Getting a Federal Work Study job to help pay for college

If you’re been reading along this month, you know that we named February Financial Aid Month. If you’re almost all financial aided out, you may be happy to know that today’s post is the last one dealing with financial aid – at least for awhile or unless you beg us for more.

Today we tackle the Federal Work Study program, which provides part-time jobs to eligible students. Students earn at least the federal minimum wage and can work up to eight hours a week. The financial aid office at your school will let you know if you are eligible for Federal Work Study. 

A college may offer students jobs in any department or office on campus to perform a variety of tasks, including:

  • Filing and answer phones
  • Tutoring
  • Working as a lab assistant
  • Giving campus tours
  • Ushering at campus events

Here are some other things you should know about the Federal Work Study program.

  • You will need to apply for a particular job.
    You may also be interviewed by the department or office you’d like to work in. You can find out what jobs are available by looking on the web. Most colleges will post online the available jobs.
  • You will receive a paycheck
    At some schools, you’ll have the option of receiving an actual check or having your paycheck directly deposited into your account.
  • Your earnings are taxable.
    Since you’re earning an income, it will be taxed.

According to 

there are several advantages to students taking part in the work-study program besides earning money:

  • Working with others will increase your communication skills
  • It will help you develop time-management skills
  • Future employees are impressed with students who have work experience while in college
  • Your supervisor can be an excellent reference for you (if you do well on the job of course) 
  • Many jobs offer students a strong sense of community within the campus.
  • An employer can provide a needed reference for the next summer job, internship, off-campus apartment or campus leadership position. 
  • While working a student may feel needed, which can increase his or her overall sense of accountability.

In addition, U.S. News & World Report offers some of having an on-campus job, including working with people who understand a student’s schedule.

There. Do you feel like a financial aid expert after reading a month’s supply of posts? (We feel a little smarter writing them.)


How you can get loans to pay for college

Last week, we gave you some ideas on securing scholarships and grants. Today we tackle loans.  

It’s likely that whatever grants and scholarships you receive may not completely cover the cost of college. So, you may have to borrow some money. There are many loans available:

Federal Perkins loan  is a low-interest loan, ranging from $900 to $2,000. To be eligible, you need to be enrolled at least half time, maintain eligibility requirements and have financial need.

Federal Direct Stafford loan. There are two types of Stafford loans – subsidized and unsubsidized.

  • A subsidized loan, which has a fixed interest rate of 3.4%, is awarded based on your financial need. The federal government pays the interest on the loan while you’re in school and during any grace and deferment periods.
  • An unsubsidized loan, which has a fixed rate of 6.8%, is not based on your financial need. Since the government doesn’t pay the interest, you’re responsible to pay it, either while you’re in school or after you graduate.

Federal Director PLUS loanThese loans are available for parents, adoptive parents or stepparents of students. Once you’ve subtracted all other sources of financial aid from the cost of attendance, you can borrow money to cover the remainder at a 7.9% fixed rate.

You can also borrow money from a private lender. If you take this route, please keep in mind that each lender will have different eligibility requirements, loans rates, and terms and conditions. You’ll want to be sure to ask your lender all of the questions you have.

We also suggest you take advantage of all the other available aid first before you borrow from a private lender.

Next: Federal Work Study.

How you can get grants to pay for college

On Monday, we talked about scholarships. Today it’s all about grants. 

Using grants to pay for college is great because, unlike loans, which we’ll talk about next week, you don’t have to pay grants back. Our financial aid director calls it “free money.” There are both state and federal grants.

Federal grants

Federal Pell grants are awarded to eligible students. During the 2010-11 academic year, grants ranged from $555 to $5,550. The average Pell grant in 2009-10 was $3,593.

Eligibility is based on four factors:

  • The cost to attend your school
  • Your family’s financial situation
  • Your family’s size
  • Whether you’ll be attending part time or full time

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity grants, which are also awarded to eligible students, range from $200 to $1,000.

State grants  

Individual states also offer grants. If you’re a Pennsylvania resident, the information on your FAFSA will be automatically sent to the American Education Services/Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, which will determine if you’re eligible to receive a state grant.

If you live in another state, the U.S. Department of Education has the contact information for the states’ higher education agencies, which can provide you with more information.

Next: Loans

How you can get scholarships to pay for college

We’ve introduced you to those scary-sounding financial aid terms and helped to debunk some financial aid myths. This week, we’ll offer some suggestions on how you can pay for college. 

Keep in mind most people don’t pay the full price for college. According to The New York Times only one in three full-time students pay full tuition. On our campus that rate is much higher. More than 90 percent of our students receive some sort of financial aid, whether it’s a scholarship, a grant, a loan, a work-study job or a combination of all of them. 

Today’s we’re talking scholarships.

There are many types of scholarships and applying for them requires you to be assertive. None of them are going to jump in your lap, so you’re going to have to go out and get them.

Our financial aid office offers eight tips to securing a scholarship:

  1. Check with the financial aid office.
    The folks there can help you find information on available scholarships and other forms of aid like loans.
  2. Check with the academic department.
    If you’ve already picked a major, the people in your academic department may know of specific scholarships for students in your particular major.
  3. Use a free scholarship search engine.
    The folks in the financial aid office can recommend free scholarship search sites that will enable you to focus on scholarships that fit your particular characteristics.
  4. Don’t assume.
    You may not have straight A’s or be the power forward on the basketball team. That’s OK; there are still many scholarships out there based on hobbies, interest, background, etc.
  5. Write an essay.
    Yeah, we know most students don’t like to write them, which is why it’s a great idea. Scholarships that require an essay have fewer applicants, giving you a greater chance of getting it. Just remember to have someone read over your essay first. You don’t want to submit something that’s chock full of errors.
  6. Don’t overlook the small scholarships.
    The scholarship may be only for $500, but if you get a few of them, you’ll see that the money will start adding up and making a big difference. 
  7. Apply early. (with photo of scholarship application)
    We know the temptation is to procrastinate, but don’t do that. You don’t want to miss any deadlines.
  8. Don’t get scammed.
    If a site tells you it will guarantee you a scholarship if you pay a fee up front, it’s likely a scam. Watch out for these. If you have any questions, contact the financial aid office at your school. 

Next up: Grants

What NOT to do on the FAFSA

This week we’ve been talking about the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Today, we thought we’d share with you some pretty common mistakes that you don’t want to make when filling out the FAFSA.

  1. Going to the wrong website.
    The correct FAFSA website is If you’re not sure if you’re on the right site, the homepage will look like this.
  2. Entering the incorrect social security number.
    It’s easy to do. One slip of the finger and whoops, it’s not you. Be careful and double check it before you submit the FAFSA. You might even have someone look over it for you.
  3. Confusing adjusted gross income with total income.
    Generally, the adjusted gross income figure is larger. But, if you’re not sure. Check with someone who would know.
  4. Leaving fields blank.
    Don’t do this. Depending on the specific field, if it doesn’t apply to you, fill it in with a “not applicable” or zero. 
  5. Saying you’re married when you’re single.
    If you’re not legally married at the time you fill it out – even if you’re engaged — make sure you list your marital status as single.  
  6. Not listing a college.
    Be sure to fill in the Federal School Code for the college or colleges you’d like to attend. Include the codes for all the schools you’ve applied it.
  7. Using inaccurate tax payment amount.
    You need to get the correct amount of federal income tax you paid from your income tax return, not your W-2 form.
  8. Not rounding to the nearest dollar.
    Round up on the FAFSA. Also, don’t use commas in any of the number fields.
  9. Leaving a blank because you’re afraid to answer.
    Some applicants are afraid that marking yes to the question asking about drug-related offenses will prevent them from getting aid. That’s not true. But, lying on the form about this issue can make you ineligible for aid.
  10. Providing incorrect parent information.
    If you’re biological parents are divorced but your primary guardian is remarried, you need to include the requested information about your stepparent.
  11. Not signing and dating it.
    Don’t forget to sign and date it.  If you’re doing it online, the PIN you have is the digital equivalent of a signature.

Still need more information? The Student Advisor blog has a free FAFSA Guide you can view.

Good luck. If you’ve been through this before and have some suggestions to share, just let us know.

What the heck is the FAFSA anyway?

Last week, we introduced you to some of the financial aid terms and debunked some financial aid myths with the promise of getting into the nitty-gritty of financial aid for the remainder of the month. Today we deal with the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

So, what is the FAFSA anyway? It’s the first step you take toward receiving financial aid like grants, federal loans, a federal work-study job, and need-based scholarships. The college you apply to will use the FAFSA to determine how much aid you qualify for.  

The FAFSA can be confusing, but don’t fret. In fact, these young men can explain it way better than we can:

If you think you might need help filling it out, our university is offering FAFSA-completion workshops to help you.

Keep in mind there are different FAFSA deadlines – federal, state and for the college you’re applying to. The 2012-13 federal deadline is June 30, 2013. State deadlines vary. You’ll also want to find out the deadline at the school or schools you’re applying to. On our campus the priority deadline is March 1.

If you need more information, there is a FAFSA blog where you can find additional financial aid information. You can also follow FAFSA on Twitter.

On Wednesday, we’ll cover the mistakes you don’t want to make on the FAFSA.

What you should know before you apply for financial aid

All this month, we’re talking about financial aid. On Monday, we defined some of those scary financial aid terms. On Wednesday, we debunked some financial aid myths. 

Today, we’re going to give you some suggestions on what you need to do and know before you apply for financial aid.

The Student Advisor Blog  lists three things you need to do to before filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – known as the FAFSA – online. (We’ll have more about the FAFSA in Monday’s blog post.)

1. Get a PIN
A PIN will allow you to electronically sign your FAFSA. You can get one from the U.S. Department of Education. 

You’ll want to apply for your PIN as soon as possible because it may take two to five business days to process your request.

2. Gather all the information you’ll need
There are certain documents and information you’ll need to refer to when filling out your FAFSA so gather them beforehand:

  • Your social security number
  • The social security number of your parent(s) if you’re a dependent student
  • Your driver’s license if you have one
  • Your most recent bank statement
  • Your W-2 forms and other records of money earned
  • Your Federal Income Tax Return (and your spouse’s if you’re married.
  • Your parent’s tax return if you’re a dependent student
  • Records of any untaxed income such as  Social Security or veterans’ benefits
  • Your most recent business and investment information.

3. Get the FAFSA on the Web worksheet
This worksheet is optional, but it will help you collect the information you need to fill out the FAFSA online. You can print a form or your high school may have a copy. 

What else should you know? College Made Simple offers eight things every family should know before applying for financial aid.

If you have any other suggestions please let us know so we can share them with others.