Let’s get the most confusing thing out of the way first.

Work study does not mean a job where you get to study while you work.

Jon Goodwin, manager of student employment services, gets this question a lot.

Let him explain.

There are two types of jobs on campus, work study and general student assistance (GSA.)

The types of jobs are the same. The difference is where the money comes from to pay the students’ wages.

Students may qualify for a work study job based on financial need. First you need to file the FAFSA — the Free Application for Federal Student Aid that most students file in order to qualify for financial aid.

That filing will determine if a student qualifies for work study. The money work study students earn comes from a designated part of CMU’s budget.

A typical work study student is eligible to earn between $2,400 and $3,000 a year at their job, Goodwin says.

Students who don't qualify for work study jobs can get a general job on campus, called GSA. The jobs are the same, Goodwin says. “You often have GSA students and work study students working right next to each other,” he says.

Most of the students who work on campus are GSA, Goodwin says, with about a third on work study.

All types of jobs are available, Goodwin says, from clerical to food service to designing websites. CMU hires approximately 5,000 students per year as clerks, receptionists, cashiers, computer assistants, food-service workers, laboratory attendants, research aides, tutors and general laborers.

The average wage on campus, he says, is $7.80 an hour.

What if a student has no job experience? No sweat, Goodwin says.

“A lot of students come to campus without any work experience, and students and parents worry about that,” Goodwin says. “But it’s not a problem. Actually, many employers like the idea of being the student’s first employer. They don't have to untrain bad habits. So don't worry about that.”

Still, he says, prepare a resume. List the things you’re good at. Listening? Talking to people? Working on computers?

Visit http://ses.cmich.edu to check out job postings. There are 200 different departments on campus that may have a job.

The advantage to a job on campus as opposed to off campus?

  • Convenience. Your job will be within walking distance of your residence hall, Goodwin says. If you work in your dorm’s dining hall, you'll just have to walk downstairs.
  • Employers are willing to schedule your work hours around your class schedule.
  • If you’re enrolled as at least a half-time student, no FICA taxes will be taken from your paycheck, Goodwin says — that gives you $1 more per hour than an off-campus job.

Worried that your son or daughter’s grades will suffer if they have a job?

Goodwin tells of a study that showed students who worked 8 to 12 hours a week actually had higher grade point averages than students who didn't work.

“A job helps with time management skills and discipline,” Goodwin says. “It allows them to be in the mindset of accomplishing things.

“It helps them develop confidence,” he says. “You get experience you don't get in a classroom setting. You’ll be face to face with situations you’ll encounter after graduation — listening to people, talking to people, subtle communication skills. You learn give and take. It’s practical, real-world skills.”

There are emotional advantages, too, Goodwin says.

“In some cases, the workplace becomes a home away from home, in a way,” he says. “It’s a place where you can talk about your day. It takes the place of the family at the dinner table.

“It’s something of an oasis away from the push and shove of academic life and the grind of that.”

And, oh yeah — they earn money.

“They're not asking mom and dad for pizza money,” Goodwin says with a laugh. “Mom and dad appreciate that.”

Some things to know:

  • You will need your original Social Security card — no copies. “Many parents are reluctant to give the students their original card. They’re afraid they’ll lose it. But we can't accept a fax or a copy.”
  • Even if you’re awarded work study, students have to seek out the job themselves. Go to: http://ses.cmich.edu.
  • Don’t be afraid to approach a department you’d like to work in and ask about a job — even if they haven't posted one. Lots of departments assume they’ll get student workers this way and don't bother to post openings, Goodwin says.
  • “If a student walks in and asks for a job, that says something about that student,” Goodwin says. “They're self-motivated. They would probably be a good employee.”
    Ask for the person who hires student employees, Goodwin says. “Don’t assume the person at the front desk knows if they’re hiring.”
  • You may have to visit the department two or three times to get a job there.
    “As long as you don't hear ‘No,’ go back in a week,” Goodwin advises, “and ask again.”