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Student Frequently Asked Questions

1. I'm not eligible for work-study. Can I apply for a work-study job?

No. Only students who have Federal Work-Study (FWS) in their financial aid may work and earn FWS wages.

The Northwestern Career Development Office has a link to non-work-study part-time job opportunities on their website.

Some departments hire students regardless of work-study eligibility. You may need to contact a department of interest to ask whether they provide employment outside of the work-study program. Please understand, though, that departments benefit from hiring FWS-eligible students due to the federal wage subsidy sharing agreement, and not all departments have the financial ability to hire non-work-study students. Non-work-study students are paid entirely from the department's budget. 

2. I see work-study in my financial aid award. Am I required to get a work-study job?

Not at all! Work-study provides students the opportunity of part-time work and to earn money, often to cover things like toiletries, entertainment, and other personal expenses. You are not required or obligated to get a work-study job and can always choose to cover your personal expenses in some other way.

3. I have work-study listed on my financial aid award. Am I guaranteed a job?

Work-study is not a job placement program. It is up to you to find a job and get hired, just like any other job. Our office posts available job openings when campus and community employers notify us of them, but we are not able to control what jobs are available or where.

4. I have accepted work-study in my financial aid offer but there is still a missing work-study task in my CAESAR To-Do checklist. What do I need to do?

The work-study checklist will remain as incomplete on your CAESAR To-Do checklist until you have secured a position and your supervisor has submitted your authorization form to our office. This incomplete item will not have any impact on your other financial aid.

5. Why isn't my work-study listed on my tuition invoice in CAESAR?

Work-study students earn an hourly wage and receive a biweekly paycheck for hours worked. The work-study award is an earnings limit and is never credited directly to your CAESAR student account.

6. I don't want a work-study job in the fall, but I plan to find one later in the year. Will I still be eligible?

Absolutely! Just email and let us know that's your intent.

7. I do not wish to get a work-study job or haven't found one. Do I have other options?

If you still want a job, you can seek other non-work-study forms of employment (e.g., retail, coffee shops, tutoring, etc). You can also check out QuadJobs, a student jobs portal offered through Northwestern Career Advancement. If you do not wish to find a job, you may be eligible to borrow a student loan instead.

8. Can I get a non-work-study job? What happens to my work-study award if I do that?

Of course! Lots of students opt for other jobs. If you don't plan to earn your work-study funds, you should decline that award in CAESAR to let us know. Not earning your work-study award will not change your eligibility this year or in the future.

9. I have an off-campus job from the summer I'd like to continue working at. Can I earn work-study from this off-campus employer?

No. Only on-campus positions and pre-approved off-campus, Evanston-based non-profit organizations are eligible. You are, however, permitted to continue working for your employer and also obtain a FWS position simultaneously, if desired.

10. I'm currently working in an unpaid/volunteer/independent research experience in a Northwestern University lab. Can I be paid for my work with work-study?

It depends.

Visit the Office of Undergraduate Research to learn more about the Undergraduate Research Assistant Program (URAP). Most URAP positions promise up to 100 hours. 

If your current position qualifies for any form of academic credit now or in the future such as an independent study/independent research experience, federal regulations state that a student cannot be paid federal work-study wages unless the employer would normally pay a person for the same job. If the position is a volunteer experience from the outset, it would be the responsibility of the lab supervisor and department to justify why the position would now necessitate paying a person. 

All federal work-study positions must be posted on our website to allow equal opportunity for all interested and qualified candidates to apply. Direct hires are not permissible. 

11. My work-study job allows me to work remotely. Can I continue at my remote work-study job while I participate in study abroad or another off-campus academic program?

Domestic (U.S.-based) Off-Campus Academic Programs: It depends.

If you will be enrolled at least half-time while away from campus and you have a work-study allotment during the quarter(s) of your off-campus program, you may be permitted to continue your work-study employment remotely. Your supervisor must continue to oversee your work and provide feedback and guidance as they would when you are on campus. If you will be outside of the state of Illinois, you may also need to report your temporary address to HR for tax purposes.

Study Abroad Programs: No.

You are not permitted to earn wages under the Federal Work-Study program while you are abroad; your work-study allotment for your study abroad quarter(s) will be canceled. If needed, you may be eligible to borrow a subsidized loan to make up for missed work-study earnings; contact the financial aid office if you have questions.

12. I declined my work-study, but now I want to get a work-study job. Am I still eligible?

Sure! Email us at and we can reinstate your award for you.

13. How is a work-study position different from other student positions?

Like other student positions, you will receive a bi-weekly paycheck/direct deposit; however, the funding source is different for work-study employees, with the federal government providing up to 75% of your wages and your employer providing the remaining 25%. This will be set up by your supervisor when they officially hire you for the FWS position. 

You will also report the amount of FWS wages earned on your following year's FAFSA in a separate section from non-work-study wages. Contact the financial aid office if you have any questions.

14. I don't see work-study listed on my financial aid award. Am I eligible?

Most students who are eligible for work-study will see Federal Work-Study listed on their financial aid award in CAESAR, but if you don't see it or you're not sure, please email us and we can check for you.

15. I was eligible for work-study in the past but I don't see it this year. Am I eligible?

Work-study is a need-based federal financial aid program, and your eligibility is determined annually based on your financial aid application. Changes to your financial circumstances (e.g., family income, number in college, etc.), enrollment (e.g., half-time, study abroad, etc.), living arrangements (e.g., RA, living at home, etc.), and other factors can impact your work-study eligibility. If you have questions, you are welcome to call or email the financial aid office to speak with a counselor.

16. I didn't use my full work-study allotment. Now what?

Federal guidance does not permit students to be paid for hours not worked. It is up to you to schedule your hours with your supervisor so that you realize the full potential of your earnings ability. You can use the work-study calculator to determine how many hours you can work per week during the academic year based on your wage rate and FWS allotment.

17. How much work-study do I have remaining?

Log into CAESAR. Click on the Financial Aid tile then select Work Study by Academic year. Enter 2022 for academic year 2021-2022, enter 2023 for academic year 2022-2023, etc.

You may also add up wages from the academic year from your pay stub (found in myHR).

Our office will email you once you are within $700 of earning your maximum allotment.

18. I’ve exhausted my FWS allotment. Can I get more FWS for the year?

Contact our office to inquire about eligibility.

19. Are taxes taken out of my work-study paycheck?

Yes. FWS wages are considered taxable income for federal and state purposes. However, FICA (social security) tax are not withheld from your paycheck if you are enrolled full time during the academic year.

20. Where can I get my W-2?

Each year all Wage and Tax Statements (W-2 Forms) will be sent to the last known home address that is on file in the Office of Human Resources or made available for electronic download. You may be able to access your W-2 in myHR or call the Northwestern Payroll Office at (847) 491-7362.