What to Do If You Don't Receive Work-Study
Receiving those college financial aid offers can be a nerve-wracking time. You might be accepted to some of your top choices schools, but you need to be able to afford the cost in order to attend. And your financial aid will play a large part in that. When reading your offers, it's important to take every kind of aid into consideration and understand how each one can help you pay for school.
Work-study is one type of aid you may receive on your offers. It is primarily funded by the federal government and assists students with the cost of a college education by helping them earn money through part-time work. It's considered to be "self-help" aid because in order to actually receive the money, you have to work a part-time job, usually on campus. Not all students will be offered work-study, and of those who are, some may not be able to work, as schools have a limited number of work-study positions and fill them on a first-come, first-served basis.
So what happens if you don't get work-study, or do and can't find a position? First off, don't panic. While work-study is a great option to make money, many of the benefits can also be found through simply working another part-time job. If you received a work-study offer within your financial aid and don't work in a work-study position, it just simply means you won't earn those specific work-study funds. But you can make money in another job. Lots of places located near colleges are used to hiring students for part-time work and are happy to work around school schedules. If you're looking for places to apply, anything that involves customer service is usually a safe bet. Restaurants, retail stores, coffee shops, and supermarkets are just some examples of places that often hire college students. These jobs often come with some other perks that you wouldn't necessarily get through a work-study job. One friend of mine in college worked at a local concert venue, and subsequently got to see free concerts on the nights she was working. I had another friend who actually did receive work-study, but also kept his part-time job at a clothing store because it paid better and gave him a discount on clothes.
I did not receive work-study when I was in college, but it ended up being for the best. Instead, I got a job waitressing at a restaurant down the street from my school. I had never waitressed before, but they trained me, and I ended up loving it. The hours were flexible, so scheduling my classes was never a problem. Lots of my co-workers were also students at nearby schools, so I ended up making friends with people at a lot of different colleges. I was able to keep my job over winter break and the summer, since it wasn't regulated by a school calendar like a work-study job might be. And I was averaging between $15 and $20 an hour, a lot more than what I would have made at the work-study jobs my school offered.
Another thing to consider is that at most schools, there are also on-campus jobs that are separate from work-study jobs and open to all students. These jobs are usually similar to what you would find through work-study, but since they are not part of the federal work-study program, any student can be hired, regardless of financial need. If you live in a location where you are unable to leave campus, these jobs might be your best alternative. My junior year of college, I ended up working a part-time on-campus job in addition to my off-campus job. It only required a few hours per week, but it was in my school's Alumni Office, so it helped my resume a lot after I graduated.
Work-study is a valuable program, but if you don't receive a work-study offer in your financial aid package, remember that there are many other options out there. Think outside the box and don't be afraid to apply somewhere even if you don't have much experience. You never know what you might find!