Federal work-study is a program that offers students flexible part-time jobs (usually on-campus) to help pay for college costs. When you complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you will be asked if you are interested in participating in work-study. Students often have questions about the work-study program, so we decided to ask our own StepUp to Higher Education work-study employees – Marcella and Max – about their experience.

Why did you choose to pursue a federal work-study job instead of finding more traditional work (such as a job at a private company)?

Maxwell:  I have worked both full-time and part-time in the private sector while in college but a work-study job in community outreach seemed more fun and flexible and I knew I would enjoy it more.

I enjoyed working in the private sector but the only problem was the flexibility with my school classes; work-study employers, on the other hand, can’t ask you to work hours that interfere with your class schedule.


I learned so much working in the private sector with business professionals, but when I switched to federal work-study, it was an opportunity for a different experience working with students and the community. I am able to help them with college problems, which also helps me with my college experience.


Marcella: For the last four years, I worked full-time as a personal banker for Wells Fargo and planned to continue working for them until I finished school. Unfortunately, as wonderful as my managers were with accommodating my school schedule, the classes I needed to graduate were not offered at times that would support working full-time or a strict part-time schedule. Over the summer, I experimented with the restaurant industry to see if I could make that schedule fit with school while also retaining my sanity. The late nights and constant activity drained me and did not leave me with energy left over to give to my classes, especially because the shifts in that industry are not set in stone either.

On a whim, I applied for the work-study job at StepUp, hoping that it would offer the flexibility I needed in order to finish my degree while also being reasonably close to campus.

I was attracted by the opportunity to help students navigate college and financial aid and help in whatever small way I could in making this progress smooth for others.


Work-study has offered a completely flexible schedule around my classes, lifting the weight and stress of rushing back and forth between work and school.I no longer panic as I throw my backpack in the car and switch my work high heels for sneakers so I can dash off to class on a long lunch. It has allowed me to organize my life and become more involved on my schools campus in student government and clubs. I am enjoying being a student and earning good grades for the first time in my 6 years of college. I no longer feel like I am bad at school because I didn’t have time to study and I will graduate in May with honors!

This interview is part 1 of our 4-part #WhyWorkStudy series. Visit stepuputah.com to read the whole series.


University of Utah student and StepUp federal work-study employee, Maxwell Ayeliya


University of Utah student and StepUp federal work-study employee, Marcella Sweet