Be ready to hustle to find a job. Here are some tips to beat the odds in finding a job or work-study
Paying for College


If you plan to work while in college, be ready to hustle to find a job. Here are some tips for understanding your work options as well as advice on searching, applying, and interviewing for jobs.


If you are planning on working while in college, you have three options.

Off-campus jobs: These are jobs that you find off-campus. They generally are not offered through or associated with the college (e.g. neighborhood daycare, coffee shops, restaurants, etc.).

On-campus jobs: These are jobs that you find on-campus. Some may be offered through or associated with the college (e.g. cashier at campus bookstore), but some may not (e.g. pharmacy located on campus).

Work-study: Based on your FAFSA, you may be eligible for work-study. These are jobs that you can only apply for if you have been offered “work-study” on the Financial Aid section of your college’s portal website. These jobs are offered through the college and are generally only available for work-study eligible students (e.g. front desk at the campus library). If you believe you’re eligible for work-study but don’t see it in your financial aid award letter, contact your school’s financial aid office to confirm your eligibility.

Hint: always accept work-study when offered but remember the work-study money is earned and not guaranteed. You can find more information on this under THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT WORK-STUDY further below. 


In general, it is better to work on campus either through work-study or an on campus job. The benefits of working on campus are:

  • You’ll spend less time and money commuting to work
  • Managers are generally more understanding of your exam and class schedules and may be more flexible about scheduling
  • You’ll get to know staff or faculty who can have your back when you need help
  • You’ll have easy access to other on-campus resources like the library, tutoring, and health services


Whether you are looking for a work-study position or another on/off-campus job, they can be surprisingly hard to find, especially as a freshman. Be super proactive and start looking 2-3 weeks before you get on campus. 

Work-study positions are not guaranteed or automatically assigned—you have to find and apply for them yourself!


Many campuses have an internal job board where students can log on to look for open jobs or work-study positions. Ask your financial aid office if they can provide you the link to the work-study or job board website. You can also google your college’s name and “careers” or “career center.” Here are some other places where you can go to inquire about open work-study positions or other jobs:

  • The library
  • The tutoring center
  • The gym
  • The post office
  • Campus cafes
  • The campus newspaper (some newspapers have paid writing jobs!)
  • Student services and resource centers
  • Admissions
  • College fundraising offices
  • The department for your specific major
  • The cafeteria

When you can, try to find a job or work-study position that allows you to explore your career interests. This isn’t always possible, but try to if you can!


Have an up-to-date resume ready to email or hand out. To get started, go to Google Docs “Template Gallery” and find a resume template.

Remember to dress in clean and appropriate clothes if you visit campus offices to hand out your resume and ask about open positions.


Some questions you should be prepared to answer:

  • Why do you want this position?
  • What relevant experience do you have?
  • What are some skills that you possess that would help you in this role?
  • How do you cope with stressful tasks?
  • What is your schedule and availability?

Some questions you should ask your interviewer:

  • How many hours a week is this position?
  • What is the typical schedule?
  • Is there flexibility to change the schedule around finals and/or breaks?
  • How much does this position pay?
  • Are there any other expectations for this job that I should know about?
  • Does this position last for the whole year?


  • You are not eligible for work-study unless you see it in the Financial Aid section of your college’s portal website or award letter.
  • Work-study is NEVER guaranteed. The college will not assign you a work-study position – you will have to find and apply for it.
  • Many work-study positions are only available to students who are eligible for work-study – other students can’t apply. However, these positions may be limited and therefore fill up really quickly. Apply early!
  • Some colleges may require you to fill out an additional application and/or info in the portal to “accept” work-study. Call the financial aid office to ask if you need to fill out anything in order to accept the work-study offered.
  • Your college gives you a set amount of money you are eligible to earn from work-study. Once you hit this limit, you can’t continue to earn money through your work-study position (but you could start working at another job). Note this limit may apply for the entire year and/or a single term, be sure to read the terms of your work-study carefully once awarded and accepted.
  • If you get a work-study position, you will be paid directly by the college (probably every two weeks) either through a paper paycheck, debit card, or direct deposit to your bank account.

Tip: If you want to learn more about work-study check out Nerdwallet Article – What is Work-Study? which covers; Federal work-study FAQs, Does work-study affect future financial aid? And more. 


Jobs and work-study, though limited, are still available. Your college career center may provide services using an entirely virtual or hybrid format to help you look for a job. Your college and local businesses may have also transitioned some jobs from in-person to remote. 

Be sure to follow your college career center online and check to see if they have virtual career fairs scheduled. If your college is on Handshake, sign in to see what fairs are scheduled for your campus.

Hint:  During your first year, be sure to network and find out about opportunities you can take advantage of this year and next year. The more you expose yourself to opportunities on- and off-campus, the more opportunities you can apply to during your college career.