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Working during the academic year is an effective way to meet financial need while reducing your overall borrowing. Under rules of the Law School and our primary accrediting agency, students are allowed to seek employment under the condition that they restrict their total employed hours to a maximum of 20 per week while school is in session. While many students find this to be an advantageous way to assist with financing the cost of education, entering students may want to consider to the demands of the first year curriculum when making an employment commitment prior to enrollment. As a general rule, expectations of earning more than $5,000 during the year are unrealistic unless you are employed as a teaching assistant through Harvard College. These positions typically pay higher rates than most other forms of employment normally available to law students. 

How Do Earnings Affect My Financial Aid Package?

Most term-time employment does not affect your financial aid package, and is simply extra money to be used as you see fit. Examples of jobs that are not counted towards your financial aid award include Research Assistant positions, teaching assistant positions, note takers, etc. If you are receiving free room and/or board as part of your compensation, however, federal regulations require this to be included as part of your financial aid package. Resident assistants in HLS dorms have an amount associated with the position, and this amount is added to the financial aid package. Freshman proctors and undergraduate resident tutor positions do not have a monetary value assessed to them, so we use the amount of the housing budget for the year as part of the financial aid package. If a student has a need-based grant from HLS, this grant will not be affected unless all of the expected contribution and borrowing has already been eliminated. Normally, the Financial Aid Officer will add the earnings to the package assuming the student wishes to replace an expected contribution first. Only in cases where the earnings exceed any expected contribution and/or cause total aid to exceed the standard student budget, will the Officer begin to reduce a portion of a students loan(s) to keep the overall package in compliance with budget regulations. The order of loan reduction will always begin with the least favorable loan first. Loan reductions will continue from least to most favorable loans until the total package is within the maximum allowable student budget. The only time HLS grant assistance will be affected is if all other options have been exhausted and the student’s aid is still over the maximum allowable student budget.

Note on reducing borrowing: Although we do not add most employment to your financial aid package and reduce your ability to borrow, we strongly encourage you to use your earnings to reduce your borrowing and remain within the standard student budget.

Common Types of Employment

In addition to regular paid hourly positions (on or off campus) other types of common employment include, but are not limited to:

  • Teaching Assistantships at Harvard College (Apply directly to Harvard College’s academic departments);
  • Research Assistantships with a member of the HLS Faculty (Positions are usually posted in the administrative updates);
  • Residential Proctor- or Tutorships at Harvard College which result in free living expenses (Apply directly to either the Freshman Dean’s Office of Harvard College or to one of Harvard College’s Undergraduate Upper-class Houses);
  • Resident Assistantships in a HLS dormitory that result in a student bill credit (Application process coordinated by the Dean of Students Office of HLS).

Federal Work-Study Program (FWSP)

Please note: Federal Work-Study funding for the academic year is generally NOT available. Harvard Law School’s FWS allowance is used to support the Summer Public Interest Funding program.

Students who qualify for the federal subsidized direct loan may also qualify for federal work-study funding. The federal government, through the FWSP covers up to 70% of on-campus earnings or between 50-100% of off-campus earnings, depending on the nature of the employment. Qualified on-campus employers are all those having access to the Harvard University casual payroll with the following exception: students serving as an assistant to an individual professor for a project outside of this professor’s official duties or in times while the professor is on a field trip abroad cannot receive work-study funding for such work. Qualified off-campus employers include all federal, state or local government agencies and all non-profit organizations located within the U.S. Privately owned, for-profit companies typically do not qualify unless the work to be performed by the student is directly related to one’s career goals. In addition, the private company must document an inability to hire the student without the FWSP subsidy. Work-study hourly rates are governed by federal regulations and change yearly. Students interested in seeking work-study funding during the academic year should contact Student Financial Services regarding the availability of funds.