Early Bird Gets the Worm

April 9, 2020

By Nicolle Rebolledo, communications intern for the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management (PRTM) at Clemson University, through the federal work study program.

This year, I was looking for a means to make money to cover my personal expenses as a student, as well as a job with flexible hours. Coming out of high school I had worked a few odd jobs here and there and even worked in a department store for over a year. Although I had some experience working, I was after some experience working alongside professionals that I could learn from.

Communications intern Nicolle Rebolledo.

Clemson PRTM communications intern Nicolle Rebolledo.

Every year the U.S department of education awards more than 150 billion dollars in grants, loans and work study funds to college students that show financial need based on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). What sets a work study job apart from federal grants and loans is that it’s earned through part time employment with a school. As an architecture major, I was conflicted with the idea of sustaining a job as well as being able to excel in a time consuming major, however, a plus to this form of aid is that you’ll never have to pay it back and the earnings you make are dependent on how many hours you choose to work.

The trick to getting a work study position is to apply as soon as possible, the earliest being October. The sooner the better because generally aid is given on a first come, first served basis. In this case, the early bird always gets the worm.

The experience I had under my sleeve along with some software skills I had developed on my own made me a worthy candidate for a work-study job. Being a work study has greatly benefited me in many more ways than just financially and I’d like to share my experience as one.

About a month away from joining the Clemson family; I began applying to as many work study jobs available in just about every department. From the art departments teaching assistant to working at the botanical gardens, I found an endless amount of possibilities and applied to each one with excitement. Shortly after a couple days of nail-biting anticipation, I got a call from a sweet lady I’d later get to call my boss, Karin Emmons, former media resource specialist (retired). She noticed my resume included that I had ample experience with programs like Photoshop and InDesign, among other programs, and this made me a glowing candidate for becoming a communications intern in the PRTM department. I was hired!

I was easily able to design a work schedule that didn’t interfere with my classes and gave me sufficient time to study and work in the studio. Working in PRTM, I’ve been introduced to a different world within Clemson.  I’ve met incredible people that have shown me the ins and outs of this department. From office tailgates to interviewing folks that work in the department, you’ll be sure to become a part of the PRTM quickly.

During my time working, I’ve had extremely beneficial experiences that have helped me outside of the office. I remember during my first semester, I was tasked with editing a video for the department’s EDGE program, yet I had never laid a finger on video editing software. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to receive one-on-one tutorials with Jan Lay, Clemson’s faculty training coordinator and instructor for Adobe Software. Not only did I gain knowledge and experience with video editing programs like Premiere Pro, but I also received tutorials to strengthen my Illustrator and Photoshop skills, among other programs.

“Work experience at any level while you’re in college is going to be a benefit,” says Megan FitzGibbon, manager of state scholarship programs at the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. “Especially if it’s related to your degree.”

Being able to add work-related experience is substantially beneficial to your personal resume and I’m currently using it on mine to apply for summer internships related to my career.

To anyone considering applying for a work study job, my two cents of advice would be to work on your time management skills. I can’t stress this enough! Being able to manage your time between working and studying is crucial to sustaining both. At first you may find it tedious learning what to prioritize but quickly it will become second nature.

Having a working study job isn’t meant to feel like a juggling act. Instead, they’re rewarding opportunities aimed for students​ looking to earn extra money while building a resume. It has been a rewarding experience that has​ allowed me to polish my professional skills, earn pocket money, and most importantly gain meaningful experiences as a Clemson Tiger!


If you’re interested in applying to work study jobs, go to the Michelin Career Center. There you can you search positions with Clemson (on or off campus) that are tailored to your preferences and goals. Not only do they connect students and employers, but they also offer career counseling, resume reviews, information workshops, and other valuable job searching advice.