with any aid options awarded to you, you have the right to accept or decline without penalty.

If you would like additional assistance comparing your award letters/aid packages or have questions about any of the aid you have been awarded, call to schedule a phone appointment with one of our counselors at the College Planning Center.



Published by Stacy Crooks February 24, 2021