Work-Study FAQs

Work-Study FAQs

Receiving a Work-Study (WS) Award

Federal Work-Study is a type of financial aid, though it is different from grants and loans.  Through the FWS program, you are paid competitive wages in exchange for working in one of a variety of FWS positions with on-campus entities or off-campus community service partners.  The program also strives to provide you with employment opportunities which will support your academic and professional development as well as deliver a paycheck.

Carolina Works is also a type of financial aid program, very similar to the FWS program.  CW students are paid competitive wages in exchange for working in one of a variety of sanctioned positions with on-campus entities or off-campus community service partners, just like in FWS.  Also like FWS, the CW program strives to provide you with employment opportunities which will support your academic and professional development as well as deliver a paycheck.

The main difference between CW and FWS is that CW funding goes to support you if you do not qualify for FWS funding and is comprised entirely of institutional funds.  Because of this, if you are in the CW program you are able to do undertake opportunities not open to FWS students such as working over the summer.

FWS awards are provided if you indicate you are interested in participating in the program on your FAFSA and show sufficient need. You’ll need to submit a FAFSA and indicate “yes” when asked if you are interested in the work-study program.

CW awards are provided to you based on nominations from WS Supervisors and requests from eligible students until all funding has been exhausted.  If funding remains after all nominees have been awarded, our office will select additional students who have indicated an interest in participating in work-study as noted by the FAFSA.  Typically, CW awards are provided to you if you show financial need on your FAFSA but do not qualify to participate in the FWS program.

If you demonstrate sufficient need on your FAFSA and indicate an interest in the WS program you should automatically receive work-study funding.  If you did not receive a WS award but received either Federal Direct Subsidized Loan funds or UNC Loan funds, you are eligible to participate in the WS program if those loan funds are converted into work-study funds.  For assistance with the conversion process or to request more information, send an email to with your request.

While we’re happy to provide WS funding to interested students, our budget is limited.  If you didn’t indicate you wanted a work-study award on your initial FAFSA, but are interested in the program, send an email indicating this to  If we have remaining funding, we’ll update your award.

Eligibility for WS awards are recalculated on an annual basis.  While we try to award you every year, receiving the award is dependent on your financial need and amount of remaining funding.  It is possible to be eligible in one year and not the next.  However, choosing to decline or not utilize a WS award will not prevent you from being awarded in subsequent years.

Obtaining a Job

The list of jobs and employers varies from year to year, but it always includes a variety of positions across campus and in the surrounding community.  When the job board and application system is open to applicants (usually from August to May), users who have been granted access to the site can review the list of available jobs.

Please note: In response to the University’s COVID-19 response and in recognition that some students will be attending UNC remotely, we will be offering both in-person and virtual work-study positions for the 2020-2021 academic year.

If you have a work-study award, you can find a job by going to the JobX Student page and clicking on the Find a Job link after the system opens in late July.  Once there, you can use the ‘Find a Job’ page to search for jobs by key word, name, department, location, or a variety of other factors.  You should remember to look for positions which will enhance your academic and skills development in addition to providing a paycheck.

You may also wish to review the Spotlight! positions.  Positions listed on this page have requested help with recruitment and usually move through the selection/interview/hiring process at an accelerated rate.

Historically, the WS program has more open positions than students to fill them, so you should have a variety of options available throughout the year.  You should start by completing the steps outlined under question 2.

If you still have trouble finding a position, check out the guides and training’s in the student resources section to improve your search and application strategy.  Using a different type of search might reveal additional opportunities of which you were previously unaware and improving your application materials will make you more competitive for positions.  You may also wish to visit University Career Services as they specialize specialize in assisting students with the job search and application processes.  Assistance from UCS is free for UNC students.


Once you’ve found a position in JobX that you are interested in, you can submit an application by checking the box next to that position and then using the ‘Apply for selected jobs’ button on the search page.  The application system is contained entirely within JobX, so you’ll fill out a job application, submit your resume/cover letter, and answer any questions posed by the employer within the system.

If you need instructions on how to apply to a position, review the student training resources.  The resources provide step-by-step guidance on how to complete an application.

If you’ve reviewed the guide and still need assistance, consider coming by the WS Desk on the 2nd floor of Vance Hall or reaching out to the WS Team at

University Career Services provides a number of resources on constructing resumes and cover letters that can be accessed at   UCS also offers in-person assistance during both walk-in hours (typically Monday through Friday from 1-4 PM) and through appointments.

If you’ve reviewed the guide and still need assistance, consider coming by the WS Desk on the 2nd floor of Vance Hall or reaching out to the WS Team at

If you apply to a new position (including a higher-level position with the same employer) you are required to complete an interview.  University Career Services provides a number of resources on the interview process that can be accessed at

If you are returning to the same job with the same department you can have their interview waived at the discretion of the WS Supervisor.  This decision is entirely up to the supervisor.

You can only hold one WS position at a time.  You may choose to change positions during the academic year or between years, but cannot simultaneously hold two or more WS jobs without violating program regulations.

If you are interested in working additional hours or obtaining a second position, you are allowed to take up a non-work-study job in addition to your work-study position.  However, we do not recommend that you work more than 20 hours per week across all positions while taking classes full time as studies show this consistently has a negative impact on well-being and academic performance.

In response to the University’s COVID-19 response and in recognition that some students will be attending UNC remotely, we will be offering both in-person and virtual work-study positions for the 2020-2021 academic year.  Students who receive a work-study award but will not be attending UNC in-person are encouraged to apply for these virtual positions.

Human Resources & Onboarding

Once you have been hired, you will need meet with the Human Resources Officer or Shared Services Center for your employer to complete onboarding.

This will include multiple processes including:

  • Completing I-9 verification
  • Completing federal payroll withholding sign-up
  • Completing state payroll withholding sign-up
  • Completing direct deposit enrollment if working on campus or completing a job-specific payroll process if working off-campus

Your employing department may set up an online opportunity for you to complete some of these processes, but most departments will set up an in-person appointment.  Because of the sensitive documentation required to complete the I-9, all students will need to meet with HR during onboarding.

Multiple documents will be required to complete onboarding:

  • For I-9 verification, please see the USICS’s page on acceptable documents.
  • For federal payroll withholding sign-up, you will need to complete a W-4.
  • For state payroll withholding sign-up, you will need to complete a NC-4.
  • For direct deposit enrollment for on-campus positions, you will need to provide an 1106.1.1f form. You will need to have access to a bank account to complete this form and may need to provide a voided check.

After being hired, your WS Supervisor will connect you with their HR representative.  This representative will provide you with copies of all of the forms required to complete the onboarding process as well as guidance on how to complete the forms.


Your schedule will vary with the position you choose.  While most positions are looking for students during normal business hours (Monday to Friday, 8 AM to 6 PM), WS job opportunities are available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week during the academic year.   Some positions even work exclusively during evenings and weekends, for those students who prefer to work outside of normal class hours.  You should review each job posting in JobX for information on this topic during your job search.

Please note: working during your scheduled class time is expressly forbidden by program regulations.  You cannot work if you are scheduled to be in class.

This will also depend on the job.  Some positions require students to work the same weekly schedule, while others vary each week.  Some positions even allow students to set their own schedule each week, provided they work a minimum number of hours.  You should review each job posting in JobX for information on this topic during your job search.

On average, you will work between 10 and 12 hours per week.  However, the exact number of hours worked will depend on your individual needs and the position.  Under program regulations, you cannot work more than 20 hours per week during the Fall and Spring terms.  In contrast some positions do not require you to work any hours during specific weeks at points during the academic year.

While the majority of WS positions are for Fall & Spring, you can work in only one semester if you choose to do so.  Each job posting will state whether it is for the Fall, Spring, or the full Academic Year.

Most CW positions are also for the Fall & Spring, but some may offer a separate Summer work opportunity.  However, only students who are enrolled during the summer term are allowed to hold summer work-study jobs.

WS positions are normally for the academic year, meaning you work from the time you are hired until the end of the Spring term.  However, you can return to the same position in future aid years if you find it to be a good fit and have work-study offered to you.

Both students and supervisors have the right to cease employment at any time.  If you are unhappy with your position, you are free to leave and search for another job at any point during the academic year after providing notification to their supervisor.

According to annual survey data, 99% of supervisors provide training for WS students, and 85% of students receive between 1 and 20 hours of training each year.  The exact type of training will vary based on the duties of the position, but you will receive training on how to track your time worked for payroll purposes.  Additionally, you will receive training on any necessary health, safety, and/or confidentiality topics required by the position to ensure your safety and the safety of others.

If you participate in the FWS or CW program during the Fall and/or Spring terms and will be enrolled at UNC during the summer you may qualify to participate in the Summer WS program.   As funding for this program is limited and reliant on donor and employer support, UNC can not guarantee the program will be offered to all qualifying students each year.

If you qualify for available funding you will receive a Summer Carolina Works award as part of your Summer term aid package.  If you will attend UNC during the Summer term but do not receive a Summer CW award you can contact for reconsideration of funding.  Where possible, the WS Team will attempt to provide Summer CW funds to students requesting aid.


Unlike other forms of financial aid, WS funding is not paid out at the beginning of the semester; instead it is disbursed as you work through the WS program.  As such, WS awards are not available to pay for initial balances with the University at the beginning of the semester.

If you work on-campus you are paid on UNC’s SHRA biweekly schedule, meaning you are paid every two weeks.  Because of the logistics of payroll cycle, earnings are usually provided to you two weeks after the end of the payroll cycle during which work was performed.

If you work off-campus you are paid according to the employer’s pay cycle.  Usually this will be monthly or biweekly.  Under program regulations, you must be paid on a monthly basis or more often.

If you work on-campus, you will set up a direct deposit system for your paycheck during onboarding.  Through this, your earnings will be deposited into a bank account of your choice.

If you work off-campus, you will either set up a direct deposit system or a process specific to your employer.  This process may include receiving a paper check.

You are considered an hourly employee; as such, you will be paid according to how many hours you work during a given pay period.  In keeping with program regulations, the hourly wage rate is based on duties and requirements outlined on the job posting.  You can see the wage range and estimated number of hours per week for each position when reviewing job postings in JobX.

WS earnings are a form of financial aid, and, therefore, can be used to pay for any college-related expense.  This can include charges paid directly to the university as well as charges paid to non-university entities for other expenses related to attending school such as books, food, rent, transportation, medical expenses, or basic living expenses.

Earnings are not intended to cover expenses unrelated to college.  Therefore, using WS earnings to cover such items as vacations or gifts would not be in keeping with program guidelines.

You are not required to submit documentation regarding how their WS earnings are used.

Yes, WS earnings can be used to pay charges to UNC.  However, as previously stated, WS earnings are paid out over the academic year as you work rather than being paid out in a lump sum at the beginning of the term.  These funds are not usually available to assist with initial Cashier’s bills which occur at the beginning of the academic term.

WS earnings are subject to federal and state taxes, just like earnings through any other employer.  However, you may be able to reclaim part or all of your taxed income by filing a tax return.

Unused Awards and Conversions

Unused WS funding remain as unused at the end of the year and no additional wages are paid for unworked hours.  What this means is you simply do not receive that portion of your funding for the year.

If you utilize your full WS award before the end of the year will need to cease work through the WS program in order to prevent a violation of program regulations.  In some cases, you may be able to continue working for your employer once WS funding is exhausted if the department is willing to pay out of their own departmental funds.

If you do not participate in work-study you will not receive funding through the WS program. You can either locate another source of funding to make up for the unearned award or reduce expenses to your account for the portion of their college cost that is no longer being covered by FWS funds.

Yes, you have the option of converting your WS award into a student loan using the Work-Study to Loan Conversion Request Form found on our forms page.  The WS Team will provide the best possible loan option at the time of conversion, and you can choose whether to accept or decline the new loan funding.


WS opportunities for UNC students are not available outside of the Chapel Hill area.  As such, we cannot offer work-study if you are studying abroad.  In most cases, WS funding is converted to loans or grants as part of the study-abroad packaging process.

If reported on the FAFSA as work-study income, WS earnings will not affect the need calculation performed by the FAFSA.  Properly reported WS earnings do not impact the amount of aid you can receive in a future aid year.

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