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.
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 email@example.com. If we have remaining funding, we’ll update your award.
Eligibility for WS awards are determined on an annual basis. It is possible to be eligible in one year and not the next. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org with your request.
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. Work-Study jobs are offered in-person, remotely, or a hybrid of the two.
If you have a work-study offer, check out some professional tips and resources that may help in your search for position. The JobX system opens in late July for students to apply to positions. You should remember to look for positions which will enhance your academic and skills development in addition to providing a paycheck.
If you 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.
We have example cover letters and resumes on our student job resource page. We also offer three workshops with hands on advice you can join in addition to making an appointment with University Career Services.
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 https://careers.unc.edu/students/interviewing.
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.
Human Resources & Onboarding
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.
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, visit the finance website for more information. You will need to have access to a bank account to complete the direct deposit form and may need to provide a voided check.
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.
Your schedule will vary with the position you choose. The consistency of the same schedule each week will also depend on the position. 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 not allowed under program regulations. You cannot work if you are scheduled to be in class.
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.
If your employer wants you to work more hours be sure to check the original job posting and hours section for your position. If the job posting stated 8-10 hours a week and you are working within that, no changes are needed. If the supervisor communicates that they need you to work more hours then the original job posting, have them reach out to us for help in hiring additional work-study students who are still searching for employment. If you are wanting to work the additional hours but are worried you will exceed your offered work-study award offer, please reach out so we can help you to plan.
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.
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 email@example.com for reconsideration of funding. Where possible, the WS Team will attempt to provide Summer CW funds to students requesting aid.
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.
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. 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. 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. 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. Although WS earnings can be used to pay university charges, 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.
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.
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 remains 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 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 WS funds.
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.
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.
To submit a termination request for a student, please use this form. Note, this form should only be used if the student quits the position, was hired on accident, and the termination is understood between both the student and supervisor. Please review the form for more information.
In order to be considered community service, the job has to be in an area that is open, accessible, and used by the community at large. Community service includes a whole host of jobs and is not limited to reading tutors. On the other hand, reading tutors may provide tutoring to some group that would not be considered part of the community. For example, a school population is not considered “open, accessible, and used by the community at large,” and therefore, in this context, is not considered a community.
Guidance from the federal handbook regarding off-campus organizations can be found in this document.