Panel of Experts

Karl Schellscheidt

SAT Prep Expert

  • BSE, Princeton University '90
  • M.A., Secondary Education Seton Hall University '93
  • J.D., University of Pennsylvania Law School '00

Fred Hargadon

Dean of Admission

  • Swarthmore College
    (1964-1969)
  • Stanford University
    (1969-1984)
  • Princeton University
    (1988-2003)

Don Betterton

Financial Aid Expert

  • Director of Financial Aid, Princeton University (1973-2006)
  • Certified College Planner
  • Principal, Betterton College Planning

Seamus Malin

Admission Expert

  • Harvard University
    Dir. of Financial Aid
    (1966-1977)
    Asst. Dean of Admission
    (1977-1987)
    International Office Director
    (1987-2002)

Work Study Programs; Financial Aid Admissions Penalty?

Don Betterton

eprep financial aid video

We continue our sit-down with Don Betterton to discuss financial aid issues for high juniors and their parents. In today’s post, Don discusses college work study programs and how they fit into your financial aid package. Additionally, we explore the question of whether indicating you will or “might” need financial aid negatively affects your chances for college admission. Click the “play now” button to enjoy our continued discussions with Don.

Work Study Programs; Financial Aid Admissions Penalty?(transcript)

Karl Schellscheidt: When you are filling out your applications, in a lot of applications one of the questions is: Will you need financial aid? I can imagine a lot of people hesitating before they answer that honestly thinking that if they answer honestly that they do need financial aid, they will decrease their chance of being accepted. What are your thoughts on that? Should you hesitate before being honest that you are likely to need financial aid?

Don Betterton: No, you should just answer the question honestly whether you are going to apply for aid or not. That question is basically used by the financial aid office when the student is admitted, to track whether they are looking for that students record or not. And if you are late in the application, it actually helps, because it shows the financial aid office that they should track you down for information. There is really no downside to it. There is probably a handful of colleges that at the very end of the process if you’re an aid applicant, you might not get in compared to someone who can pay the full pay. But there are not a lot of colleges that do that, and it is at the very end of the process when the financial aid budget has run out. There is really no point in strategizing. If you do not have the money to pay there is no use saying that you do because your chance of being admitted is slightly higher, you should just play that one straight and answer honestly.

Karl: If you’ve done your calculations, and you are not sure if you will need financial aid but it is a possibility, should you err on the side of caution and check that you do need financial aid?

Don: Yes. If for your junior year you think you might need financial aid you should check off that you will. Your situation may change for the better or worse. There are things the college may take into account that could lower your contribution. The cost of the college might go up, meaning that now you might have financial need. If you are in the “maybe” category you should definitely apply for financial aid. The people in the “maybe” group should stop in the financial aid office on their visit to the college.

Karl: How do work-study programs and student employment opportunities work? Are they guaranteed? Can a student make an appeal to get more hours of work? Does the school guarantee that they will find a job for you that will allow you to make a certain amount of money?

Don: In most cases, the school has set aside a job for you. But, if you are making $2,000 dollars and after analyzing everything you are $1,000 short, the chances are that they can only provide you with $2,000 in that particular job that you were assigned to work in. You will need to make the extra $1,000 babysitting, or at another job in the town. There will be other opportunities to make money, but the chances are that it will not come from the regular student employment program that guarantees you a job.

Karl: I have to tell you a funny little story: My freshman year I was a work-study student, and I was in that situation where I needed a little more money. It turned out that my Resident Advisor had a student agency that sold souvenirs at football games. He hired me for the week of the Princeton-Harvard football game. I got paid on commission for selling souvenirs such as sweatshirts, t-shirts, hats, etc.. It was shocking to me, but I remember selling about $3,000 worth of souvenirs, and making $300 in one afternoon. The message there is that if you are ambitious, willing to work and keep your eyes open for opportunities, there are a lot of opportunities available around the school. You do also want to watch out that you do not spend too much time working. You are going to college to study, not to work.

Don: I agree with you whole-heartedly. One of the problems today is that it is too easy for students to get a loan. They sign a promissory note, walk into the office, show their ID, sign some form, and they get money. It seems so easy to do, that they do not realize that when they get out of college, they have a huge loan to payoff. I’ve seen hundreds, maybe thousands of students over the years at my job as the Aid Director of Princeton. When a student comes in to borrow money, I’ll say,
“Why don’t you work for it instead?”. I think it is a good idea to take about ten or twelve hours a week to work. To push the work aspect of it all is really important. You get some money, learn some skills, and have something to put of your resume for later. Also, a lot of times you can make friends with the people that you work with. A campus job is a really good thing, and I like to see kids think about that before they borrow money.

Karl: Is there any opportunity to change your financial aid package after you have already started school if your situation changes and you need more money?

Don: Yes, most definitely. Whenever there is a financial problem after the initial process, the first thing you do is go to see a financial aid counselor. You should explain the situation and they will recommend some level of help. It might be to increase your work-study job hours, or that you have not borrowed up to the capacity of the federal loans programs, or they may even be able to find some scholarship/grant money available for you. They may also say they can not help you directly, but they might suggest the your parents borrow some money for you.

Karl: What if there is a kid who decides to work for two years after high school, independent from their parents, and then decides to apply to college? Are their parent’s assets considered or are they considered an independent?

Don: Above we assumed it was a dependent child with parents. There is another person called an independent student, however, there are fairly strict standards. You have to be 24 years old, be on your own for a number of years, and not claimed on your parent’s tax return. If you are married or served in the military you are automatically independent. But for the typical student, you can not just stop for a year or two, not take your parent’s money, and say that you want to be independent. You must be truly on your own for three or four years, and then, if you meet the definitions, it is just your income and your savings that count.

Karl: Don, I would like to thank you very much for your time. There is a very nice summary of what we discussed on the ePrep website. If you are confused about some of the calculations, or which websites to go to, look over that outline. Feel free to leave a comment on that post if you have any questions.

Karl Schellscheidt

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