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Take advantage of the Federal work-study program


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

If you were awarded work-study as part of your college financial aid package, it would be to your benefit to accept this offer for more than the obvious monetary reasons. Of course, it will help fund your education costs. However, depending on which program you choose, participating in work-study could give you valuable experience that directly applies to your future career. Work-study can put you in touch with professional contacts who can serve as valuable resources when you start applying for jobs upon graduation.

Government funding
During a February 5, 2014 address at T.C. Williams High School, First Lady Michelle Obama, accompanied by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, urged all eligible students to take advantage of work-study, noting that her suggestion came from personal experience.

"Through FAFSA [Free Application for Federal Student Aid], the Department of Education provides more than $150 billion every year in low-interest loans, in grants that you don't have to pay back, and work-study programs that can help cover your educational expenses," Obama said. "And I was a work-study student all throughout college."

By not taking advantage of work-study, you risk leaving money on the table that could help pay for your education. Unlike the Perkins and Direct loan programs in which students eventually have to repay the loans with interest, work-study is an opportunity to earn money that it yours to keep and use however you see fit. According to the U.S. Department of Education, participating in work-study will secure part-time work that earns at least minimum wage and can be performed on or off campus. You're given a maximum number of hours per week, and you're paid at least once a month.

How to get started
Check with your school to see which opportunities are available to you. Oftentimes, the earlier you begin your search, the better chance you have at landing one of your top choices for placement. Although it's best to strive for a position that relates to your field of study, this can sometimes be difficult due to scheduling and availability.

The U.S. Department of Education noted that students can usually work in organizations that are not affiliated with college. Serving as a teacher's aid at a nearby elementary school could be a great way for future educators to get teaching experience and make connections with local education professionals. Whatever position you accept, work-study can be a way to explore other fields or careers that you may not have considered before.

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