There are few things in life more tedious and daunting than applying for a job. Now imagine going through that process as a young student who is trying to earn their designated financial aid in addition to being a full-time student. It’s a stressful process, especially when you are given limited resources that provide little explanation on how to actually apply. That’s what it’s like trying to find a Federal Work Study job.
GW is one of the most expensive schools in the country, so it is crucial that the federal government and the University supply sufficient financial aid to students. One common form of financial aid awarded to undergraduate students is Federal Work Study, a federally funded program where students may earn a portion of their financial aid through part-time employment. But employment is not guaranteed, and finding a job that both fits your schedule and qualifies for Federal Work Study can be incredibly difficult.
For instance, certain Federal Work Study employers can be very particular in what they are looking for in a student hire. Some employers will only hire upperclassmen or graduate students, and many employers require students to come in with previous experience, especially for office jobs, making it more difficult for underclassmen who haven’t had opportunities in high school to gain such experience.
Instead of leaving students to fend for themselves when it comes to finding and acquiring jobs, the University should set up a program to help match students with positions for which they are actually qualified. This could be done by keeping a database that contains a list of students who have been awarded Federal Work Study, along with a list of job openings that accept work study funds.
If GW implemented this system, then students would easily be able to fill out a form to be paired with a job they are qualified to do. This form would include somewhere to upload a resume, as well as a questionnaire where students can select their preferred job and check off if they have certain skills or experiences – like customer service experience or an understanding of Microsoft Office programs – that would be relevant in the workplace. This would streamline the application process and ensure more students are able to get hired and earn their invaluable Federal Work Study aid, while also making it easier for employers to find suitable student employees.
GW is currently partnered with an online program called Handshake, which allows students to look up job and internship opportunities and submit applications from the website. But Handshake has its drawbacks. For example, Handshake asks you to upload a resume and cover letter and sometimes requires other documents. The program doesn’t always include necessary information, including what other documents the employer wants in addition to a resume and cover letter. Handshake is also frustrating for students with little job experience because it will keep requesting that the student add more information to their profile if they do not have what Handshake believes is a sufficient amount uploaded. Although this may seem insignificant to some, it is vexing when there is no more information you can possibly add, yet Handshake still sends emails and notifications every week asking for more.
At the beginning of my freshman year last year, I had no help figuring out how to apply for Federal Work Study jobs. I had no prior office experience and had never so much as written a resume before. I got so caught up with the chaos of preparing for my first semester of college that I didn’t start applying for jobs until I arrived on campus, not knowing that many application deadlines were at the end of summer. I thought that I could always get one later in the semester, so I continued applying to jobs throughout both semesters to no avail. When a student doesn’t secure a Federal Work Study position, they lose the money offered to them through the program for that academic year. As a sophomore, I started applying to Federal Work Study jobs from home over the summer and have continued submitting applications since arriving on campus. Four weeks and many applications later, I have yet to find a job.
Students may turn to the Center for Career Services for assistance in their job search and application process, but the problem is that many students don’t know much about the career center. The University should make a greater effort to advertise the resources available in the center since there isn’t an effective system in place to get the word out to all students.
At American University, there are direct links to set up appointments with a coach in the Career Center straight from the Federal Work Study page of the school’s website. The website makes it clear that there are people available to help during the application process, whereas GW’s Federal Work Study page mostly refers students to Handshake. Similarly, while New York University does not have its own Federal Work Study page, its website directs Federal Work Study students to the Wasserman Center for Career Development, where there are instructions on how to access and use NYU CareerNet. GW can learn from NYU by offering more guidance on how to operate Handshake. Additionally, GW should refer students to the Center for Career Services instead of just sending them to Handshake to try to figure it out for themselves.
Streamlining the process of applying for Federal Work Study positions and promoting the Center for Career Services would increase the odds of more students acquiring Federal Work Study jobs. Taking these measures would make the program more efficient and ensure more students can earn their Federal Work Study aid, making one aspect of the college experience less stressful.
Kris Brodeur, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.