Are you wondering what work-study is? How do you apply for it? How does your teen find a job? And, most importantly, if your teen is an athlete: do college athletes have time for work-study?
Here are the basics of work-study:
Work-study is a federal student aid program for college students who have demonstrated financial need. The program is administered by individual universities that award part-time jobs to qualifying students.
It’s financial aid, but your student must work for it.
The money your teen earns will not be applied directly to their tuition payment. Instead, your teen will receive a paycheck just like they would at any other job. The money is intended to help cover the day-to-day expenses of a college student.
Wondering if there’s any benefit to choosing work-study over a regular part-time job? The money your teen earns through work-study won’t count against them when they complete the financial aid form for the following year. If nothing else changes, your student will be eligible for the same amount of need-based aid the following year.
How does my teen qualify for work-study?
You begin the process of qualifying for federal financial aid by filling out the FAFSA (Federal Application For Student Aid).
If your teen qualifies for federal aid you’ll see three types of aid on your student’s award letter: loans, grants, and work-study. Sallie Mae in 2022 the average work-study award was $1531.
It’s important to understand, the award lists the maximum amount your student can earn through the work-study program. That is not a guaranteed amount. In fact, most student workers earn much, much less.
Of course, qualifying for the work-study program is just the first step. Next, your teen has to find a work-study position and apply for the job. Your teen should apply for jobs as early as they can.
A work-study job isn’t guaranteed. Your student has to find a job and interview for it just like any other job.
If your student is a freshman, they may have a hard time finding a work-study job because they aren’t on campus before the semester starts and don’t have connections to help them find a job.
When you’re filling out the FAFSA you should always mark that your teen IS INTERESTED in work-study. Your teen won’t be obligated in any way. But you’ll keep your options open.
Is work-study worth it?
If your teen doesn’t have a better job option available to them, then work-study is a good choice.
But if your teen already knows of somewhere they can work for better pay or more hours, then consider that option instead.
Read through the pros and cons listed below to help you make your decision. Then read on to the end of the post to find out if work-study is a reasonable choice for college athletes.
3 Pros of Work-study
There are several good reasons to accept work-study hours if your teen qualifies. Here are three reasons you should consider it:
- Because academic departments often administer work-study jobs, your teen has the opportunity to gain work experience in their field of study. Biochemistry majors might land a job in the chem lab. Or English majors could work as writing tutors.
- Your teen has the opportunity to build relationships with professors or supervisors in their major. These connections could be valuable when your teen needs recommendation letters or references for internships and jobs in the future. The professors will know your student by name and know their abilities and work ethic.
- Work-study jobs are designed for college students. They’re often on campus, and an on-campus job is a must if your teen doesn’t have a car. They also have flexible hours. Your teen’s employers know they’re a student and work hours come second to class schedules. If you’ve ever fought with a manager about your work schedule, you know how important this is.
Experience and connections are two valuable assets to gain during an undergraduate program.
3 Cons of Work-study
Before you make work-study part of your college funding plan, there are several drawbacks you should consider.
- There are very few work-study jobs. Some academic departments may only have one or two positions available. And there may be more than two students who qualify for those jobs. There may be a lot of competition for the position. And it’s entirely possible your teen won’t be able to work in their department. That means the connections they form won’t be as valuable when it’s time to search for a job or apply to grad school. For example, the cafeteria doesn’t look as good as the chem lab on a resume.
- The pay is very low. Most work-study jobs pay minimum wage. Your teen has the possibility of earning more in almost any other job.
- Finally, the hours are limited. You may think your teen qualified for ten hours of work each week. But the dollar amount listed on the award letter is not a guaranteed amount. That’s the maximum amount. When I coached, my players could never get enough work-study hours to earn what they needed. And it’s even harder for freshmen because they haven’t made any on-campus connections with professors or administrators who manage the jobs.
Do college athletes have time for work-study jobs in season?
Here’s the short answer: NO. College athletics are incredibly demanding.
Now, let’s break that down a little bit because you know each Divison is different in the time requirements for student-athletes.
If you check out the article on Time Management for Student-Athletes on the NCAA website these are the weekly hours spent on athletics, broken down by Division:
- Division 1 athletes spend 33 hours on athletics per week.
- Division 2 athletes spend 31 hours on athletics per week.
- Division 3 athletes spend 28 hours on athletics per week.
That is ONLY the time spent on athletics. Every student-athlete puts in even more hours in mandatory activities that aren’t counted as “athletic”. These include things like:
- Getting taped up by trainers before practices and games.
- Treating injuries.
- Hosting prospective student-athletes.
- Academic meetings or mandatory study halls.
- Compliance meetings or other team meetings.
- Sessions with nutritionists.
- Travel time to away games.
In-season a college student-athlete basically has a full-time job. And they are students, meaning they have to attend classes, study, and keep their GPA up so that they remain eligible.
In-season no college athlete has time for a work-study job. There may be a few jobs that require so little time, they’d be an exception to this rule. For example, I had some payers who took notes during class that they then shared with the Learning Center. They were in class, taking notes anyway. So it was an easy way to make a few dollars.
But seriously, they didn’t make much. That’s minimum wage pay for only 2 or 3 hours per week. And trust me, there aren’t many jobs like that.
Read more about athletic time commitments in this article, The Time Commitment of College Athletics.
Do college athletes have time for work-study jobs out of season?
If your teen will compete in Division 1 or 2, there is NO time for work-study even out of season.
First, the off-season demands of D1 and 2 are still time intensive. Your student will be required to attend practices and team events.
In addition, many athletes use the off-season to take an extra class or two so that they fit in enough credit hours each year.
Division 3 and NAIA athletes will probably be able to find time for a work-study job in the off-season. They will still have practices and team events. And these athletes also take extra courses in the off-season. But these athletes also enjoy a little bit of free time.
If, for some reason, you’re certain your teen needs to work during the school year, don’t choose a D 1 or 2 school. It’s just not going to happen. Choose a division that allows enough free time to compete in athletics and also work a part-time job.
Think of an athletic scholarship as a job.
Imagine a college offering your teen a $5000 athletic scholarship. That breaks down to $2500 per semester.
But your athlete must “earn” that scholarship by staying in shape, being competitive, and maintaining their GPA. Your athlete needs to work to keep that scholarship.
Let’s say your teen took a work-study job for 10 hours a week. And say it pays $7.50 an hour and they work for 15 weeks in the semester. Your teen will earn $1125.
Keeping the athletic scholarship by focusing only on athletics is a financially smart decision. Your teen ends up with more money. Focus on keeping the scholarship.
Consider a summer job if your student needs to work.
A summer job is the best choice for a college athlete that needs to work.
Your teen will probably be able to work longer hours, for a higher wage at a summer job.
They’ll be able to work and keep up with the fitness program [demanded] by the coach. And yes, college coaches do plan fitness plans for their athletes during the summer. In some ways, college sports never stop.
So if you know you need a little extra money for college, talk to your athlete about working every summer. Then they can devote the school year to maintaining their eligibility and scholarships.
Let your teen focus on athletics.
Very few college athletes will have time for a work-study job. Go ahead and check “YES” on the FAFSA and keep your options open.
But don’t count on work-study to help your athlete pay for college. And if you’re wondering about student loans and how much money you should let your teen borrow, read this article on College Athletics and Student Loans.
Instead, let your athlete focus on being a student-athlete and find other ways to earn money and pay for college.