How Work-Study Programs Work

Applying for the Federal Work-Study Program

For almost every form of financial aid, filling out a FAFSA is the first step.
For almost every form of financial aid, filling out a FAFSA is the first step.
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Filling out and filing the government's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which you can find online, is the first step in applying for the Federal Work-Study Program. This application serves as your entry to all forms of federal student aid and will screen your eligibility for grants and loans as well. Go ahead and check that you're interested in work-study, even if you're not sure. It's easier to decline the opportunity after you've been approved than it is to get approved for the program later. Within a week after submitting your FAFSA, you or your school will receive a summary of your eligibility, including your EFC. If you qualify for any financial aid, then you're eligible for the Federal Work-Study Program. Your FAFSA award letter will include the amount for money you're allowed to earn.

Remember, you'll have to file a FAFSA each year for continued participation. The FAFSA forms are updated each January for the coming academic year. Keep up with the deadlines for filing. You're also allowed to file amended forms if your financial status changes. Grades aren't a factor in your continuing eligibility for work-study -- as long as they're good enough for you to stay in school, they're good enough for you to remain in work-study.

Once you've been approved for a work-study program, your school will have its own procedure for hiring. Most schools will e-mail you about lists of jobs that are available to work-study students, and you can apply from there. Hiring isn't automatic; you'll probably have to go through an interview just like any other job. Your school may have additional forms for you to complete at this point. After you're hired, you'll need to monitor your hours in order to ensure that your earnings don't exceed your grant. Let your employer know before this becomes a problem. Remember that this is a real job -- you can be fired from a work-study job, so it's in your best interest to perform well.

From all accounts, participating in the Federal Work-Study Program is a win-win situation for students. You'll earn money for school, make friends with your fellow students and forge alliances with professionals who could help you in your future career. What's not to like?

For lots more information on financial aid for school, see the links below.

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  • "What Will College Run You?" (Feb. 26, 2010)
  • The College Board. "2009-2010 College Prices." (Feb. 28, 2010)
  • "Federal Work-Study." (Feb. 28, 2010)
  • Georgia Institute of Technology. "Financial Aid: Frequently Asked Questions." March 24, 2008. (Feb. 28, 2010)
  • Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. "PHEAA-Administered Work-Study Programs." (Feb. 26, 2010)
  • Sallie Mae Inc. "Other Ways to Pay: Federal Work-Study Program." (Feb. 26, 2010)
  • "Work Study". (Feb. 26, 2010)
  • U.S. Department of Education. "Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program." Nov. 23, 2009. (Feb. 24, 2010)
  • U.S. Department of Education. "Free Application for Federal Student Aid." Jan. 30, 2010. (Feb. 24, 2010)