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College 101

Federal Work Study
Article Type: Quick and Dirty

Shmoop life lesson of the day: You usually have to work for your money. We know, it sucks.

And the one place where you need money the most is college. Yes, indeed. You have a couple options when it comes to working to pay for college: get a job slinging hash at a diner or apply for the federal work-study program.

Should you generally avoid anything with the word "federal" in it? Probably. But federal work-study is great. Work-study is kind of like a grant you need to earn. If you're eligible for work-study, the government gives money to your college to employ you. It's a win-win.

The federal work-study program is available if you:

  • can show financial need,
  • are a part-time or full-time student at a college that takes part in the Federal Work-Study Program,
  • are a graduate, professional, or undergraduate student,
  • are a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, U.S. national, or someone who is qualified for federal funding (for example, a refugee or someone who has been granted asylum in the U.S.),
  • applied via the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) program.

Usually, students use the money they earn from work-study to pay for college costs like books, personal expenses, or travel to and from home. The con? The amount you're allowed to earn at work-study jobs is capped. For example, if your work-study grant is $1,500, you can only earn that much per school year. Womp womp.

Typically, there are tons of different kinds of student jobs available on campus. You can get a job that requires little to no brainwork, one that requires a lot of creative juices, and everything in between. Check out some of the possibilities:

  • Tutoring
  • Construction projects for at-risk families
  • Mentoring low-income children
  • Researching
  • Security help
  • Administrative or clerical work
  • Assisting in a laboratory
  • Accounting
  • Helping with park or public space projects

If you think you might qualify, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after January 1st. Work-study jobs are awarded on a first-come first-serve basis, so the sooner you apply, the better chance you have of landing one.

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