three students in a work-study program
For eligible students, work-study is a necessary way to get through school, but many jobs can just seem like busy work. (Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash)
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three students in a work-study program

These opportunities combine hands-on experience with a good time.

For many, myself included, participating in work-study is a part of the college experience. Federal work-study is a program that provides graduate and undergraduate students with part-time jobs, allowing them to earn money to pay for academic expenses. The program can also be a way to earn professional experience in their field.

For example, at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I am a communications assistant for the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. I help manage the website, social media pages and create content for the center, but students don’t always have to get a job that aligns with their field. If you are coming in as a first-year and are undecided, there’s still a lot that you can do and put on your resume.

Here is a list of some interesting work-study jobs at colleges around the country.

1. Student Tour Guide 

This role is typically in every college and university around the country.

If you love talking to people, this may be the job for you. Your main responsibility is speaking to prospective students and their families, showing them around campus and explaining what makes your school great.

In your training process, you’ll learn all the ins and outs of your university. This could mean the best studying spot, best coffee and best short-cuts to get to class. This is also a great way to make friends and reap the full benefits of attending your school.

2. Nude Model 

I’m not sure how many schools have this specific job, but I found it to be so unusual — and a bit comical. According to the Michigan Daily, students eligible for work-study can find positions at the University of Michigan’s School of Art as a nude model. If you are confident enough and don’t mind standing still for a few hours with people staring at you, I would say go for it. It is some easy money. Look to see if your school has any available positions like this!

3. Garden Worker 

At UNC-CH, the Coker Arboretum, within the NC Botanical Garden, offers positions for work-study students. The Arboretum is a beautiful garden with a wide variety of plants, including flowering trees and shrubs. Responsibilities can include maintaining the arboretum’s beauty by pulling weeds or raking leaves, or maybe even helping build new walkways.

This allows students to leave a permanent mark at the university. I know not every university has a garden to work at, but it is worth it to explore similar positions that give back to your school.

4. Fitness Center Positions  

There are typically several positions available in your school’s fitness center or gym. This can include working at the front desk and swiping people in, being a referee for intramural sports or maybe even a student personal trainer. Positions like these have flexible scheduling to work with your class schedule and have professional development opportunities.

5. Research Assistant

Students are able to assist faculty with research projects for their work-study employment. This can include research in biology, accounting, health sciences, anthropology, chemistry, economics, English and many other departments. This can be a great way to explore your interests in various fields.

Colleges and universities with large research departments include the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Minnesota, UCLA and the University of Pittsburgh. These positions are typically the highest paying ones on campus.

6. Off-Campus Work-Study Jobs 

Places off campus can also be included in the federal work-study program. For instance, at the University of Arizona, students can find positions at the Boys and Girls Club. At the University of Central Oklahoma, you can be a virtual tutor to middle and high school students.

These are only a few examples of cool work-study opportunities students can potentially apply for. Since every colleges’ available positions are not the same, make sure to check with your school, or chat with a representative at your school’s financial aid office.

I love being a communications assistant, and my supervisor is great to talk to, even if it is over Zoom for now. I am enhancing my skills in graphic design, writing, video editing and web development. I am also gaining experience working with a real client on projects assigned to me, which will definitely help me when entering the professional world in the spring.

Work-study programs help students with a financial need not only make some money, but explore potential career paths. They are also able to collaborate closely with people who can be a potential reference for a future job opportunity. If you are eligible for a program, I would highly recommend participating.

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