Get help

Office of Financial Aid

Where: Regent Hall, Room 175

Phone: 303-492-5091

Web: colorado.edu/finaid

Career Services

Where: Center for Community, Room N352

Phone: 303-492-6541

Web: careerservices.colorado.edu

Whether you're scraping and saving to pay for it yourself, or have the cushion of loans, grants, scholarships or money from a benefactor, funding a college education is never an easy task.

However, there are ways to simplify it: University of Colorado students have several resources to help line their coffers to pay for college.

CU's Office of Financial Aid concentrates on helping students, through general counseling, with three potential sources for funds: loans, scholarships and student employment.

Getting a loan

The first step students looking for financial assistance should take is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at the beginning of each academic year.

Though there are other private loans students can apply for, FAFSA and other government loans have more benefits, said Ofelia Morales, associate director of client services with the Office of Financial Aid.

"Federal loans have lower interest rates," Morales said, "Which, in some cases, depending on your income, can be subsidized -- the government pays the interest. Other repayment options include income-sensitive payments, public service forgiveness and programs to help pay off the loans."

Applying for scholarships

When applying for scholarships, Morales said students should apply for everything they can.

"It take time, but the more you apply, the better your chances are," she said.

CU student Matthew Greenwald, right, gets financial aid help from counselor Alan Schieve.
CU student Matthew Greenwald, right, gets financial aid help from counselor Alan Schieve. ( Marty Caivano )

Students hoping to have their achievements rewarded with scholarships, though, should be aware that their credential might not be enough.

"Essay-writing is key," Morales said. "A lot of students (go into applying for scholarships) with the attitude that they have all the credentials, but it's often the essay that wins the scholarship."

The scholarship application process has a lot in common with applying for jobs: interpersonal skills and resume-writing are important, with CU scholarships, for example, requiring students to submit a resume along with their application.

Finding a job

The financial aid office also counsels students on finding off-campus employment, hourly employment and work-study, which allow financially needy students to take on-campus jobs to pay their bills. Morales advises students looking for employment of any kind to "brush up on their interviewing skills" and "have questions for employers, to make sure the job is a good fit."

Job-seeking students have a further resource in the Career Services office, a division of Student Affairs at CU. Career Services offers students the opportunity to hone their interviewing skills via a practice interview filmed on a webcam, augmented with input from a career counselor.

"If you've never watched yourself being interviewed, it's an amazing experience," said Lisa Severy, director of Career Services. Career counselors can give students feedback not only about the content of their answers to practice questions, but on the nonverbal things they do as well.

International students can particularly benefit from this service because they "may never have gone through an 'American-style' interview before," Severy said. Seeing themselves interviewed could help their chances at obtaining on-campus jobs, which do not violate international work visas.

Preparing for different types of interviews is also crucial because it can be difficult to tell what kinds of information interviewers might be looking for from applicants. The interview style conducted by someone from a company's human resources department would be different from that used by a manager.

"If you know ahead of time, it makes preparing a lot easier," Severy said. "More professional interviewers are moving toward a 'competency'-based interview. A lot of interviewers will try to elicit stories and anecdotes to dig into your background, to make sure you're a good fit for the company."

Résumé help

Self-presentation is another important factor student job applicants should be aware of. Career Services offers students help with resumes and cover letters, allowing them to "build their resumes online" and review with a career counselor, Severy said. Students' professionalism should extend from the application process to the interview and beyond.

"During the interview, make sure you're on your best professional behavior," Severy said.

When looking for a job, students should also "be comfortable with their online self-presentation" on Internet outlets such as Facebook; incriminating content online could make the difference when a company decides whom to hire.

CU has many resources for finding jobs both on-campus and off. Students might find work-study opportunities particularly appealing, allowing them a chance to work with the university in a capacity outside of classes.

"A lot of departments rely on student employees due to budget cuts," Severy said. "When you work with students, you get to know them better, and learn what they're looking for from the university.

"We love the opportunity to work with students."