This is the transcript for Season 2, Episode 9 (February 14th, 2019) of the “Title IV + More Podcast for Utah Counselors and Educators” from Katie Wornek, Jacob Newman, and Bryan Lee at StepUp to Higher Education Utah.

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Please be advised that the FAFSA and federal student aid are subject to change. While we ensure all the information we share in each episode is accurate at the time of the episode’s release, our statements are not insulated from future changes. If you have questions, we encourage you to call us at 801-869-5701 or email us at outreach@utahsbr.edu.


Katie: Welcome and thank you for listening to StepUp Utah’s Title IV + More Podcast for counselors and educators. This podcast is brought to you by StepUp to Higher Education Utah – helping Utah’s students and parents prepare and pay for college. Find more about us at StepUpUtah.com.

Jacob: Welcome listeners, my name is Jacob Newman and I and I am a paying for college expert with Step Up Utah.

Katie: And I am Katie Wornek, also a paying for college expert with Step Up. I will kick off our episode this week with a couple of news headlines, first up as I am sure you know, the Utah Legislative session is underway and will wrap up on March 14th. So, we just wanted to share some of the best practices that we have heard from the community on staying informed on the legislature. One of them, on the legislature itself, has a bill tracker so you can sign up for that the website is le.utah.gov. Another one is the commissioner of higher education actually sends out a weekly email newsletter and they provide a legislative update each week. So, if you would like to receive that newsletter you can visit USHE.org to sign up for the commissioners newsletter. And then, finally, one of my personal favorites, the 45 Days podcast is available from KUER, which is the local NPR station in Salt Lake City, they do a really good job of wrapping up some of the progress in the legislature each week as well. Our second story is that, some good news for Utah students, congress has voted to increase the maximum Pell Grant Award. So, Federal Student Aid announced a few weeks ago that the maximum award increased by 100 dollars. So now the maximum a student can qualify for per year is $6,195 and if we are thinking about $6,000 a little bit more, that goes a long way at Utah institutions. Just as a little piece of history, in the last decade there was only one year where congress didn’t increase Pell Grant awards so it’s good to see some action there. And with that I will transfer over to Jacob for the events this week.

Jacob: Alright, we have a few things to remind you of, remember there’s no school February 18th in honor of President’s Day, we have a FAFSA completion at East High School February 27th at 2:30pm. It’s open to the public, so I encourage your students to attend if they need assistance. Another announcement we want to make is about our FAFSA “Ask StepUp Experts” Webinar Series. So, this is a webinar series I have been doing for the past few weeks, you can find it at StepUpUtah.com, just use the search bar on our website and type “ask the StepUp experts”. The topics we have remaining in this series are: encouraging students about the FAFSA on February 21st, using student level data on February 28th, and all things verification on March 7th. We have posted all of the ones we have done so far on our StepUp YouTube channel so you can view those. We also have access to an assessment you can complete, and you might get an exciting incentive for participating in these professional development opportunities. Next, we wanted to inform you of “Latinas in Action” student conference at Weber State University on March 4th. For more information you can visit latinosinaction.org. Finally, we wanted to make sure those of you on the Wasatch Front were aware of the Wasatch Front Counselor Conference on March 5th at the UATC South Campus in Riverton. We will be presenting, we are super excited, and we hope to see you there. With that, I am going to transition to our guest interview with our federal work study students.

Katie: So this week we are going to be talking about work study. We have actually started a series on #whyworkstudy and this is a series of blogs that our guests have written. We also are producing a YouTube video for students about work study and now we are doing a guest interview on the podcast so counselors can learn more about the program. So, federal work study, for those of you that don’t know, is a program that offers students flexible part-time jobs that are usually on campus to help pay for college costs. When your students complete the FAFSA they will be asked if they are interested in participating in work study. Students often have questions about this program, or whether or not they should say yes on the FAFSA. So, StepUp actually has two Federal work study employees, they are students at the University of Utah, and they do an excellent job helping us with our community outreach efforts. Especially when it comes to educating students and parents when it comes to paying for college, writing content for our website, they do excellent work. So today with me I have Maxwell Ayelia ad Marcella Sweet and I am going to have them introduce themselves and tell you a little about what they are doing in school and a little about their background.

Maxwell: Hello, my name is Maxwell Ayelia. I am originally from Ghana and I moved to Utah in 2013. When someone asks me about the thing that I don’t like about Utah I have to say the weather. It is so cold here and I don’t like it. But I do like, I am trying to snowboard which is one new thing I am trying to learn. Currently, I am studying for my master’s in accounting at the University of Utah and fingers crossed I will be able to graduate in May. After graduating, I already work with different companies. I work with Wells Fargo finance, I work with Extra Space as an accountant, but after graduation I will become an auditor. So yeah, I am here I am so happy to work with UHEAA because this is a great job and I want the experience.

Katie: It’s good to note here too Maxwell, as you mentioned, you are a master’s in accounting student at the U. I think there’s a misconception out there that work-study jobs are only for undergraduate students, so good to know counselors, right? This is something that your students can rely on even after they graduate with their bachelor’s and want to pursue a degree past that.

Marcella: And my name is Marcella Sweet. I moved to Utah from California in 2013, because I love to ski and that drew me to this state. Unlike Maxwell, I enjoy the cold and I really do enjoy the snow so it’s a beautiful state to come study in. I am currently studying Strategic Communications with an emphasis in marketing and advertising up at the University of Utah and I am getting a minor in business finance. I hope to use that at Goldman Sachs in their PR, marketing department, or onboarding department to help onboard new clients. Hopefully I will stick with them for a few years while I enjoy Utah.

Katie: So, first question is why did you choose to pursue a federal work study job instead of finding more traditional work such as a job in a private company?

Marcella: Well, for me, for the last 4 years I worked full-time as a personal banker for Wells Fargo and I planned to continue working for them until I finished school. Unfortunately, as wonderful as my manager were with accommodating a school schedule, the classes I needed to graduate were not offered at times that would support working full-time or with the strict part time schedule they had available. Over the summer I experimented with the restaurant industry, I worked at a restaurant and a bar to see if I could make that schedule fit with school while also retaining any sanity with maintaining school and work. Unfortunately, the late nights and constant activity drained me and did not leave me with any energy left over for my classes especially because the shifts in that industry are not set in stone either. It just ended up draining me physically rather than mentally which caused the same problem but in a different way. On a complete whim I applied for the work study job at StepUp because I hoped it would offer flexibility that I needed to Finish my degree while also being close to campus. Prior to the interview I actually didn’t know anything about work study or that it was required to be flexible with my schedule, I found that out in the interview and it was perfect. It has been amazing because it’s offered a completely flexible schedule around my classes. It’s lifted the weight of the stress of rushing back and forth between work and school or taking a long lunch to go to a class while still working. I don’t panic anymore when I throw my back pack in the car and switch high heels for tennis shoes so I can run to class. It’s really given me a chance to organize my life and become more involved in my schools campus, student government, clubs. I feel like I am finally enjoying being a student. I am earning good grades for the first time in college, I no longer feel like I am bad at school cuz I didn’t have time to study. I will actually graduate in May with honors.

Katie: excellent, thank you Marcella.

Maxwell: With me, its different. I worked full time and part time in the private sector while in college. But, work study job in community outreach seemed more fun and flexible and I knew I would enjoy it more. I enjoy working in private sector, but the problem was the flexibility with my classes. Work study employers on the other hand can’t ask you to work hours that interfere with your classes or class schedule. So, I learned so much from working in the private sector with businesses and professionals, but when I switched to work study it was an opportunity for a different experience working with students and the community. I am able to help them with college problems, with helps me with my college experience.

Katie: I am really glad to hear it has provided the flexibility you guys need to be successful in school. What is one lesson or skill you have learned through your work study job?

Marcella: I personally developed an empathy for students and families because I can talk with them, ear their stories, and it makes it a little more real if you are looking someone face to face. The flexibly work-study schedule has taught me how to manage my schedule when it is really up to me because since high school, I haven’t actually had the ability to choose classes that interest me, I just needed to take a class that was available during my work schedule. So, it ended up I took a bunch of classes that were required but I didn’t pursue any interests. Its been very strange learning how to manage my time and staying productive when I am not actually required to “go to work” based on a certain strict schedule. I really have enjoyed renewing my hobbies, taking some time for myself while I learn what I enjoy again.

Maxwell: What I learn from this job is to make connections and be willing to receive feedback from other people. I have been so happy to hear from my fellow students hearing they are happy I can help them with their college problems. A student told me he is so happy to be working with me, that is a fellow student, because he approaches me as a peer and can ask me all his questions without any embarrassment. Feedback is great and wonderful and adds more value to federal work study.

Katie: Great! What advice would you give to high school students or current college students about a federal work study job?

Marcella: Work study just gives you the chance to decompress while you are working in college. Obviously, there are a lot of opportunities to learn and develop teamwork and have skills while you are doing the job itself. But for me, the thing I enjoyed the most was being able to enjoy my life while I am in school without again, panic rushing from work to school and back again, trying to change clothes in-between or taking long lunches just to fit in work and school. So, there’s a lot of benefits that come from being able to mentally know I have a schedule that works with school and I am not going to stress myself out with it. I definitely recommend when you are filling out the FAFSA to check yes on that box confirming that you are interested in work-study. Because even if you do not plan on it, or you do end up getting a job on campus, it’s a great back up option. It would really stink if you missed an opportunity because you did not check that box and you changed your mind later.

Maxwell: Well, it is great to gain some work experience in college that will prepare you for the workforce after graduation. The best way to gain these experiences is through a work-study job. Because, it is flexible with your classes.

Katie: Awesome, and its important to note here that checking the box on the FAFSA indicating you are interested in the federal work study is just step 1 in the process. Counselors be advised, once your students do that, in their financial aid award letter after their FAFSA has been processed by their college, it will indicate if they qualified for a work-study job. Then the real work begins. They actually have to search for those jobs on campus, usually that’s through the financial aid office’s website, and then they have to interview just like a real job. So, with that being said, do you Max or Marcella, have any tips for interviewing for a federal work-study position?

Marcella: I would say just realize that interviews are not nearly as stressful as you think. You just want to be prepared to answer why you would be a candidate for the job you are applying, this should be a very easy question for you because you know yourself, you know your abilities, you know why you want the job. Going into an interview not expecting that type of a question would be foolish. So have an answer for that, think ahead about why you are the best candidate. Also, dress appropriately for the job. Think about whether or not a T-shirt and jeans really are the best things to wear when interviewing for an office job. An interviewer is trying to get to know you and learn if your abilities are a good fit for the position they have available. So, if you really are the best candidate, just be yourself, dress well, think about what your answers would be in advance so you are not caught off guard and then that will make sure you don’t struggle with your responses and you are able to show your personality. You will learn to enjoy interviews the more that you take them because they are just the chance to learn new people, meet someone new, and showcase your skills.

Katie: That’s a great point for students that yeah, this is a college job, so this is just one of many interviews that they will be doing throughout their life, so this is good practice. Maxwell?

Maxwell: Alright well, to be honest with you, interviews are scary. When I started, they were scary to me, but the key to being successful is to always talk about the job so you can speak about it effectively. Also, during the interview don’t be panicking. Identify your personal and technical skills and use them to answer the questions during the interview. This will help you to be successful and hopefully you can land a job. I am sharing this because this is what I do, and this is what I use, and I landed this job.

Katie: Well there you have it counselors! There is some advice directly from work-study students themselves that you can share with your students about why they should apply and how they can be successful in securing those jobs. Thanks Max and Marcella.

Marcella: Thank you, good luck!

Maxwell: Thank you

Jacob: Alright, I wanted to take this time to inform all counselors and educators about our FAFSA Cup. This is the grant that we give to a counseling team in the state. Basically, what it is, is an opportunity for you to share best practices you use at your school to encourage FAFSA completion. So, your strategies, your successes, some of your practices that went well this year, how you guided FAFSA completion in school. We know that FAFSA completion is more than just a FAFSA night and we would like to hear about all of your best practices you used to get your students to complete the FAFSA. It comes with a trophy, so you get a giant trophy its rather large, a $750 professional development grant, and lunch with the StepUp team! Applications are open now since we are getting closer and closer to the end of the school year and they are open until April 15th. So, start coming up with ideas for your applications, you can see the applications rules and rubric at stepuputah.com, in the search icon type, “FAFSA Cup.” We really love to see some of these best practices.

Katie: Yeah, this is one of my favorite promotions that we do, not only because we get to know counseling teams on a more one-to-one basis, but we get to read about all the efforts going on in Utah that maybe we don’t hear about all the time surrounding college affordability. So it’s always good to see those applications roll in and we want more this year than we have ever had before.

Jacob: Yes, and we will definitely be presenting these best practices. We did this last year at USHE counselor conference, we love to share these best practices across the state. So you might end up being a little famous! And with that, we are going to finish off this episode, again if you have any questions or feedback, feel free to reach out to us at outreach@utahsbr.edu. Thank you for joining us!

Katie: StepUp to Higher Education is an outreach initiative of the state of Utah that empowers 8th-12th grade students and their families to prepare for college. We believe every Utah student should pursue education after high school, whether that be a 1-year certificate, a 2-year degree, a 4-year degree, or beyond that. We provide programs and resources to encourage college prep and success, as well as training and materials for school counselors like you. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Title IV + More podcast for counselors and educators. You can find more about us, order access and outreach materials, or request a StepUp Utah event at your school at StepUpUtah.com. And last but not least, be sure to follow us on social media. You can find us at Facebook.com/StepUpUtah, also on Instagram and Twitter by searching for “@StepUpUtah”. You can also follow our Outreach Officers on social media as well. Just search for “@StepUpKatie” and “@StepUpJacob”.


Listen to the “Title IV + More Podcast for Counselors and Educators” on iTunes

Listen to the “Title IV + More Podcast for Counselors and Educators” on SoundCloud

Listen to the “Title IV + More Podcast for Counselors and Educators” on Google Play

Please be advised that the FAFSA and federal student aid are subject to change. While we ensure all the information we share in each episode is accurate at the time of the episode’s release, our statements are not insulated from future changes. If you have questions, we encourage you to call us at 801-869-5701 or email us at outreach@utahsbr.edu.