Getting the Most Out of Work-Study

by Anna Malinovskaya - Posts (17). Posted Wednesday, October 24th, 2012 at 2:30 pm

When I received my admission letter to Mount Holyoke College, I also received a set of documents outlining my financial aid package: a big grant, a much smaller loan, and earnings from my future work on campus.

I had expected loans and grants, but didn’t know much about how on-campus work would help fund my tuition.

It turns out that receiving campus earnings in your financial aid package doesn’t actually oblige you to work, but if you take advantage of the offer, students at Mount Holyoke can earn up to $2,100 per year by working at campus jobs.  If you choose to take a campus job, you get a paycheck every two weeks and are expected to use it to purchase books and other necessities. Campus jobs are actually open to any student, but students with work-study in their financial aid package are given priority in being selected for many positions.

I chose to take advantage of the work-study piece of my financial aid package, and have worked at a variety of different jobs to earn my money.

Interesting jobs

Lots of reading!

Working as a research assistant isn’t easy, but it’s rewarding (Creative Commons Photo: Stephanie Graves)

The most savvy students can get a job that not only earns them money but also gives them good experience. In my first year at Mount Holyoke, I got a position working as a research assistant for a professor in the Department of Russian and Eurasian Studies. In that job I was able to apply my knowledge of econometrics.  This was a nice first job to have, as I could apply my academic knowledge and skills.

This semester I’ll be working as a research assistant for a professor in the Economics Department. This job is also related to econometrics analysis, so I am really looking forward to it.

To get one of these research jobs, you usually have to make a good impression on a professor or department.  I didn’t have to ask either of the two professors for a job – they asked me after I took their class or did other work for them.

Other students I know have been able to practice their skills in programming and web design working in Library, Technology, and Information Services, or journalism and marketing skills with the Career Development Center, which hires students to design promotional materials and write articles about internships that Mount Holyoke students have done.

Office jobs

This semester I’ll also be working at an office job, performing data entry for the Dining Services main office.

Competition for campus positions is often tough, but one of the most widespread types of jobs is working in an office.  Mount Holyoke is divided into more than 70 different offices, and they all need student workers to operate office equipment and answer the phones.  To apply for these and certain other types of jobs, Mount Holyoke has a central website where jobs are posted and students can submit their job applications.

These jobs aren’t always the most fun, but I do now know the menu of each dining hall on campus and what dining hall serves the most delicious food.

Easy jobs

One thing that you learn once you start working in campus jobs is that there is a lot of extra money to be made in small, easy jobs. You can do these tasks in addition to whatever other positions you might be working in.

I got my first easy job writing letters to Mount Holyoke alumnae by hand, thanking them for their donations. I loved this job because it was not only easy but also meaningful.

In my second year at Mount Holyoke, I was given a position as an econometrics tutor. Most, if not all, science and math departments at Mount Holyoke hire students as tutors for 100- and 200-level (beginning) courses. These jobs are not easy to get – tutors are usually highly qualified – and I was selected for this position after I had received an A in my 300-level Econometrics class. But they are often easy to do, because students don’t always come to see the tutor, which means you end up with time to read a book or do your own homework.

My third easy job, probably the easiest job of all, was as a note-taker for a student with a disability. In one of my classes, I simply photocopy my class notes and then leave them at Accessibility Services to be picked up by a student who can’t take their own notes.

Dirty jobs

Behind the scenes at a dining hall - a place few students get to see (Photo: David Toczek, Penn State University)

Behind the scenes at a dining hall – a place few students get to see (Photo: David Toczek, Penn State University)

With all the different campus jobs I’ve tried, there is one type of job I’ve never had to work at, and that’s cleaning up after other students.

Most freshmen have their first work-study job at Mount Holyoke in Dining Services. All first-year students on work-study are guaranteed a position working in the dining hall, and many freshmen end up earning their money this way.  Some of the responsibilities include putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher, swiping students’ ID cards at the entrance, and making sure the dining hall doesn’t run out of any dish.

Although this is hardly glamorous work, it’s not really difficult, and for new students it can even be a bonding experience.

Mount Holyoke also hires students to work as housekeepers in each dorm on campus. Students check that there are no illegal postings on the bulletin board and that none of the appliances are out of order, and also bring trash from bins in the dorm to a designated place in the basement.

Because I transferred to Mount Holyoke as a junior, I was able to avoid both of these jobs.  And, ultimately, the wage is almost the same for all jobs, whether they’re interesting, easy, or dirty (the difference is less than a dollar).  So doesn’t it make sense to look for a job you’ll enjoy and that will help you develop some skill?

4 Responses to “Getting the Most Out of Work-Study”

  1. vy says:

    In Vietnam, very few ,or I might say, no students get a campus job. The reason is because if the professor need an assistant, he will pay money for a person who has already obtained a degree, rather than a student.

  2. Paula says:

    Hi Anna,

    It makes total sense! I am already learning so much about your posts! They’ve been helping me to make up my mind about whether I want to go for a PhD after I finish this program or not.

  3. P says:

    It seems the author, since she came to MHC as a junior, is forgetting the importance of the job she clubs under dirty. Should one call dishwashing a dirty job? Isn’t that a strange thing to say? Working in dining halls, you not only get to make friends, you develop a camaraderie with fellow dish-washers, but you also feel a sense of pride. Done well, this job offers tremendous opportunity for personal growth: for making friends, for cracking jokes while doing dishes, for getting to know someone you ordinarily wouldn’t know, for team-work.

    In the best case scenario, dishwashing itself can be an act of meditation and calmness. I worked as a dishwasher. At times it was tiring, but on the whole it was a valuable experience. You also get the chance to interact with the cooks and other help staff in the kitchen. Some of the most meaningful friendships happen with staff on campus; some of the staff, much older than the students, are really friendly and always act in the most nurturing way with students. I felt privileged to be working in the kitchen with some of my fellow students. For a year, it’s not bad. And my recommendation is that in the first year— everyone be allowed and mandated to work in the kitchen. It’d be unfair to students on work study if NON-work study students apply for “glamorous” jobs in the first year, simply because they weren’t required to wash dishes.

  4. Anna Malinovskaya says:

    Thank you very much for this insight!

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