Work-study vs paid internship: Which should you choose?

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College has always been expensive. That’s why a lot of students are trying to decide between work-study or paid internships to help supplement their college expenses. 

Even if you’re financial aid eligible, you might find yourself still needing a part-time job to cover other expenses, such as social activities and personal expenses. As a college student, you pretty much have two options: work-study and/or a paid internship.

Both work-study and paid internships are incredible options. Choosing which option to go for can be a bit confusing.

To help you determine which option is best for you, we put together a comparison chart that showcases their differences and similarities. Draw your own conclusions below.

Work-study is a simplified hiring process compared to a paid internship, but you still have to apply like you would any other job. In other words, even if you qualify for work-study, you don’t have a guaranteed job offer unless you apply for it. 

Firstly, are you eligible for work-study? 

One of the main differences between these two job options is how your eligibility is determined. Like stated previously, not everyone is eligible for work-study. In fact, your eligibility relies on your family’s income and the information you included in your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. 

What’s your college schedule look like?

If you’re looking for something that doesn’t require a substantial time commitment, work-study is the way to go. They will generally work around your school schedule, making it easy for you to get to your classes.

Though many paid internships understand college students have classes, most of the hours are during normal work hours. That means there might be a little less flexibility.

Don’t hesitate to communicate your hours regardless of which part-time option you choose. If you really want the job but the hours don’t work for you, let them know! After all, the worst thing that could happen is that they say no. 

What affects next years FAFSA the most?

Many schools pay students minimum wage for work-study jobs. Whereas a paid internship is often willing to offer you a more competitive salary. Not only that but searching for paid internships means you have the freedom to choose if you want a job related to your field of study or something completely different. 

Who knows? Maybe you’ll fall in love with the paid internship and land a full-time job offer after graduation.

While work-study offers limited job options, you could still get a job as a librarian, food server at one of the dining halls, housekeeping, or other on-campus options. While these jobs might not be relevant to your future career aspirations, any work experience on your resume is a positive thing. 

Important note: Both options take out taxes from student’s paycheck. However, with work-study the wages you make will not count against you when it comes time to file your FAFSA® next year. For an internship, your wages will count and may lessen the amount of financial aid you get the following year.

What expenses will an off-campus job tack on? 

When considering your options, you should think of which transportation method works for you. If you don’t think it’s worth it to spend money on public transportation or gas to get to work, an off-campus job might not be the right choice for you. 

A paid internship will most likely require students to travel off-campus, which will add to your expenses instead of reducing such. Unless you’re lucky enough to land a job within walking distance, it’s an expense that’s worth considering. 

Ultimately, the decision relies on what you’re looking for in terms of compensation, availability, and eligibility requirements. If your class schedule permits it and you’re interested in trying both options, you should!

You don’t have to get a work-study and paid internship in the same semester. However, if you think you’re more than capable of handling it, then go ahead! Just remember to stay on top of your classwork at the same time. 

You must weigh all your options. Keep in mind that whatever decision you make, it has to be something that works for you. Whether you accept a work-study and/or paid internship, one thing is for sure: You’ll be able to cover some of your college expenses.