What is work study and how does it fit in with your education?
The Cost Doesn’t Matter, Your Award Letter Says You Owe Nothing.
When your admissions counselor and the financial aid department put together your financial package their goal is for the awards on the page add up to the exact amount that you owe in tuition, room, and board. And amazingly enough it almost always does.
How can colleges make this dream a reality for every student? Well, they pull a slight of hand to get you to accept the financial package. It is after all you, and not the school, who will actually be reaching deep into the pocket.
The Award Letter
The very first line or two you will see the actual scholarships (academic, athletic, or other). This always makes you feel good. The next lines will contain federal grants and aid if you qualify. This is free money and makes you feel even better. But then comes the misdirection. You will see the amounts of loans you can take out. They will be listed as subsidized, unsubsidized and even parent loan. This feels like free money, but wait a few years and you will feel the real cost and pain involved for you after graduation.
Next you will see that one of the lines included is work study. “The Federal Work Study program (also known as FWS or simply Work-Study) is a federally funded program in the United States that assists students with the costs of post-secondary education. The Federal Work Study Program helps students earn financial funding through a part-time work program.”
Parents and even students usually love this line. It fills out the award letter nicely and makes the amount that you owe zero. How about that? The college says you owe nothing and can attend. Don’t forget the loans are not free. And now work study.
You Have Been Awarded Work Study
Work study can be the most disingenuous amount of the financial aid listed on your award letter. Often it will say something like, “You qualify for $3000 in work study.” Wow. Isn’t that a nice piece of my financial package; my package exactly covers the cost of the school? Well yes, but a couple of things are not mentioned.
First, this just means you qualify. It does not mean there is a job waiting for you. Most schools have a very limited amount of work study available. It is allocated by the different departments on campus. You have to hunt this down yourself, and most work is given to upper classmen who already have a connection with that department or know somebody.
Second, students and parents don’t really make the connection that this is all extra work on top of school and athletics. And it is at minimum wage. It takes a lot of hours to earn $3,000. When, as an athlete, will you be available to work? Does the coach allow you to work? Can you keep up your grades and work? In season, most student athletes, quite frankly, do not have time to work even if they wanted to. Out of season is often sketchy as well, but at some schools and with some opportunities it is possible.
Have a very clear understanding of what is being offered to you in the financial aid package from each school you are considering. Ask both admissions and your coach about the availability of work study and how it will fit into your schedule.
Next, take a look at What a Student Loan Can Do to You.
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