By Murray J. Miller
Although college costs continue to skyrocket in the face of our economic woes, proactive – even affluent - families will pay less than “sticker price” because they learned how the financial aid system really works. Here are seven facts that could help you pay “wholesale” for college:
1. Some Colleges Have More to Give Than Others.
Although most schools use the same financial aid formulas, they differ significantly in how much they award in grants, scholarships and other financial aid. Example: the older, prestigious colleges – Ivies and other private universities– offer significant amounts of aid thanks to their large endowments. Public universities offer very little financial aid as they rarely have endowment money worth mentioning.
2. High Sticker Price Colleges Can Cost Less Than “Cheaper” State Schools.
One year at a state university can run around $20,000-35,000 (tuition, fees, room and board, etc.). A private college can cost more than $55,000. But frequently, the more expensive college is cheaper! How? Private colleges and universities use their endowments to meet 90%, 95% or more of financial need. State colleges meet roughly 50-65%.
3. “Forgotten Middle Class” Families Receive Generous Grants, Scholarships and other Financial Aid.
Recently, colleges and universities have publicly courted upper middle class families – regularly awarding five figure sums to parents with six figure incomes. DO NOT pass on filling out the financial aid paperwork if you think you won’t qualify. One study showed that 53% of eligible families did not bother applying – leaving millions on the table.
4. Grades Have Little To Do With Financial Aid Awards.
Many parents assume that their child must have good grades to qualify for grants and scholarships. This is inaccurate. Most colleges award a majority of their grants based on financial need, not merit. Merit scholarships comprise less than 2% of the total “pot.” Although it’s fun to talk about merit scholarships around the office water cooler, the big money - more than 98% - is in the need-based financial aid system.
5. Two Families Can Have the Same Amount Saved - But One Will Receive Far More Financial Aid Because of Where They Saved.
An examination of the financial aid formulas reveals that some assets count against you more than others. And some don’t count against you at all. In general, money saved in a student’s name will penalize you more than money held in a parent’s name – strange but true. You could be better off shifting assets out of your student’s name, perhaps into an asset class that’s entirely exempt (such as retirement accounts, insurance, some annuities and some business assets).
6. Graduation Rates Differ – More Than You Realize.
Unfortunately, the odds are stacked heavily against getting in and out of college in four years. Take a look at the four-year graduation percentages at your local state university (www.collegeresults.org is a good site). You’ll likely see that about 50% of full-time undergraduate students get out in four years! Why? The answer may surprise you - it’s because kids can’t get classes they need to graduate – not because they’re “slackers”. Private colleges do a better job at getting kids through school in four years – a typical four year rate is 85% or higher at most prestigious private schools.
7. The Financial Aid Office may not be your Best Resource ….
Most people don’t understand why you’ve got a better shot of seeing Paris Hilton inducted into MENSA than getting meaningful help financial aid office. The reason you won’t is related to the nature of higher educational institutions themselves – they are BUSINESSES. I’ll wait for you to recover…yes, I know that they’re ivory-towered, institutions of higher learning. However, they have bills to pay –six figure salaries to pay to most University Presidents, upgrades to their facilities, high wages to pay to tenured professors. So the university had bills to pay and it maximize its income which can limit your chances for Free money. That’s why asking an employee of that institution may be like calling the IRS and demanding that they reveal all their latest loopholes so you can pay less in taxes!
Murray Miller is a financial educator devoted the college planning space for over a decade. Murray is the President and CEO of the College Resource Center, LLC. You may contact him by emailing email@example.com or by calling 800-863-9440. For more information, including a schedule of free college workshops, visit www.SmartTrackToolkit.com.
About Smart Track™ Toolkit: The toolkit is a web based service that assists families with everything from admissions and test prep, to student athletics and financial aid. Our intuitive software and on-demand workshops are key components to making sure students find their top choice colleges, and families can afford to send them there.
By Suzanne Shaffer
If you have college students at home during winter break, your house has the potential to become a war zone. Why? Your student has spent some time away from home and tends to believe they are the “head chief in charge” of their life. Parents still believe they are in charge and “when you’re in MY house you follow MY rules!” But your child's first college winter break home doesn't have to lead to non-stop drama.
Here are a few tips to help keep the peace and assure a peaceful winter break:
Set some boundaries.
When my daughter came home after her first semester of college, she didn’t see any problem with staying out all night with her friends. You can’t expect your college student to adhere to a midnight curfew or check in with you about their every move; but you can expect them to have some respect for you and some consideration for your rules. Have an open conversation with them when they arrive home and set some boundaries that you are both comfortable with during the break.
Embrace their independent status.
Let’s face it—they see themselves as independent adults. You see them as children. Somewhere in between you should be able to find a compromise. It might surprise you just how much they want to revert to being a child and how much you want them to act like an adult. Independence doesn’t mean they have the right to do whatever they want when they want it. You can’t, however, follow them around expecting them to be at your beckon call and expect them to provide you with every little detail of their lives.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Take a deep breath and ignore their new sleep schedule, their clothing choices, their newfound facial hair or piercings and their constant texting back and forth with their college friends. The little things that annoy you aren’t worth destroying your holiday spirit or causing strife during the few weeks they are at home. It won’t be long before they head back to college and you’ll be missing them again. The small stuff isn’t worth the sweat.
Don’t forget it’s “their” winter break.
The hardest part about parenting a college student is realizing that when they come home they have an agenda (and it’s not necessarily the same agenda you have planned). They most likely have three items on their list: sleep, catch up with friends, and eat. Don’t get your feelings hurt if they don’t want to spend every waking moment with you, attend all family meals, or go on family outings. They need some down time to de-stress and unwind. Give them the freedom to do that and you will be surprised when they actually WANT to spend time with you.
Forget the 20 questions.
The last thing your college student wants to do when they come home for break is answer 20 questions. Prying and prodding won’t get you any answers and trust me; there could be some things you might not want to know! It was my experience that I found out more during casual conversation than I ever did asking questions. Let your college student talk and you do the listening. They want to share; they just don’t want to be treated like they are in a police interrogation room.
Parenting a college student on its best day is difficult, on its worst day you will be tempted to scream and pull your hair out. My best advice comes from a very wise woman (my mother): this too shall pass. Remember this simple saying and your winter break will be filled with stress-free family time and when it’s over everyone will be speaking!
Suzanne Shaffer counsels parents in the college admissions process and the importance of early college preparation. Her Parents Countdown to College Coach blog offers timely college tips for parents and provides parents with the resources necessary to help their college-bound teens navigate the college maze and survive the college years. You can connect with Suzanne on Student Advisor, on Twitter @SuzanneShaffer or on Facebook.
By Carol Barash, PhD
It’s a horrible feeling – you go online to check your admissions status from your top choice college and the news is... Deferred?! Here’s the thing: however ugly it feels, you were not “rejected” – you just didn’t get in to that school yet – and the admissions game is far from over.
What can you do – what should you do – when this happens? Here are 5 strategies to make sure your applications are on track for a stack of admissions this spring:
1. Clear out negative thoughts.
Whatever you are saying to yourself about why you didn’t get in – plus all that competitive stuff about your friends who did – let it go! Clear out the ugly, and refocus on the unique strengths and dreams you bring to colleges. You are the same person, potentially stronger. This is where leaders dig in and make things happen.
2. Take an honest look at your list.
Is your list balanced? Are there schools that are Likely along with your Reaches? Have you taken every school on your list seriously? Try not to read too much into being deferred. Just make sure that your stretch schools are balanced with some schools where you are likely to get in.
3. Talk honestly with your guidance counselor.
Ask them to help you create a balanced list, including places where they can advocate for you. Talk about your fall grades: if they are strong, that’s great; if not, what does that mean for your overall college process? Let your guidance counselor know that you remain committed to your best college performance.
4. Add new information.
What’s happened since the November Early deadline? Wrote an original research paper? Perhaps the teacher will write you a recommendation. Ran you best time ever in states? Ask your coach to let colleges know. Published a blog that got raves on your favorite web site? Send a link. You don’t want to overdo this, but it’s fine to add solid achievements to your app in January.
4. Raise the stakes.
When you are deferred, you can feel powerless and like colleges are in charge. But it’s really not so! Stick with your challenging courses. Continue to take on leadership and service. Do something each day that makes a difference in your school or community. And ask your guidance counselor to let colleges know about your ongoing commitments.
5. Make a connection.
Dig deep on the web sites of all the schools on your list. Which courses excite you? Read the professors’ publications. Which majors and activities fit with your strengths? It’s time to pull out the cards of those Admissions officers who visited your school and write emails – or personal notes – to remind them of your specific interest and fit for their school.
Most of all remember to be humble and honest. College admissions officers want to advocate for you – use these 5 strategies to give them what they need to do that successfully.
By Sam Coren
In case you weren't aware, StudentAdvisor has caught the gift-giving bug! Did you know until December 31st you could be one of two lucky people to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card every week? Just take a minute to review your college for a chance to win! That being said, it's high time we announced our Week 3 winners. Ready to find out which college reviews won?
Read the winning college reviews below:
It's a liberal arts environment, which means flexible graduation requirements that allow you to explore and graduate with a well-rounded view of the world and problem solving. The atmosphere also encourages you to interact on a daily basis with people of all different backgrounds and majors. I took writing classes with biochem majors and sociology classes with communications majors. I met students from Asia and Africa and Europe. You're constantly exposed to different ideas and different ways of looking at things.
The course request system makes it hard to get into the classes you want and the classes you need. You have to learn how to work the system and talk professors into letting you in to their classes. Greencastle is also not a traditional college town with lots to do, but recent grant money from the state of Indiana is going toward improving the community.
Read Sarah E.'s full DePauw Univeresity review.
The community atmosphere at Villanova is a pretty big deal. The university prides itself on giving back to the community. Villanova has a "Day of Service" every year, where thousands of students and faculty do community service projects in Philadelphia. The university also organizes a large, student-run Special Olympics festival every year. It's also a tradition for students to travel abroad or around the US during breaks to do service or Habitat for Humanity.
I didn't think the social life at Villanova was that great. One of the most frustrating things about Villanova is that there is no "college town" around the university. As I mentioned above, the school is in a very wealthy area, and it's impossible for frat houses or off-campus student housing to coexist close to the university. Frat houses and off-campus student housing still exist, but their distance away from the university makes them a major hassle to get to if you don't have a car (which you won't until your junior year) or a ride.Would I do it again?
Read John's full Villanova University review.
By Sam Coren
According to a new survey released by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) the hiring climate for new MBA grads is looking quite optimistic. 74% of employers at the 216 companies polled are expecting to make at least one MBA hire in 2012; up from 58% from last year's survey.
Perhaps you've been considering an MBA, but aren't sure where to start. Well, you're in luck! Whether you're a soon-to-be college grad or graduated years ago, you don't want to miss The Economist's "Which MBA?" Online Fair happening February 6th and 7th. Registration is free and attendees can join the fair from the convenience of their own computers any time during the two day period.
At the "Which MBA?" Online Fair prospective MBA students can connect with dozens of business schools including Darden, University of Miami, TiasNimbas, Babson and more, all in one place. Like a traditional MBA fair, candidates can meet business school representatives, gather information and compare programs.
Here's what else you can expect at The Economist’s "Which MBA?" Online Fair:
Business school “virtual booths”
Easily browse dozens of business schools by clicking on their “virtual booths” at the fair. In each exhibiting school’s booth you will find these three different areas:
• Reception: At the reception area you can read the school’s profile and download brochures and other key pieces of information. You can also visit the school’s website, join its social networks and read testimonials.
• Chat room: Talk with admissions officers, alumni, professors and current students in a group or one-on-one discussion. Be sure to check the schedule once you log in to make sure you don't miss out.
• Multimedia: Take a virtual campus tour! Get a better idea of what the school looks and feels like in the multimedia area. View videos, browse photos and more.
Want an inside look at specific programs and the MBA experience? Join the live, interactive webinars hosted by MBA admissions officers, deans, professors and Economist editors. Attendees will have the opportunity to type in questions to be answered live by webinar hosts.
Live global sessions:
You can visit the fair at any time on February 6th and 7th at your convenience. However to get the most out of the fair, it’s best to log in during one of the live sessions when the exhibiting business schools will be online and ready to meet you:
• February 6th: 7:00 AM to 10:00 AM EST
• February 6th: 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM EST
• February 7th: 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM EST
• February 7th: 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM EST
• Share your resume: Don't forget to update your resume before the fair! You can submit your resume after logging in where it will be visible to all business school representatives at the fair.
• Get matched to schools with the compatibility profile: Not sure which schools you should be looking at? Get matched to the schools that fit your preferences! Simply answer a few questions to find the exhibiting schools that match your needs.
• Access additional resources: Visit the Information Desk to access a list of MBA resources such as scholarship organizations, admissions and test prep consultants, MBA blogs and more.
By Sam Coren
Brad Wilson, founder of the coupon site Brad's Deals, is on a mission to give back to current and future college students who recognize the value of a dollar. Ten years ago Brad was a financially strapped college student who turned to the Internet to find savings on the things he needed for school.
That's why Brad's Deals is pleased to announce the first annual Shop Smart Scholarship Competition. To recognize, encourage and reward students whose college experience is enabled by remarkable frugality, ingenuity, effort and thrift, Brad's Deals will be awarding $10,000 in scholarships. Five finalists will receive a $2,000 scholarship for the 2012-2013 school year.
Want to know how you could win one of the $2,000 scholarships? Read the details below:
To be eligible for scholarship consideration applicants must:
- Be a high school senior or undergraduate college student
- Be a current US Citizen or permanent resident
- Show proof of current enrollment
- Have a 2.0 minimum GPA
How to Apply
1. Write a 500 word essay explaining how your college experience is or will be enabled by remarkable frugality, ingenuity, effort or thrift.
Applicants are encouraged to discuss topics such as:
- student loans
- other scholarships and grants
- personal savings
- working full or part time while in school
- any other creative or remarkable approach to paying for college or saving money as a student
2. Break down your all-in educational costs (tuition, room, board, other) and how they are or will be paid.
Note: given the "shop smart" theme, there is a bias against both high annual tuition costs and student loans.
Essays will be judged on the creativity of the money saving strategies described, along with the overall remarkableness of the author’s experience paying for school in the spirit of thrift.
Apply by June 1st, 2012. To view the full scholarship contest rules and submit your application visit www.bradsdeals.com/scholarship.
By Dean Tsouvalas
So you left your college applications to the last minute, eh? While you may be scrambling or at a loss for what you should be doing - you still have the opportunity to get into a great college! Despite many general and priority application deadlines coming up around the corner for several US colleges - there's still time left for you procrastinators to get it together!
But just because time isn't on your side doesn't give you an excuse to put together a sloppy application. Here are StudentAdvisor's 9 secrets for "last-minute" college applicants:
1. Use an appropriate e-mail address.
Most communication with potential colleges is done via email. Would you want admissions officers to contact you at firstname.lastname@example.org?
The admissions decision process begins before you even apply. An email account like that just begs the admissions officer to Google you or worse - not consider you a serious applicant.
2. Clean up your social media presence BEFORE submitting your applications.
Several social media savvy colleges are out there engaging with students on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. It’s a great idea to “Like” them or “Follow” them if you’re interested, but once they get that notification, they may peruse your posts or photos.
3. DON’T let your parents “help” fill out your applications.
Believe it or not parents, admissions can tell when who actually wrote the student essay or application. While some parents might want to "come to your rescue" in helping you beat the time crunch and make the application deadline, it's best that they stay on the sideline until it's time to get someone to proofread your app.
4. Use the Universal College Application or Common App to save time!
Thanks to the Universal College Application and Common App it's easy to apply to multiple schools at once. If you're applying to more than one school that accepts either it will save you a lot of time filling out forms. Although the Universal College Application and Common are thought to be “one-size-fits-all” tools, don’t be fooled.
Today, many schools have supplemental questions and they are your chance to give specific reasons for wanting to attend that school and show how you’ve engaged with it. 25% of students apply to over 7 schools and in 2010 almost 2.5 million applications were submitted via the Common App Online. In the 2011 State of College Admissions Report (survey of incoming class of 2011 from admissions staff), your “Direct Intent” to attend school is as valuable as your class rank. Show your direct interest in the school by incorporating that you’ve visited the campus, talked with current students or faculty members.
5. Don't forget about sending your test scores!
When you're chomping at the bit to write the perfect essay and get your recommendations in it's easy to forget about those standardized test scores. Don't forget to send your SAT or ACT results to each school you're applying to - it's a good idea to send them right after you submit your application.
6. Empower your references – Choose Wisely!
It's never fun to ask someone to write a letter of recommendation at the last minute. Since you're not giving your letter writers much lead time it may be a good idea to give them an outline of some accomplishments and challenges you've met that they can use as a reference. Not only will this help with their turnaround time, but it may also make up for the fact that you're asking the late in the game. And don't forget to thank them when you're done your applications!
7. Take your time to write a great college essay.
It may say “optional” but it really means mandatory, especially in such a competitive time for college applicants. Sometimes the essay makes all the difference between “accepted” and “rejected”.
8. Talk like the colleges talk.
It’s essential that you gain insight about the schools that you are interested in by regularly checking their social media before, during and after you submit your applications. You should know what the hot button issues are at each school from their Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts.
9. Have someone else proofread your application.
Sometimes it's tough to catch your own mistakes. Have a fresh set of eyes that you trust review your application for spelling or grammatical errors. For your essays don't forget to check and see if you actually answered the prompt. When you're rushing to complete your applications it's quite easy to get off topic without noticing!
By Megan Kenslea
Every week StudentAdvisor compiles the top stories in college news. Here are some of the biggest stories that made the headlines this week:
UC Berkeley to offer more financial aid for middle class students.
UC Berkeley officials announced plans this week to extend financial aid to students from households earning between $80,000 to $140,000 a year. One of the first public universities to offer financial assistance to a largely ignored population, Berkeley officials said the program hopes to bring students back to the school. "As a public institution, we feel strongly that we need to sustain and expand access across the socioeconomic spectrum," UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said in a statement Wednesday. "This plan is part of our commitment to ensuring that financial challenges do not prevent qualified students from attending one of the preeminent public universities in the nation."
Microsoft's so.cl network launches for college students.
Microsoft this week launched so.cl, a new social network for college students who study social media. An "experimental" social media service, so.cl will not be a competitor to Facebook, but rather serve as a complementary service meant to enhance students social media experience. Right now, the service is only available for students at the University of Washington, Syracuse University, and New York University. According to a Microsoft Research post, the mission of the service is for students “to extend their educational experience and rethink how they learn and communicate.”
Universities offer programs for students with disabilities
In the past, for some students with intellectual disabilities attending college has seemed like an impossibility. However, schools across the country have begun to create programs to give these students the opportunity to go to college. Programs like Vanderbilt University's "Next Steps" allow students with intellectual disabilities to take classes, live in apartments, and interact with students without cognitive disabilities. "Our goals with these programs are not unlike any other program or that of any other parent," said Donald Bailey, Sr., who formed a nonprofit, College Transition Connection, to create college opportunities for such students in South Carolina. "We wanted him to have the educational experience in college, be independent, [find] gainful employment."
Tufts students stage"Excessively overdressed Quad Stroll"
Once known for its "Naked Quad Run," Tufts University students have a new tradition to boast about: the "Excessively Overdressed Quad Stroll." Until last year, students celebrated the last day of classes each December by running naked through the residential quad. But last year, University officials banned the tradition, which dates to the 1970s, citing excessive alcohol-related incidents. So students this year did the opposite - overdressed to the nines, they strolled leisurely though the quad to celebrate the end of the year. "If this catches on, it will be a fine tradition," said Bruce Reitman, the Tufts dean of student affairs.
(Thanks to Matthew D. for suggesting this story!)
Have a college news story that you think should be featured on This Week in College News? Send suggestions to content[at]studentadvisor.com.
We hope you are as inspired as we are by the story of Iowa State University Graduating Senior, Kevin Neff. - Dean Tsouvalas, StudentAdvisor.com
When Kevin Neff stands at the lectern in his cap and gown Friday, he'll speak to his fellow College of Business graduates at Iowa State University with a new voice.
They'll recognize Neff. He was the guy who greeted them at the front desk of the student services office with a dry erase board or a talking computer. They'd speak really loud so he could hear their questions. And he'd write back: "I can hear. I just can't speak."
For three-and-a-half years, Neff had no voice. And while some would say his vocal cords were silenced by a freak of nature and cured by a fluke of healing, Neff believes it all happened for a purpose. Because the voice he speaks with today is stronger, clearer and mellower than ever.
"I am not the same person I was four years ago," Neff said. "I honestly believe that this time without a voice was for a reason."
No voice, no answers
Neff graduated from an Illinois high school in 1986, attended Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, for 18 months and moved up the ranks of the building materials industry to management. With the onset of the housing market collapse in 2006, he became a licensed financial advisor. In 2007, Neff and his wife and two sons moved from Indiana to central Iowa where he went to work for Edward Jones.
Just after Halloween, Neff met one of his first clients in her home. Although she was recovering from a virus, family members were still sick. Neff caught the virus. And, because he's asthmatic, it affected his lungs. The muscles in his neck tensed up. His voice grew steadily weaker.
By Thanksgiving, he could only "whisper-talk." The doctor assured Neff his voice would return when the virus passed.
It did not.
Neff saw an ear, nose and throat specialist. The doctor found no medical reason to explain why Neff's voice box did not move correctly -- no tumors, no polyps, nothing physical. He called it functional dysphonia -- a condition in which the muscles controlling the vocal cords tighten and lock. A cure remained elusive. He sent Neff to a speech therapist.
After a few weeks of speech therapy, Neff still couldn't talk. He saw specialists at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. Same tests, same diagnosis. No answers.
"On the drive back from Iowa City, my wife and I realized that this could be permanent," he said.
No job, no degree
Although Neff tried to work -- using a laptop voice program like Stephen Hawking’s -- he grew increasingly discouraged. In June 2008, Edward Jones terminated him. For eight agonizing months, Neff had been without a voice. Now he was without a livelihood.
Although his resume was bursting with career success, Neff struggled in his job hunt. By September, he was in a deep depression.
“I knew I needed a change,” Neff said.
During an Iowa Workforce Development vocational rehabilitation workshop, Neff learned about a tuition-assistance program for full-time enrollment in state schools. In December 2008, he was approved for the program and accepted by Iowa State.
New friends, new opportunities
During his early semesters as a finance major, Neff relied on paper tablets and dry erase boards to communicate. He found the faculty and staff extremely supportive and accommodating.
"Without the people in the college and ISU's Student Disability Resources office, I would be right back where I started," Neff said. "They encouraged me, gave me opportunities to succeed and were always ready to help."
One opportunity came as a rather surprising campus job for fall 2009. Neff was hired to be the “first point of contact” in the college’s student services office — where undergraduates go with questions about everything from academic requirements to financial aid.
“I knew I would need to get comfortable with people face to face and learn how to communicate. And that was the prime place to do it,” Neff said. “The student services staff was fantastic and very patient with me.”
Neff regularly sought better technology to help him interface with the world. A new iPad with “Speak It” program spoke words he typed. It used a voice he chose to be his permanent vocal identity. And it worked with PowerPoint, so Neff could give class presentations.
By the end of spring semester 2011, Neff had been without a voice for three-and-a-half years. As he was about to begin an administrative assistant internship with the Iowa National Guard, he opened a friend's email.
“I'll never forget the day – May 16 – I got the email about a doctor in Cleveland who helped a woman with a problem like mine,” Neff said. “I contacted the doctor, got an appointment and drove there.”
The appointment with Dr. Claudio Milstein at the Cleveland Clinic’s Head and Neck Institute had happened so fast that Neff "didn’t know what to think about this doctor." But photographs in the waiting room told him he was in the right place.
“There was Madonna, Wayne Newton, American Idol singers and other celebrities, so I thought, ‘Maybe he is the real deal,’” Neff said.
"I might be able to help you," Milstein said, following an initial examination.
Milstein used deep tissue massage on Neff's temples, throat and neck. Through singers' warm-up exercises, Neff gargled and tried to make the "m" sound.
"Within 15 to 30 minutes, I combined letters and started to make sounds like "me" -- something I hadn't done in three-and-a-half years," Neff said.
"By that point, I was crying, because I knew I'd be able to talk again," he said.
Milstein pulled Neff's voice box down ("uncomfortable but not painful"), then moved and massaged it. Neff spoke combinations of letters. He said his A-B-Cs and counted to 10. His voice was weak. But he had a voice.
After an hour, Milstein instructed Neff to go to the window of the 7th floor office and yell at a passerby. Within minutes, Neff was yelling loudly. His voice was nearly normal.
Armed only with vocal exercises and assurances that the condition would not return, Neff headed home. Talking all the way.
When Neff speaks to the College of Business graduates, he'll tell them to expect change and keep priorities straight. Being mute has been humbling. He's gone from a comfortable life to living on the edge. He's had to ask for help. He's had to listen. He's had to find a way to make it work. He's had to stop being afraid.
"During my time at Iowa State, I've realized that everything is possible, even with a disability. You cannot give up. It's just a matter of finding the right people to support you and encourage you. To give you opportunities," he said.
This fall Neff, who graduates summa cum laude, heads to graduate school. He's looking for the best career fit for "who he is now."
"Now I look at people with disabilities differently. And now that I have a voice, I want to do what I can to advocate for them," he said.
"I want to do as much as I can to help others get back on their feet, and give them the best opportunities possible," Neff said.
"Because I know how low I was. I felt lost. I got lucky."
By Megan Kenslea
As tuition costs climb, more students have to look for financial assistance to fund their education. It seems that while many students understand the process of getting into college, very few have much guidance on how to pay for it.
In fact one of the most common questions that gets asked on StudentAdvisor is, "How do I get a grant to pay for school?" And always the answer is, "Fill out the FAFSA!"
What is the FAFSA?
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step you must take toward getting financial aid such as grants, federal loans, federal work study, and need-based scholarships. The colleges you apply to will use the report sent to them from FAFSA to determine what aid you qualify for in order to put together your financial aid package. It's important to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible - colleges have a limited amount of federal aid and need-based scholarship money to award and it's often done on a first come first serve basis. Be sure to note that there are a few different deadlines for FAFSA: federal, state, and the individual colleges'. Also, you must complete the FAFSA again for each year you will remain in college to re-qualify for aid.
But filling out the FAFSA isn't so straightforward - in fact for a lot of people it can be downright confusing. Check out Michael Szarek's 22 FAFSA tips and you'll immediately see why. And before you fill it out, be sure to read over StudentAdvisor's treasure trove of financial aid resources to make sure you understand the application process and the implications of accepting certain forms of financial aid.
Take a look at some of the Financial Aid advice available on StudentAdvisor. You might even want to bookmark this page for future reference!
By Sam Coren
Every week until December 31st StudentAdvisor is awarding $50 Amazon Gift Cards to two lucky people. Want in on the fun? All you have to do is review your college for a chance to win! Ready to find out which college reviews won $50 Amazon Gift Cards from StudentAdvisor for Week 2?
Read the winning college reviews below:
Green Mountain College
Friendly community within the college and in the surrounding town. Attractive campus in a lovely natural setting. Small class sizes. Teachers genuinely care about you! Easy to get involved in sports and clubs. Very affordable if you receive financial aid, financial aid office works hard to make sure you can pay.
Seems like the only things people do for fun are "party". There's not a lot to do locally, but if you get in with people who are from the area, you get to find a lot of cool things to do. Facilities/resources for academics are not update and/or lacking in important areas.
Would I do it again?
Yes, I love it, it's great and I have had wonderful experiences. I feel like I am becoming a better person, I have experienced a lot of growth and am proud of my education so far.
Read Alexandra's full Green Mountain College review.
Boston College is an exceptional school. The academics are enriching and challenging and I feel very proud to say that I am an alum. In addition, it is in the perfect location. It's not right in the city, but just outside the city. The Chestnut Hill campus provides a safe feel and you are just minutes by T, bus, or car from the city. The social scene is great and the campus is simply beautiful.
I was put off campus my junior year - BC did not help me find housing - although it came to be my favorite year at BC. Living in an apartment as opposed to a dorm was great and I truly enjoyed it (besides the fact that the T passed by my window about every 20 minutes and having to deal with finding street parking!). One other thing was that, while there is a lot of diversity on the campus, there is a stereotypical BC student that you can't quite get away from... wealthy, Caucasian, preppy students who are a little stuck up. Mind you, this isn't every student and I found a lot of students more similar to me who I still keep in touch with.
Would I do it again?
Yes, absolutely. Overall, I sincerely enjoyed my experience at Boston College and my degree from Boston College is something that will be with me forever.
Read the rest of Laura's Boston College review.
By Sam Coren
While you're painstakingly figuring out how to pull a successful all nighter to finish those end of the semester projects and studying for exams there's one thing you're forgetting, aren't you? The holidays! Alright, so you didn't just procrastinate about finals and you haven't even given two seconds of thought to getting your family holiday presents. Time to suck it up and figure out a game plan with what little time you have left before Winter Break.
Even if you don't necessarily celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, you can't help but feel obligated to get your family something that says "thanks for your support!" But if you're like most college students you're left with one giant obstacle: an empty wallet.
So how can you get something nice for your folks without sending yourself into deeper debt? Check out some of these holiday gift suggestions that won't break the bank:
1. Everyone's Got to Eat! Make Them Dinner.
Want to make your parents super happy over Winter Break? Just ask them, "What do you want for dinner?" instead of "What's for dinner?" There are tons of great recipes on various food blogs and websites. Go ahead - raid your parents fridge and whip up some home cooking with an extra dash of love for the holidays! They'll be proud. Bonus points for throwing out the bad left overs and old milk.
But what if you're a cooking newbie and don't want to risk ruining everyone's appetite with a burnt roast? One of the best ways to prevent cooking disasters is to keep it simple - so no need to crack open the Joy of Cooking unless you're feeling ambitious. If there's a family recipe lying around feel free to give it a shot. Do some homework on basic food safety and cooking techniques first! It's good for you to learn them anyway, and there's no time like the present.
2. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Scrap Books and Photo Digitalization
One of the saddest truths about the dominance of digital photography is that it's making people forget about grandma's favorite pastime: scrapbooking. Got young siblings or cousins? Chances are if you have siblings or cousins under the age of ten most of their photographs are digital. Fortunately getting prints made of digital photos can be done for cheap at just about any drug store (or even at home!). Show your relatives you care by organizing their precious memories in a physical album. Not only will this gift have major coffee table staying power for decades to come, but it's something your family will no doubt appreciate the time and effort you put into it.
What if your family already has tons of photo albums and scrap books lying around collecting dust? Well you can just pull a reverse! You can spend some time scanning them to create digital versions so you can organize your family's photo collections. If you want extra brownie points you could set up some online photo albums or put together a fun slide show to share the memories.
3. Become the Event Planner!
One of the big reasons why families get so stressed over the holidays is all the event planning. Coodinating with slews of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends can be overwhelming. Tell your folks that you'll take care of it and you'll be their ultimate holiday hero.
Even if your family is small, you can still plan all the various family events over the holidays: Yankee Swaps, movie outings, a trip to volunteer at a homeless shelter, decorating, playing games, caroling etc. Think of things that are fun for your family to do together that will maximize the fun and minimize the drama - they'll all thank you for that big time.
By Megan Kenslea
Every week StudentAdvisor compiles the top stories in college news. Here are some of the biggest stories that made the headlines this week:
State universities defend illegal immigrant rights to attend schools
Officials at the University of Georgia voted overwhelmingly this week to oppose a state policy
that bans undocumented students from attending state universities. Last year, the state passed a law that would ban undocumented students from attending state universities if it would take spots away from legal state residents. “(The policy) tarnishes the state’s and the (University System of Georgia’s) national reputations by setting us apart from the inclusive practices of our peer and aspiring institutions, thus making it more difficult to recruit and retain faculty and students,” the resolution passed by the governming board said.
Two dead in Virginia Tech shooting
A police officer and another man are dead after a shooting at Virginia Tech yesterday. In a seemingly random attack, a man shot a police officer in a parking lot on campus before turning the gun on himself. Police said the gunman was not a student at the school, although they have not released any more information about it. Despite the horror of the attack, which comes nearly five years after the Virginia Tech Massacre, the school is being praised for it's quick alerts to students via email and texts.
University president cancels classes for gun-toting protestors
Students at Plymouth State University today did not need to go to class today, the school president announced yesterday. After the school passed a ban on weapons on campus, gun-toting activists announced they planned to protest - with loaded guns - on campus. University President Sara Jayne Steen told students in an email that there would be no penalties for missing lcass if they feared for their safety. Steen said she was unsure that a court order obtained by the university would hold the protestors off.
By Stephanie Miceli
Once upon a time, when students received the big envelope from their dream college, they called their friends. Now, students rely on social networks to break the news. All of a sudden, your feeds are flooding with acceptance posts. Not only does social media make it faster to share good news, it makes it easier to act in ways you wouldn’t in “real-life.”
While it’s natural to want to join in on exciting college acceptance conversations, it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of a student who is still waiting for decision letters, or perhaps turned down from his top school. Here are some tips in how you can celebrate- with others’ feelings in mind:
The Do's of Posting Your College Acceptance on Facebook
Do join Facebook groups for admitted students.
This is an appropriate place to share your excitement without the risk of causing jealousy- and a great way to connect with current students and learn if the school really is for you.
Do consider holding off on posting which college you’re going to until you have officially confirmed you are going.
Several things could happen between getting your acceptance packet and May 1- your financial situation could change, or if the college could rescind its offer if your grades drop. Such scenarios are embarrassing to explain- much like going from “In a Relationship” to “Single.”
Do show your support for fellow classmates if they choose to announce their acceptances.
The positivity will come back to you when you have your turn in the spotlight!
Do feel free to share your acceptance news in a more general sense.
For example, it's totally cool to post, “I got my first acceptance letter!”), rather than, “I got accepted to (x) college!” until you’ve settled all final details.
Do consider starting a mini- social media detox if the acceptance posts are just making you more stressed.
Besides, you’ve put so much time into your applications, and should reward yourself with some “you” time!
The Don'ts of Posting Your College Acceptance on Facebook
Don’t let the application process strain your friendships (on Facebook and in real life).
Some schools offer a great amount of transparency into the college application process-allowing students to view each other’s grades and class rankings, and listing where its students are attending college. This sometimes brings touchy situations- what if a friend gets accepted to a school that you are rejected to (or vice versa)? What if a friend refers to your “safety school” as her reach school? The best way to handle this is to have one-on-one conversations with your friends before taking to social media; and emphasize your genuine interest in the colleges in those conversations.
Don’t put down the school that accepted you.
Saying something like, “Got accepted to (x college), no surprise because getting in is a joke” is boastful and is also risky. Colleges usually have communications staff monitor social networks for what people are saying, and if someone catches that post, the joke’s now on you.
Don’t blindly friend people who go to that college.
You don’t want to gain a reputation as the over-eager freshman before you even set foot on campus. However, if a current student posts in an accepted student group and clearly welcomes friend requests, that’s fine-just be sure to send them an introductory message, too.
Don’t leave negative comments.
It’s natural to be jealous of others who got the acceptance you wanted-but that’s journal material, not Facebook status material. Recently, after not making the Who’s Who list, a fellow senior posted on Facebook, “sorry I was doing real work and not singing show tunes every day.” This displayed poor sportsmanship, and caused others to wonder why she had nominated herself for the award in the first place.
Don’t let the excitement fuel your disappointment.
It’s not worthwhile to compare yourself to other applicants. Instead, focus on yourself and what you can do to stand out to colleges.
By Sam Coren
We get tons of college questions about dorms and student housing on StudentAdvisor. Student housing seems to be on a lot of prospective students minds - mainly the ones that are just out of high school. For many new college students, college is their first taste of life away from home and without parents. For them, their dorm will be their home away from home for most of the year. That's why many students (and parents) experience "Freshman dorm shock" on their college tours.
Don't Be Fooled By the Growing Number of Glitzy Housing Options
Some colleges have more resources to pour into student housing than others. There are even colleges such as University of California-Merced that are now taking advantage of the large number of foreclosed luxury homes known as "McMansions" and converting them into student housing. Colleges will often use this prime real estate to entice high caliber students from looking elsewhere. For example, during my first year at Northeastern University the school opened a brand new apartment-style complex to house only Freshmen Honors students (although the building is now used for Honors Upperclassmen). What was more amusing was when those Honors Freshman had to do their housing selection for next year and realized that their low lottery numbers guaranteed them to have less cushy options for Sophomore year housing. Talk about bait and switch!
The Awful Truth About First Year Student Housing
In the vast majority of cases there's no way of knowing what room you're going to get when you make your admissions decision. Here's the awful truth: you're almost certain to get the worst housing on campus for your first year of college. I'm talking three students crammed into a room originally intended for two with chipped tile flooring, no closet space, bunk beds and cinder block walls. Having a bare bones freshman dorm with no AC is almost like a rite of passage at this point. It's right up there with awkward prom photos and sitting through boring graduation speeches. But the good thing? That first year will breeze by quickly, and hopefully you'll look back on the experience positively if you end up spending more time outside your dorm room learning new things and making new friends.
What Can You Do? Pay More Attention to Policies Than Accommodations
Rather than focus on what the actual buildings are like I recommend reviewing the policies in student housing. How long are students guaranteed on-campus housing for? What's the process for signing in guests like? How good is campus security? What authority do RA's have? Schools with religious affiliations tend to have very strict housing rules and for students who make the transition from a non-religious academic setting it can be frustrating. And if you really can't stand the thought of living in student housing on campus, but don't want to turn down an otherwise best fit college: look into getting an off-campus apartment.
By Megan Kenslea
StudentAdvisor has put together a handy infographic to show some of the most interesting college application data we've seen recently. We have everything you're looking for - from admissions statistics to wait lists to application rates. Some of the information we found was surprising, while other data followed recent trends.
Here are some of the highlights:
- Only 7.4% of colleges or universities consider extracurricular activities very important
- 1 in 4 students now submit 7 or more applications for admission
- 85% of college applications are now completed online
To enlarge the infographic, click the image below:
By Sam Coren
It's pretty common for students experience an intense amount of pressure and anxiety during their last two years of high school. Between standardized tests, after school activities, college tours, applications, and who can forget all that homework, it's easy for teens to get overwhelmed. So how can you, as a parent, prevent your teen from feeling burned out with so much going on?
Here are a few tips for helping them keep their cool:
Let them know it's ok to vent.
After a hard day at the office it might be tough to sit at the kitchen table and hear your 17-year old complain about how bad they have it. But that's part of the charm of being a parent! Whether they'd like to admit it or not, your teen needs your help to get through this wildly confusing time. You might not have all the answers, but in some cases, just being there to listen to their frustrations can help.
Make sure they have some alone time to unplug.
Let's face it - we're all constantly connected to our friends at any given moment thanks to technology. While most teenagers have no qualms hiding in their room to tune out the rest of the world, it's very difficult for them to actually "get away" with their eyes glued to a glowing screen for hours at a time. Reading books or magazines, practicing an instrument (for fun), art projects, and physical activities such as yoga or time at the gym, are all great ways for teens to "recharge" by themselves.
Reconsider extracurriculars that cause only stress.
One of the biggest mistakes college-bound students make is overloading themselves with extracurriculars for the sake of standing out on college applications. If you notice your student's schoolwork and general attitude being affected by their participation in too many after school activities it may be worth suggesting that they reconsider some of their memberships. Is it really worth it for them to overexert themselves to get a main part in the school play when they don't actually enjoy acting all that much? Nope.
Doing college tours? Schedule something fun afterward.
For the highly motivated teen, finding their college match and touring campuses can be just as mentally exhausting as studying for midterms. But it doesn't have to be all work and no play. Use your college visits as an opportunity for you and your child to explore a new city, see a live performance, or catch a sporting event together.
Don't forget that they have friends.
It's easy to forget that good friends are just as important as good grades when it comes to getting through high school. If you notice your teen is becoming overburdened by school work and their college search and hardly ever making time for friends, it might be worth encouraging to them to take some time out for a bit of socialization (although most teams won't need that much coaxing!). A night out at the movies after a big exam might be just what the doctor ordered.
By Sam Coren
In case you weren't aware, the whole StudentAdvisor team is chock full of holiday spirit. If you write a college review on StudentAdvisor by December 31st, you'll be automatically entered in a weekly drawing to win a $50 Amazon gift card! Students, alumni, faculty and staff are all eligible so spread the word!
Ready to find out who our first $50 gift card winners are?
One of my favorite things that constantly happens at Bennington is the dynamic conversations people have. The Plan Process (Bennington's academic philosophy/structure) encourage students to work interdisciplinary and collaborate with their peers, the faculty and staff which gives each student's education a richness that can not be learned from a text book.
If you are looking for a school to be anonymous at, Bennington is not the place for you. Because of the intimate size of Bennington, you recognize, but do not know, most of the students on campus. I personally enjoy this atmosphere (it leads to a comfortableness that I haven't experienced anywhere else) but recognize that it can be too cozy for some.
Would I do it again?
Yes, Bennington encourages students to pursue the questions they are interested in studying and offer a phenomenal curriculum to do so. I would love to have access to the great faculty, peers and courses for another four years.
Read the rest of Ellen's Bennington College review.
University of California - Los Angeles
The best thing about this school is the opportunities it provides outside of academics. UCLA encourages involvement in extracurricular activities during your time here. To support that, all incoming Freshman and Transfer students participate in UCLA Volunteer Day (along with countless staff, faculty, and alumni) to offer help and assistance throughout Los Angeles before the first day of class. UCLA is also the home to 950+ student organizations. Student advisors are here to provide you with the resources, support, and advice that you need to start your own program or coordinate your own events. You can find a volunteer program or student organization for every area in which you're interested. If not, UCLA provides you with the opportunity to start one.
The large classroom size for general education courses can cause many students to lose interest or focus since it's challenging for the professors to focus on each individual student in a class of 300. Still, there are many professors here at UCLA who have able to captivate the attention of such a large audience -- and those professors are highly valued. Also, a common misconception is that "the first two years are meant to explore, take care of your general education courses, and figure out what you want to do"; however, I would suggest figuring this out early on. In most cases, by the time you figure out what subject you'd be passionate about pursuing (often around the end of second year), it's already too late... and you realize that your desired major had prerequisites that you should have taken during your Freshman year. As is the case at any college, time is money. Plan wisely.
Would I do it again?
Yes, I think UCLA provides a well-rounded education not only through academics, but also through the opportunities it provides students to take initiative and be leaders. UCLA supports the idea that you can be anything you want to be and provides you with the resources it takes to get there. For the price, I find the experience and the network you gain from being at UCLA very difficult to replicate at any other university. It's like its own city, and there's something here for everyone.
Read the rest of Alesha's UCLA review.
By Jamaal Williams
As a high school senior, my mother encouraged me to follow a path that would set me up to be successful. She instilled in me a desire to serve others and I knew that my definition of success would be tied to helping others realize their success. College was my training ground for figuring out how to do that and finding friends that exposed me to new things, outside of the experiences I had in the classroom, was the first step. Having the right people around me made me realize that the college experience is more than learning about development psychology and microeconomics – it’s about discovering yourself and what you stand for. Thanks to those friends, I figured out that youth empowerment fulfilled me and that’s what brought me to City Year.
Assessing the City Year Opportunity
City Year offers young adults an opportunity to dedicate ten months to improving schools and communities across the country. At City Year, you serve as a corps member, working with students as a mentor, a tutor, and a role model that helps them graduate from high school on time. While City Year felt like my vehicle for helping youth grow into agents of positive change, I had to make sure a year of service would be a feasible option.
Since City Year is an AmeriCorps program, my college loans were held in forbearance during my term of service so I didn’t have to make payments on them; I was eligible for food assistance that I could use for groceries every month; I received a living stipend that could go towards rent; I got a travel pass – the coveted MetroCard in New York – to cover travel expenses; and when my term of service was over, I earned access to exclusive school scholarships and an education award for $5,550 that I used to pay off all of my undergraduate loans. With these benefits, I could focus on the work at hand – the youth.
My Time Working With City Year New York
I served as a corps member at City Year New York for two years. I worked with middle school youth in Long Island City, Queens, supporting them academically during school, educating them about social justice issues out of school, and providing them opportunities to serve their communities focusing on the social justice issues they learned about.
I had found a way to empower youth, cultivating leaders that think critically and understand that their success is tied to the success of others. I had the opportunity to help build a community where middle school youth felt comfortable sharing their experiences and perceptions of topics like homelessness, violence, poverty and racism; I saw a shy sixth grader address a sea of hundreds about the necessity of youth service; I gave my middle school youth the skills to find their passions and the confidence to strive to make them real.
Finding Your Own Purpose
I thought I was supposed to have all the answers before going to college; however, college is more about asking the right questions and getting the resources necessary to answer those questions.
So as you think about the college process and your path to success, I’ll challenge you to do four things:
1. Thank those that helped you get to the place you’re in now.
Very rarely are people successful on their own.
2. Push yourself to discover what you’re passionate about.
Use every interaction to learn about yourself and the impact you want to have on the things and people around you; it’ll benefit you when filling out college and job applications.
3. Talk to others about what they’re passionate about.
Some things may resonate with you and help you realize your true passion.
4. Find a way to support the people coming behind you.
The choice to invest in another person’s growth is the most powerful choice one can make.
Tackle those challenges now, in college and beyond, and you’ll find yourself on your own path to success. My college experience taught me that with the right resources and the right support, anyone can put their passion into practice; my City Year experience showed me how. I only hope that after high school, after college, or at some point in between, you join me in seeing the difference you can make on children, youth, and yourself in a year. I serve because by making others better, I make myself better; that’s success to me.
What’s success to you?
Jamaal Williams is the Recruitment Manager at City Year Boston. After studying psychology and Africana Studies at Cornell University, Jamaal joined City Year New York where volunteered for 2 years. After graduating from City Year New York, Jamaal joined the staff at City Year Boston, first managing their middle school program called Young Heroes and then moving to recruitment where he seeks 17-24 year olds who want to give a year and change the world. If you want to see the difference a year can make, visit www.cityyear.org, and if you want connect to Jamaal and ask him about his experience, follow him on Twitter at @jamaalrecruits.
About City Year: City Year is a youth service organization that seeks to build democracy through citizen service, civic leadership and social entrepreneurship. City Year works to combat the high school dropout crisis by placing young adults in high-need schools and communities to serve as mentors, tutors, and role models, keeping students in school and on-track to graduate from high school. City Year volunteers do this by focusing on three early warning indicators that have been defined through research: attendance, behavior and course performance in math and English. City Year operates in 21 locations across the country helping students excel in school and building young adults into leaders.
By Sam Coren
Every week StudentAdvisor compiles the top stories in college news. Here are some of the biggest stories that made the headlines this week:
PSU pledges $1.5M of bowl revenue to sex-crimes advocacy groups
In an Associated Press interview the newly appointed Penn State University president, Rod Erickson, promised that $1.5 million of the athletic department's Big Ten bowl revenue will be donated to two sex crime advocacy organizations. The decision to donate the money comes in the midst of the evolving scandal surrounding recently dismissed University administrators and their mishandling of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky's alleged sex-crimes. Erickson noted, "This presents an excellent opportunity for Penn State to raise the national visibility of this issue. Our students and fans are focused on a cause to play for, to cheer for."
University of South Carolina-Beaufort student sparks debate over Confederate Flag
A 19-year old University of South Carolina-Beaufort student named Byron Thomas was told by his school's housing department to take down the Confederate Flag displayed in his dorm room. Byron's story has been garnering national attention because of his refusal to take down the flag. His defending of the flag as a symbol of Southern Pride rather than a symbol of racism surprised many in light of his racial background. He has since released a video of himself explaining his views on the flag's symbolism:
Florida A&M Expels 4 Students Connected to Drum Major's Hazing Death
A memo released by Florida A&M University president James Ammons announced that 4 students in the school's famous Marching 100 marching band have been expelled for their connection to drum major Robert Champion's death. The Marching 100's notorious hazing traditions have been long scruitinized by the university community, but never fully eradicated. Recently dismissed band director Julian White has released over 150 pages worth of documents detailing his warnings to school administrators about the need to take action against the band's hazing practices.
Georgetown Now Offering Sociology Class on Jay-Z
Perhaps Georgetown's "Sociology of Hip-Hop: Jay-Z" should be added to the list of the coolest college courses. Students at Georgetown University in Washington DC can now take a course that follows the hip-hop mogul's rise to stardom and encourages students to dive deeper into the meaning behind his lyrics. However, the course led by Professor Michael Eric Dyson is not without its critics. "It speaks volumes that we engage in the beat of [Jay-Z's] pseudo-music while we scrounge to find serious academic offerings on Beethoven and Liszt. We dissect the lyrics of Big Pimpin', but we don't read Spenser or Sophocles closely," wrote Georgetown junior Stephen Wu in an opinion piece featured in the school's student newspaper, The Hoya.
Have a college news story that you think should be featured on This Week in College News? Send suggestions to content[at]studentadvisor.com.
By Wendy David-Gaines
Will you be working while studying at your college under the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program? About 3,400 postsecondary institutions participate and award FWS as part of an eligible student’s financial aid package according to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
BEFORE you nod for the college job, here are 5 things you should know:
1. A Federal Work-Study award is a job on or off campus.
The Federal Work-Study (FWS) program is a federal financial aid job program regulated by the federal government. Colleges can award FWS funds based on financial need as calculated by the U.S. Department of Education from information reported on the student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
A college may offer employment in any department, academic or nonacademic. Positions available may include clerical positions, tutoring, lab research or computer lab assistant, tour guide, usher at public events, food/cafeteria worker, library assistant, and child care worker. Colleges may also contract with off-campus employers.
Student Aid on the Web explains:
"If you work on campus, you'll usually work for your school. If you work off campus, your employer will usually be a private nonprofit organization or a public agency, and the work performed must be in the public interest.
Your school might have agreements with private for-profit employers for Federal Work-Study jobs. This type of job must be relevant to your course of study (to the maximum extent possible). If you attend a career school, there might be further restrictions on the jobs you can be assigned."
2. Students have to apply for a particular Federal Work-Study job.
Students who accept a FWS award apply for a work-study position usually through their college’s Financial Aid Office.
According to Student Aid on the Web, "The program encourages community service work and work related to the recipient's course of study." FWS is not a paid internship even if the job is connected to your field and you gain work experience. Colleges may post on their website the jobs available. FWS jobs may require:
- an interview and there may be other student applicants competing for the job
- certain set hours which may or may not be compatible to your course schedule
- you to work in a different field of study because of convenience or job availability
Before you sign up for your work-study job, make sure you can balance work and your studies. Academics is a full-time student’s primary job so weigh the work-study part-time job (extra money earned, job location, job responsibilities) against your classes (class time, assignments/papers/tests, study time) to see if it's worth the effort.
When considering your schedule, include some downtime to avoid burnout and enjoy some campus activities and clubs. You can pass on FWS for one semester and when adjusted to campus life, accept it the next. Or you may find a better paying job elsewhere.
3. Federal Work-Study recipients receive a paycheck.
Students receive their FWS award in the form of a paycheck from their college as they work. The entire FWS amount awarded does not reduce the college bill immediately in one lump sum, although Net Price Calculators on college websites and Financial Aid Award letters sent to admitted students may subtract the total FWS as financial aid.
Student Aid on the Web describes the process:
"You'll be paid by the hour if you're an undergraduate. No FWS student may be paid by commission or fee. Your school must pay you directly (unless you direct otherwise) and at least monthly. Wages for the program must equal at least the current federal minimum wage but might be higher, depending on the type of work you do and the skills required."
In a recent study, the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics found that full-time/full year dependent student recipients received an average amount of $2,200 in wages from their work-study jobs.
Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. To earn a $2,200 FWS award for the school year based on federal minimum wage laws, students have to work about 300 hours. If the school has two semesters of 15 weeks each not counting finals week, a student working 10 hours per week would earn $72.50 each week.
4. Federal Work-Study earned money is taxable.
FWS is not free money like a college grant/scholarship and it does not have to be paid back like a student loan. FWS money is income earned from work and is taxable. However, students’ future financial aid awards are not penalized for accepting current FWS awards. Earned FWS income is reported twice on the FAFSA - once as wages and once as an exclusion from taxed income.
5. Your Federal Work-Study job ends when award amount is met.
Whether or not you are happy in your FWS job or your boss is satisfied with your job performance, when students receive paychecks up to the full amount of their award, the job ends. As Student Aid on the Web puts it, "The amount you earn can't exceed your total FWS award."
Any unearned money cannot be rolled over into next year’s award.
Wendy David-Gaines, author of Parents of College Students Survival Stories, is known as POCSmom. She writes and lectures about the college process from forming a college list to attending college graduation. Wendy is also a College Insights expert on College Expert Panel. For more about POCSmom Wendy go to www.pocsmom.com for links to her blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.
Photo: Utah State Library