Regional College Access Center

Jobs and internships

Shawn says: I got offered a work-study job as part of my financial aid package. They gave me a choice of working in the dining hall or the student union convenience store. I chose the convenience store because it pays a little better.

It still won't pay great, but I feel good about having a job already lined up before I've even gotten to orientation. A little extra spending money never hurt.

What is work-study?

Work-study is a form of financial aid that provides jobs on college and university campuses to students who demonstrate financial need on the FAFSA. Unlike scholarships or grants, work-study aid is not "free," because you have to work for it like you would at any other job. Unlike loans, work-study aid does not need to be paid back after graduation. It's money that you earn. More than 3,400 institutions in the U.S. offer work-study jobs to qualifying students. You can read more about the program at the federal government's student aid website.

Keep in mind that you don't need to qualify for work-study to get a job on campus as a student. Federal work-study jobs are required to pay more than the national minimum wage, but you might be able to find a better-paying job on your own after you arrive at school.

What is an Internship?

An internship is an agreement with an employer that lets you gain experience in a job or field in return for your labor. Interns are usually younger workers (like students) who are interested in a career but are not ready for a full-time job. Internships often take place over the summer or winter breaks from school.

Internships are not primarily financial aid arrangements. In fact, not all interns are paid—some are compensated only by gaining experience in a field. An internship with a good organization, or one in which you shoulder real responsibilities, can look great on a resume and will help you find a good job after graduation. Many internships also offer hourly pay or stipends, however. That means that the right internship can be a great way to learn and earn for school at the same time. Besides experience and money, internships also offer other advantages:

When should I apply for internships?

It's never too late, but it's best to start looking early. Different internships have different rules, but there are opportunities open to high school students as well as college students.

Where can I find internships?

There are as many ways to find an internship as there are to find a job. Here are some suggestions for where to start:

  1. 1) Visit the local library and ask for internship resources.
  2. 2) Treat your internship search like a job search.  Have a resume ready!
  3. 3) Don't be shy.  People will help you if you ask them, but you need to ask.
  4. 4) Ask family, friends, and organizations you belong to if they know of opportunities.
  5. 5) Figure out what you're interested in. Art? Computers? Cars? Narrowing your focus will help keep you from getting overwhelmed.
  6. 6) Contact companies in your field of interest directly to ask if they have opportunities. If you're intimidated by cold-calling them on the phone, find an email address on their website and start that way.
  7. 7) Ask your college advisor or high school counselor. They can help you find organizations who offer internships. Specific college departments are another great resource; they tend to know the companies and individuals who offer jobs and internships related to their fields.
  8. 8) Search online! Here are some sites to use: