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Should You Apply for Work-Study?

Financial aid can be confusing, and one portion of financial aid, work-study, might seem particularly confusing. If you're not sure whether you should add this type of aid to other kinds, like grants or loans, we have a handy guide to assessing the situation.

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What is Work-Study?

The Federal Work-Study (FWS) program is one of several financial aid options offered by the U.S. Government. It is a unique part of the federal aid program. Unlike loans, you are not expected to pay back the money you earn through work-study, and unlike grants, you must work to receive the money granted to you through FWS. If you're still not sure whether work-study is the right thing for you, ask yourself the following questions.

Do You Want to Work?

Before applying for FWS, consider whether you want to have a part-time job on top of your role as a student. If the answer to this question is no, then you shouldn't apply for FWS aid. As the name implies, the point of this type of financial aid is for you to work. It's perfectly fine for you to decide that you don't want to work in addition to being a student. But it may be a smart way to get some additional aid money, so you might want to think carefully before making that decision.

Can You Get a Better-Paying Job?

Though the government stipulates that FWS jobs should not pay less than the federal minimum wage, you might not be granted a large amount of work-study aid. It's possible that you could end up earning more money working a part-time job under different terms. If you find a good part-time job that is going to pay substantially more than minimum wage, you might not want to bother applying for FWS. Of course, you can wait to see how much aid you're granted before making the decision to apply for a part-time job on different terms.

Are You Willing to Fill Out a FAFSA?

Because FWS aid is a form of government financial aid, applicants for the program must fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The information requested on the application is fairly standard financial information, including details about your parents' income. If, for some reason, you don't want to fill out a FAFSA, you won't be able to apply for work-study money.

Does Your School Participate?

According to the U.S. Department of Education, about 3,400 postsecondary schools participate in the FWS program. Chances are good that your school does participate, but you should make sure this is the case before factoring any aid from the program into your financial planning.

Do I Know What the FWS Program Entails?

If you're still curious about FWS, check out the Department of Education's website or talk to your school's financial aid office. Work-study is a normal part of college financial aid, and FWS is a fairly straightforward program. However, it does make sense to know all you can before signing up for any type of financial aid.

Additional Benefits of Work-Study Jobs

If you decide to participate in FWS, you'll find that there are a large number of on-campus part-time jobs that cooperate in the FWS program, as well as some off-campus jobs. Not only will you earn extra money, but you'll also gain work experience and the possibility for a great reference for your resume. You may find that the positions are flexible to a college students' hectic schedule. Some employers may even agree to allow you to study during any down time in your shift.

When applying for financial aid, consider the pros and cons of Pell Grants as well.


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