So, you’re a senior considering taking Work-Study funds for the first time? Not to worry. There are ways to ensure you are paid for doing work that is relevant to your next step post-grad, even if you have never taken an on-campus job before.
Quick Summary of Federal Work-Study
Work-Study dollars are federally sponsored, fixed-amount funds that are available to students if they are hired as part-time workers during the academic year. Most students apply to on-campus jobs through their school’s Student Job Portal, Career Center, or via direct email to prospective supervisors. Once hired, students negotiate a manageable work schedule with their bosses and earn a wage (at least current federal minimum wage, usually more based on skill requirements).
The Senior Disadvantage
As a college senior, this path to employment is nowhere near as fruitful as for an incoming first-year. First of all, many on-campus jobs only hire first-years in order to ensure their office cultivates a 4-year long relationship with employees. Many campuses employ a gradual wage increase system where students earn more after each subsequent semester of employment, leaving students who have never worked previously earning the bare minimum. Together, these factors contribute to a difficult on-campus hiring climate for seniors just entering the Work-Study system.
Despite the potential pitfalls of scoring a desired on-campus job, seniors have other options. It is very common for schools to allot Work-Study funds for approved volunteering/internships at local non-profit organizations. For seniors, gaining an internship during the academic year is a great way to diversify a resumé, show mature time management skills, and gain an advantage over other candidates for post-grad jobs. Many experiences are unpaid, and so it is worth checking out if your school provides Work-Study funds. Some colleges even allow you to bill commuting hours!
Another way to get the most out of Work-Study as a senior involves not making Work-Study funds your main source of income at all. This perspective comes with the understanding that as a senior, much of the convenience of Work-Study is lost on you at this point, and that finding alternative sources of income is the best way to increase your earning power. Perhaps you had best focus your energies on getting a job off-campus that will give you foundational skills required for your dream career. Then, look on your Student Employment Portal for Work-Study jobs with the least amount of hours. For example, an Admissions Blogger may only bill 2 hours per week. Applying to Work-Study jobs with 5 or less hours will give you some extra cash each week without detracting from more valuable work hours.
Keep in mind that if the job you want is not listed, it never hurts to reach out to a person in charge anyway. Often times, supervisors are looking to hire candidates, but they just do not want to post a wide-release job listing. Many times, college departments are very inclined to give seniors a Work-Study job in order to help build a resumé and provide seniors with experience.
Speaking from personal experiences, my friend is hoping to work in a curatorial position post-grad and my college happens to have a Special Collections/Rare Books Library where we house hundreds of incredibly rare old books. Students are hired sporadically to learn the process of book maintenance and curatorship, but the postings are never released on our Student Employment Portal. I advised her to reach out to the manager of the Library with a cover letter, resumé, and projected work schedule despite her not having any relationship to the staff there. The staff were happy to receive her correspondence and were impressed by her initiative. It turns out that three other students had done the same thing. Two days after interviewing, my friend discovered she got the job.
Keep in mind that if you want to get Work-Study funds, you need to fill out the necessary I-9, W-2, and Direct Deposit forms as soon as possible. Seniors, it is not too late to head over to your college’s financial aid office and start job searching!