As a previous Illinois student and beneficiary of the Federal Work-Study Program (FWS), I thought it would be helpful to tell all of you future students more about the program.
FWS is a need-based program that provides opportunities for students to work part-time while enrolled in school. It is designed for students to use their earnings toward any education-related expenses they have accrued.
Funding for the FWS program is provided by the federal government and is awarded to students by the Office of Student Financial Aid. When completing the FAFSA, you have an opportunity to indicate that you want to be considered for the FWS program. After your FAFSA is complete, you may be awarded FWS based on need, which can be viewed on your award letter.
After being awarded FWS, your next step is to find a job in order to start earning! Campus-based jobs are able to view your FWS eligibility. Job opportunities are available through many departments around campus, including Campus Recreation, Dining Services, Housing, various libraries, and computer labs, just to name a few. In addition, some off-campus community service jobs are available through various agencies, including Champaign County Health Care Consumers, Community Shares of Illinois, Children’s Center Day Care, YMCA, and YWCA.
When looking for job opportunities, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the Virtual Job Board. The Virtual Job Board is a database that houses many on-campus and off-campus job opportunities that are available to students, with or without FWS eligibility. Additionally, be sure to network with your classmates and academic professionals (professors, advisors, admissions counselors, etc.) who may refer you to jobs that are not posted on the job board.
After you apply, you will be contacted for an interview if positions are available. Once you have secured a job, you’ll receive a paycheck for the hours you work. If you don’t work enough hours, you may not earn all of the funds you have been awarded. The hourly rates can range depending on the job. Please note that minimum wage is currently $8.25 per hour, which is the minimum you will receive.
Typically, paychecks are electronically deposited directly to your bank account, but you also have the option of applying your earnings toward your student account. As a recipient of FWS, you have full discretion when it comes to allocating your earnings, although I would encourage you to use them toward school-related expenses.
In my experience as an undergraduate, it was very easy to find job opportunities. I was easily able to work numerous on-campus jobs while still doing well in school. I was able to balance numerous on-campus jobs because they were very flexible and very accommodating of my school schedule. It is less likely that off-campus jobs will be as accommodating of your school schedule.
Besides my earnings, networking was the best benefit I got from working part-time; I was able to meet many students whom I would never have crossed paths with otherwise.
If you have any additional questions about FWS or jobs in general, just comment below and I will be happy to assist.