Most college financial aid packages are broken down into several categories: loan, grant, parent contribution, student contribution, and work-study. The way work-study functions can vary between schools, so make sure to look into the specifics. Once you have your financial aid package, there’s another question to consider: What do you do if your work-study job is also your first ever job?
Getting the Job
To start, find out if receiving work-study automatically sets you up with some kind of job, or if you have to actively seek one out. At my school, having work-study does not necessarily mean there is a place waiting for me; I still had to apply. Even if you’ve never had a job before, you almost definitely have some relevant experience, or at least know your strengths. Did you volunteer in the library in high school? Maybe you helped coach an elementary school team? Whatever you do have on your resume, use this as a guide to help you find a good fit.
Here’s the really tricky part: in one move you’re supposed to adjust to college life and add the dynamic of a job into your life. This is where time management comes into play. You probably don’t yet know exactly what your lifestyle will be like in college yet, but you do know the way that you normally operate. When you put in your hours of availability, remember that you will still have classes, homework, and extracurriculars. The idea of extra cash sounds appealing, but you need to allow yourself time to figure out how many hours you can realistically work a week while still maintaining a normal eating and sleeping schedule, and even the chance for some fun.
When applying, it’s okay to bring up any relevant volunteering experience, but be transparent. In a work-study job, the expectation is that you’re a student first. Be honest and upfront with your boss about your other commitments. In my experience, coworkers are often willing to help out and switch shifts when something comes up, from last minute studying to a professor’s office hours. Keeping a friendly and open relationship with coworkers and supervisors is important, especially if you land one of the most coveted on-campus jobs, which you could end up keeping for all four years of undergrad.