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What exactly is work study/How does it work?

I am an incoming freshman who is potentially going to UCSD in the fall of 2022(majoring in Computer Science). Even though my scholarships and financial aid covered everything for me, I still want to have back ups, like having a job or doing work study. Therefore, I want to know how does work study work in UCSD(if not, in general)? Is it worth it? Is it better to get a job/internship or do work study?

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Alexandra’s Answer

Hi Elaine, the Federal Work-Study Program gives jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need to earn money to help pay for their education expenses. Typically undergrads are paid by the hour and are usually around the federal minimum wage (or higher, depending on the job). This work-study award also depends on the availability of funding at your college and your level of need (determined by the FAFSA). I believe that the hours of work study work are limited to about 20-30 hours per week, so that you still have enough time to focus on school. Would recommend chatting with your financial aid office at UCSD to find out specific details on the program there.

The paid internship vs work study are, in my opinion, the same. There's potential to get slightly more money from the internship, but it may not be as accommodating as work study jobs are, but that will vary job to job.
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Brian’s Answer

Well said Alexandra. To add, work-study is "use it or lose it" (I was a former work-study student myself) at the end of the academic year. Thus, if you are qualified and granted work-study, try to find a position as early as possible in the academic year. Do check with FinAid office, since in the past you could convert unused work-study to a subsidized loan (interest on loan is paid by the US govt). You can, if need based, try to convert unsubsidized loans to work-study, or if financial circumstances change, file an addendum to FinAid office to get additional aid (if prior funding fell through, parent lost a job, etc.). Just be proactive with the FinAid office, they are there to help you.
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M’s Answer

Hi Elaine! Great question! So with the Work-Study Program, undergraduate and graduate students who are in financial need can work and earn money to help pay for any of their education expenses. This work-study program is also contingent upon the funding availability at your school and your financial need, which is determined by FAFSA. Moreover, I would highly recommend reaching out to your universities financial aid office to learn more about what your schools specific work study program may offer.
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Gabriel’s Answer

Hi! Every answer you've been given thus far has been accurate and brilliant. The only thing I wanted to chime in on was something something that varies from school-to-school. But wanted you to know some details at my university, in case it helps...and also go into a little bit more detail about work-study being "need based".

Our work study positions are almost exclusively on-campus. So our kids may go to class from 9-1 and then work from 1-5. We have had up to four work studies in our office during non-summer periods. Ages ago, when I started in financial aid, duties were mostly filing and shredding. Rather quickly the work-study positions transitioned into answering phones, sitting at reception, giving student tours...etc. They quickly became part of our office staff and it was frustrating to lose them when they graduated. (Though three of them did end up getting full time positions in our office upon graduation. Again - varies by school.) Ours make about $15 an hour currently - which is a far cry from the $5.50 an hour I made back in 19mumblemumble...

Paid internships at my school were very few and far between but that was partially because it used to be that every student had to have an internship to graduate. More likelihood when you get to the graduate level - and it varies on your program of study. Our graduate students fared well with being a "grad assistant" - could be a teacher's assistant, an assistant coach on an athletic team...you name it. Those were more like scholarships or stipends to go toward tuition.

So the part about need/determined by the FAFSA...your school will have a cost-of-attendance (COA) for all students. (Link below if you are REALLY bored.) The amount you are eligible to work for is determined by the EFC on your FAFSA also. (Financial aid people live and die by acronyms...doesn't mean we like it.) Your COA will not just be "direct costs" like tuition and housing - it also "assumes" you'll have other costs like transportation, books & supplies...there is even a miscellaneous category! Those are considered "indirect costs" - so they won't be on your bill. Your COA, minus your scholarships and certain types of aid will calculate your "unmet need". (Sorry to go into math mode...but...just want to clarify because after 20 years I understand why it can be overwhelming.) So if your Cost of Attendance is $50,000 and the EFC on your FAFSA is 90,000 - you would automatically not be eligible for true "work study" - since it is "need-based". HOWEVER - you should still pursue with the work-study coordinator. We have several students that show up on "work-study" payroll lists but are actually paid through the department budgets. Same wage, technically a different source. But at my job - still applied through the work-study process. (I only mentioned because you said things were covered...what was covered was likely just the direct costs.)

Finally, our work studies have done everything from working in the library, to office/clerical and even in operations helping change light bulbs. You mentioned Computer Science...some of our best work studies EVER...worked as tech support. It may start out with helping students who can't log in to e-mail or BlackBoard, wi-fi seems to be down in this building...(apologies for giving you examples from my job. Be kind...I majored in accounting.) We had one work study who started doing tech support e-mails and quickly was helping with a major server migration. (Now he's making more than I am after 20 years with a pretty-big company.)

Ask, specifically - "how soon can I apply?" Some students try to turn to work-study to cover expenses in November. Most of the jobs at my school have been scooped up by then...so be proactive! My boss had students and parents asking at orientations in June about work-study for the fall. She gave them her e-mail...and they kept in contact. She hired at least five kids that way. Take with a grain of salt...personal experience. Some of our best work study students came in with little or nothing on their resume. Their persistence and willingness got them the job.

Hope this opinion helps, a little. Whatever you do, just find and know your support system. Parents, friends, former teachers...just finish what you start. Don't ever give up, and don't ever take a "semester" off because you're not sure what you want to do. (Mine lasted years...). Biggest regret I have in my life. I love what I do...and am lucky to have fallen into it...but...not worth the extra stress. Hope your family doesn't hate me for sharing this but - the best advice I got about college came AFTER I had "dropped out". Keep in mind...this does not necessarily adhere to a trade school..."you don't go to college to learn a skill...you go to college to learn how to learn". Keep asking questions and get the answers you need. You'll be brilliant! (Sorry to belong-winded...Irish. And my kid is asleep so...have to wait until the a.m. to potentially bore her.)

You got this!


https://studentaid.gov/help-center/answers/article/what-does-cost-of-attendance-mean
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