How Missouri Works

How does Missouri work? With more than 2.8 million payroll employees across the state in industries that are growing and looking for recent graduates of colleges, universities, technical schools, credential programs, and apprenticeships. The numbers show that Missouri has plenty of room in the workforce for those that are interested in a whole host of careers and industries. So, how are you going to work?

Five reasons to choose a Missouri College

1. Missouri schools rank among the best for affordability, student satisfaction, and quality of education.

College Choice ranks Washington University in St. Louis as No.17 in the nation for having the happiest freshmen. U.S. News and World Report lists Missouri Southern State University No.6 in top public schools in the Midwest, with Lincoln University in Jefferson City and Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis tying for seventh. State Technical College of Missouri, in Linn, was named the third-ranked two-year trade school in the country by Forbes. 

A student at State Tech working with some technology.

Not only are Missouri education options top-notch, they’re affordable too. Missouri State University in Springfield is listed as number two, overall in the state for affordability and the number one public university for affordability in the state. Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau is listed as the No.3 school for affordability and No.62 by US News and World Report for value in the Midwest and No.16 in Top Public Schools. Couple the affordability of most Missouri educational institutions and all of the other advantages to living, learning, and working in Missouri, and you can’t go wrong. 

2. Missouri is a fun place to live!

A sunny day at the lake of the Ozarks with a boat cruising over the water.

No matter what part of the state or college you choose, there is fun to be had close by. Missouri was actually chosen as the fourteenth most fun state in America by Wallet Hub thanks to a recent study. The organization compared states using 26 different metrics and Missouri landed as No.14. Missouri scored fifth in the nation for having the “highest variety of arts, entertainment, and recreation establishments.”

With Lake of the Ozarks in the central region of the state, Kansas City on the west side, St. Louis on the east side, Branson in the southern Region, and everywhere else over, under, and in-between, residents can find many different types of fun and entertainment. You can find waterskiing, parasailing, amusement parks, water parks, theatres, movies, wine tasting, breweries, caves, casinos, hiking, hunting, fishing, festivals, fairs, museums, bars, restaurants, zoos, and unique things to do all over Missouri.

3. Missouri currently has the 12th lowest cost of living in the nation

Cost of living is an important factor when considering where you should live, learn, and work. Missouri scores nearly 10 points below the national average overall. Groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, and health care costs less here, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center. The housing cost index in Missouri scores 82.1,  just over 18 points below the national average.

To compare, take a look at Illinois’ largest city, Chicago, and Missouri’s largest city, St. Louis. The median cost of rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Chicago is $1,550, according to renthop.com. Renthop.com says that the median cost of rent in St. Louis for the same apartment is $650. And what can you get for the same money in St. Louis that you would pay for that one-bedroom apartment in Chicago? The answer is at least a two-bedroom and likely larger because the top 25 percent of the market, in St. Louis, for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,100 ($400 less than the median market price for the one-bedroom in Chicago). So if you want to live off campus, Missouri is definitely affordable.

The arch at sunset with the STL skyline in the background.

4. Missouri offers lifestyle and living options for everyone!

A person silhouetted by the sunset at Elephant Rocks State Park

Missouri offers lifestyle and living options for everyone from the city lover to the quiet country enthusiast. For those looking to begin learning or working in the big city, St. Louis and Kansas City both offer great learning opportunities between colleges and technical schools. Living in these two big cities is extremely affordable as well.

If you’re interested in urban living but for a more mid-sized city situation, St. Joseph, Springfield, Columbia, Jefferson City, or Joplin might be just what you’re looking for. Great colleges can be found in all five of the places mentioned and all are affordable options for living, learning, and working.

There are even rural options and small-town living for those who are interested in the beautiful views and outdoor lifestyles available in rural Missouri – check out communities surrounding Rolla, home to Missouri S&T, or Cape Girardeau, home to Southeast Missouri State University.

5. Missouri's star is on the economic rise.

Missouri is moving through the ranks from 42 in job growth to 22 in the last five years. The future is looking bright and only keeps getting brighter. Two Missouri cities have been named in the top three cities in the nation for recent college graduates.

St. Louis has been ranked No.2 in the nation for recent college graduates, promising a median income of around $48,000 per year, according to a report from Self Financial. The median income is even higher when cost of living is considered because St. Louis has a cost of living nearly 10 percent below the national average. Taking the cost of living into account, the median earnings of recent college graduates is $53,274 in St. Louis. This is just an average and is dependent upon factors such as career field and type of degree.

Kansas City, Missouri, came in at No.3 on that list of best cities for recent college graduates. KC boasts actual median earnings of $49,000 per year, with an adjusted salary of $52,802, thanks to a cost of living that sits at 7.2 percent below the national average. Both cities have plenty to offer college students as they work towards their chosen degrees, knowing that the post-graduation future is looking pretty bright.

The plaza fountain in Kansas City

This information is accurate as of December 16, 2021.

7 Reasons You Should Live, Learn, and Work in Missouri

1. Companies are hiring

Three companies on Forbes 100 Best Places to Work list – Veterans United, Jones Financial (Edward Jones), and World Wide Technology – are headquartered here in Missouri. Each company employs large numbers of people and reported hundreds of job openings company wide as of March of 2021. Jones Financial reported 910 job openings, Veterans United Home Loans reported 558 openings, and World Wide Technology reported 268 job openings.

According to an October 2021 report from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC), there were around 67,700 job postings in Missouri with companies hoping to hire people. If you’re looking for a new job or career change, Missouri is a good place to start. 

two people talking in a hip office space.

2. Great for remote work

A woman working on her laptop in the kitchen of her house.

Missouri is centrally located in the country, making working with both the east and west coasts convenient for remote workers or just those who need to be centrally located for travel. Additionally, high speed internet and better broadband access in rural areas has been made a priority by Gov. Mike Parson. In 2021, $400 million was budgeted to help with broadband access.  

3. Affordability

Missouri allows you to live in one of the most affordable states in the U.S. Missouri ranks the 12th lowest in the U.S. for cost of living (MERIC) and the 12th cheapest state to buy a house (learn.roofstock.com). To do a little comparison, let’s look at the cost of buying a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline. According to AAA, in Missouri, as of December 2021, the average cost of a gallon of gas is $2.95 while the cost in Illinois, Missouri’s neighbor, is $3.44. 

4. Fun and romance

A riverfront view of the city of Washington Missouri

Missouri is the 10th best place to be single. We rank 12th for dating opportunities, 12th for dating economics, and 16th for romance and fun, according to wallethub.com. 

If you live and work in Missouri, there are plenty of opportunities for romance as well as places to take your romantic partner on a date. Check out 8 Places to go on a Date Night in Missouri or just go to Visit MO’s Things to Do page

5. A Land of Opportunity

Missouri ranks No.4 in the nation in opportunity for its citizens, according to USnews.com. Missouri is a great place to start or own a business, boasting a rank of 11 in the country. Missouri’s businesses weathered the pandemic better than most and the state was ranked third in the nation for pandemic proof small businesses. 

If you’re interested in taking advantage of Missouri’s business-friendly atmosphere, the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office has step-by-step instructions for starting a business in Missouri.

6. Striving for Equity

Missouri ranks No.9 in the nation for equality. According to USnews.com, “the ratio of men to women in the labor force, as well as gaps between their median incomes, as well as the difference in unemployment between people with disabilities and those without, and gaps in educational achievement, income and employment between non-Hispanic whites and other racial groups” are measured to determine this. Missouri ranked 6th in the nation for equity in the income gap by race on this same list.

7. Family Friendly

Missouri is a great place to raise a family. Wallet Hub says Missouri comes in third in the nation for low cost child care, surpassed only by Mississippi and South Dakota. All 10 of Niche.com’s top 10 places to raise a family in Missouri are suburbs of St. Louis, with highly rated school systems, bright job prospects, and lower costs of living. However, St. Louis isn’t the only great place to raise a family and if you prefer the country or small-town life, there’s plenty of that too. 

This information is accurate as of December 16, 2021.

Find your Best Fit in Missouri

Two-Year Vs. Four-Year vs. Technical College

Missouri is home to over 65 colleges and universities that each offer their own unique culture and opportunities. So whether you’re looking for a change of scenery or to stay close to home, there are plenty of options to choose from. Degree program, size, location, distance from home, sports, culture, and student resources are all important things to consider while trying to find the best fit. We’ve highlighted several of these characteristics for you to consider below and a corresponding Missouri school to consider.

Big City vs. Small Town

Do you want to be in the heart of it all or in a small community with a lot of heart?

Big City vs. Small Town

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) is nestled just south of the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City – a well-known area for shopping, events, and art. Kansas City is packed with unique and vibrant neighborhoods and offers pro-sporting events, live concerts, and some of the best BBQ in the country. But if you’re looking to slow it down, consider Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) in Cape Girardeau. This small, historical river community is known for being friendly and having a great downtown area of its own. You can see a show at the annual Lanford Wilson New American Play Festival, or explore the Mississippi River at Cape Rock Park. Also, with St. Louis and Memphis being nearby, there’s always the opportunity to change it up, visit the big city, but come home to a small town.

Big School vs. Small School

Big School Versus Small School

Do you want to get to know all of your peers or do you want to see new faces every day?

Going to a school with a large student population versus a small student population can make a big difference. Missouri State University is one of the state’s largest schools with over 26,000 students. If you’re looking for a fresh start and to make a lot of new friends – this could be the school for you. A larger student population can also offer many benefits including more activities and organizations, more networking and potentially more diversity. However, if you’d rather spend the next several years making lifelong connections, a smaller school like College of the Ozarks is a great option. With a population of under 1,500 – you can expect small class sizes and a tight-knit community.

Two-Year vs. Four-Year vs. Technical School

What degree are you looking for? How much time and money are you prepared to invest?

Two-Year Vs. Four-Year vs. Technical College

The type of school you attend can make a big difference in your college experience, especially in the classroom and in your bank account. Two-year institutions offer certificates and associate degrees, and many students choose these schools to save money in the long run. State Fair Community College in Sedalia is a great example because it offers a wide range of two-year programs while also being one of the most affordable in Missouri. A four-year university offers bachelor’s degrees, which provide both a well-rounded education outside your major and an in-depth coursework in your chosen field. Truman State University in Kirksville is a great option because it offers a variety of excellent programs and top professors while being the number one best value school in the region. Technical schools can be a different experience altogether, offering certificates and associate degrees while giving students affordable hands-on learning and career guidance. State Technical College of Missouri in Linn offers small class sizes, unique career options, and a job placement rate of 99 percent.

There’s plenty to consider when deciding what will fit you best after high school. Missouri offers a lot of options. If you are considering multiple options and you’d like to compare them side-by-side, use the printable Best Fit Worksheet or the College and Degree Search compare option. No matter what you decide, you’ll make it the best fit for you.

Five Great Jobs for Recent College Grads

Regardless of whether you have chosen a major, your career path might be in a different field than the one you studied for in college. That is normal. It happens all the time. Journalism students work for PR firms; biology majors go to dental school; communications grads join sales teams; etc.

Finding a first job that matches your major isn’t nearly as important as finding a job that matches your skills and passions, as well as the demands of the labor market.

It’s also worth noting that the labor market is constantly in flux. At any given time, some career fields will have an abundance of job openings, while others are scarce.

With that in mind, here are several occupations that are projected to grow over the next decade and hire a lot of recent college graduates. 

Registered Nurse

Annual Openings in Missouri: 5,525
Average Wage in Missouri: $65,130 / year
Ten-year Growth Rate in Missouri: 16.2%

A Registered Nurse who means business. Ready to save your life.

Because the U.S. population is getting older and health issues such as COVID-19 have entered the scene, quality health care demands are on the rise. That means registered nursing will be an in-demand occupation for years to come. You can work in the health care field and become a nurse with either a bachelor’s degree or an associate degree. Regardless, you’ll have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) after earning your degree.

The bachelor’s degree route can lead to a higher salary, faster career advancement, and more professional autonomy. Earning an associate degree in nursing instead takes less time and is less expensive.  

Registered Nurse

Because the U.S. population is getting older and health issues such as obesity are common, quality health care demands are on the rise. That means registered nursing will be an in-demand occupation for years to come. You can become a RN with either a Bachelor’s or associate degree. Regardless, you’ll have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) after earning your degree.

The Bachelor’s degree route can lead to a higher salary, faster career advancement, and more professional autonomy. Earning an associate degree in nursing instead takes less time and is less expensive.  

Annual Openings in Missouri:
5,525
Average Wage in Missouri:
$65,130 / year
Ten-Year Growth Rate in Missouri:
16.2%

Hover over the image for more information!

Medical and Health Services Managers

Annual Openings in Missouri: 762
Average Wage in Missouri: $113,120 / year
Ten-year Growth Rate in Missouri: 17.8%

A group of people in scrubs. Presumably one of them is a Medical and Health Services Manager.

Americans spend $11,000 per capita on health care annually – more than any country in the world. So hospitals are hiring — much like nurses — a lot of medical and health service managers to meet the high demand for quality care. Medical and health services managers (also called health care executives or health care administrators) plan, direct, and coordinate medical and health services. They may manage an entire facility, a specific clinical area or department, or a medical practice for a group of physicians.

Medical and Health Services Managers

Americans spend $11,000 per capita on health care annually – more than any country in the world. So hospitals are hiring — much like nurses — a lot of medical and health service managers to meet the high demand for quality care. Medical and health services managers (also called healthcare executives or healthcare administrators) plan, direct, and coordinate medical and health services. They may manage an entire facility, a specific clinical area or department, or a medical practice for a group of physicians.

Annual Openings in Missouri:
762
Average Wage in Missouri:
$113,120 / year
Ten-Year Growth Rate in Missouri:
17.8%

Hover over the image for more information!

Information Security Analyst

Information security analysts plan and carry out security measures to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems. Their responsibilities are continually expanding as the number of cyberattacks increase. Information security analysts usually need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information assurance, programming, or a related field.

Annual Openings in Missouri:
352
Average Wage in Missouri:
$91,210 / year
Ten-Year Growth Rate in Missouri:
37.5%

Hover over the image for more information!

Information Security Analyst

Annual Openings in Missouri: 352
Average Wage in Missouri: $91,210 / year
Ten-year Growth Rate in Missouri: 37.5%

Two people at a computer surrounded by hard drives and other technical equipment. The one in the foreground is typing on a computer as the person behind him is pointing at the screen. He is an Information Security Analyst.

Information security analysts plan and carry out security measures to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems. Their responsibilities are continually expanding as the number of cyberattacks increase. Information security analysts usually need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information assurance, programming, or a related field.

Software Engineering

Interested in designing and programming computer applications? The software engineering occupation is not only high paying and rapidly growing, its barrier to entry is lower than you might think. While a bachelor’s degree in computer science will give you the theoretical knowledge that many employers are looking for, you can still get an entry-level job with an associate degree. There are also Coding Bootcamps, a relatively newer path to a software engineer career. These Bootcamp programs often take just 8 to 12 weeks and equip students with the training needed to land an entry-level job.  

Annual Openings in Missouri:
1,710
Average Wage in Missouri:
$93,880 / year
Ten-Year Growth Rate in Missouri:
26.9%

Hover over the image for more information!

Software Engineering

Annual Openings in Missouri: 1,710
Average Wage in Missouri: $93,880 / year
Ten-year Growth Rate in Missouri: 26.9%

Software Engineer at her computer

Interested in designing and programming computer applications? The software engineering occupation is not only high paying and rapidly growing, its barrier to entry is lower than you might think. While a bachelor’s degree in computer science will give you the theoretical knowledge that many employers are looking for, you can still get an entry-level job with an associate degree. There are also Coding Bootcamps, a relatively newer path to a software engineer career. These Bootcamp programs often take just 8 to 12 weeks and equip students with the training needed to land an entry-level job.  

Sales Representative, Wholesale Manufacturing -
Technical and Scientific Products

Educational requirements vary for sales representatives and depend on the type of products sold. If the products are scientific or technical, sales representatives typically need at least a bachelor’s degree.

In addition to a rising total volume of sales, a wider range of products and technologies will lead to increased demand for sales representatives. Although wholesale sales are increasingly being conducted online, these online sales are expected to complement, rather than replace, face-to-face selling. Therefore, online sales are not expected to have a negative effect on employment growth for these workers.

Annual Openings in Missouri:
653
Average Wage in Missouri:
$84,150 / year
Ten-Year Growth Rate in Missouri:
8.1%

Hover over the image for more information!

Sales Representative, Wholesale Manufacturing

(Technical and Scientific Products)
Annual Openings in Missouri: 653
Average Wage in Missouri: $84,150 / year
Ten-year Growth Rate in Missouri: 8.1%

A group of Sales Representatives studying something on the computer.

Educational requirements vary for sales representatives and depend on the type of products sold. If the products are scientific or technical, sales representatives typically need at least a bachelor’s degree.

In addition to a rising total volume of sales, a wider range of products and technologies will lead to increased demand for sales representatives. Although wholesale sales are increasingly being conducted online, these online sales are expected to complement, rather than replace, face-to-face selling. Therefore, online sales are not expected to have a negative effect on employment growth for these workers.

Data provided by Missouri Economic Research & Information Center and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Operational Outlook Handbook.

What makes Missouri a Great Place for new Grads

An overhead view of the town of Hermann. The bridge is illuminated over the Missouri River

If you have just graduated college or are about to graduate college, you have probably spent a lot of time thinking about your next move.

Maybe you want to stay and work in your college town. Maybe you want to go back and work where you grew up. Maybe you’re looking for something new – a change of scenery, a clean slate.

Whether you’re looking for a big city, a smaller town, or anything in between, the state of Missouri has a lot to offer new grads.

Midwest Momentum 

For many college grads, the cost of living in America’s coastal cities is too high. Even a high paying entry-level position will only land you a small apartment with multiple roommates in places like San Francisco, Boston, and Washington D.C. However, that’s not the case in the Midwest.

Every year, Porch, a paid service for current and aspiring homeowners, ranks the best cities for recent college graduates to live. The ranking factors in affordability, job market, and recreational activities available in a given city.   

In 2021, according to Porch, seven of the ten best cities for new college grads are in the Midwest. All ten cities are in landlocked states.

St. Louis

The state of Missouri fared well in Porch’s rankings. St. Louis scored the second-highest score among large metros to move to after college. This high ranking can be mostly attributed to St Louis’ low cost of living, which is about 10 percent less than the average large-size U.S. metro. And with large employers such as Ascension Health Alliance, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and Emerson Electric, the unemployment rate for recent graduates in St. Louis is 1.8 percent.

The riverfront of St. Louis showing the Gateway Arch and other buildings at night. There is a slight reflection on the water.

Kansas City

The plaza fountain in Kansas City

The city on the west side of the state also ranks high among large metros for recent grads. Porch lists Kansas City at No.8.

Recent grads, especially those from Missouri’s colleges and universities, have been flocking to Kansas City for years – more so than St. Louis even.

With a championship NFL team in the Chiefs, an elite concert venue in the T-Mobile Center, awesome shopping at the Plaza, and a great late-night scene at Westport– on top of a strong job market and relatively low cost of living — Kansas City is a preferred destination for young people just starting their careers.   

Smaller Cities

If you’re looking for something a little smaller, less crowded, more cost effective, Missouri has some great small and midsize cities. Porch ranked Jefferson City the No.1 small metro for recent college graduates because of its low cost of living and strong job market. There are large companies headquartered in the state’s smaller cities, such as Bass Pro Shop and O’Reilly Auto Parts which are both headquartered in Springfield. St. Joseph’s cost of living is lower than the Missouri average, yet you’d still be only a one-hour drive away from Kansas City. Exploring Missouri’s small and mid-sized city options can offer the recent college graduate plenty of opportunity to choose from.   

Missouri State Capitol in the Spring. There are tulips in front of it.

5 Reasons to Apply to Multiple Schools

a girl reading a piece of paper she received in a large manila envelope.

Going into my senior year, I had everything mapped out. I visited Truman State University and immediately fell in love with the campus and atmosphere. There was no other place that I wanted to go. Later that spring I found out about William & Mary in Virginia, the school Thomas Jefferson went to. It was a school that seemed so perfect there was no need for a back-up plan. I only submitted one application because there was only one school I felt I should go to. Problem is, William & Mary did not agree and I got the rejection letter in the middle of April without time to apply to a different school.

Nearly 37 percent of all college students will transfer schools at some point in their educational journey. That was the case for me when I eventually made my way to my first dream school, Truman State, after spending two years at a local college. Millions of students across the country feel the same as I did, lacking other options when their main plans did not work out. As a student who went through this struggle and as a former college advisor, I’ve learned that one of the biggest keys to academic success is feeling some investment in your school, which is why most students only apply to their top choice.

Today I want to talk about five reasons you should apply to multiple schools. Hopefully, this will help you as well!

1. Circumstances change.

A lot can happen during the course of your senior year. Your relationships will change, you’ll gain new interests, etc. I was someone looking for a small school with a rigorous academic focus but chose to go to a school close to home instead. Likewise, there are plenty of students across the country whose priorities are constantly changing. To counter this, it is crucial that you apply to more than one school.

If you’re undecided on a major, a community college might be a better short-term option where you can get your general education credits out of the way before deciding on your path. You may also consider getting your associate degree or a certificate first, then if you decide you want to do more, you can stack those credentials by getting your bachelor’s degree later.

Applying to two universities, differing in demographics and campus, can provide a chance to have two styles of campus. When I was a College Advisor, I had a student who was offered a volleyball scholarship after she played in a spring tournament. This changed her options drastically and she ended up choosing a school she never considered before. It’s not always a bad thing!

Applying to at least three schools gives you a buffer if there is a major change that occurs outside of your control as well.

2. Other schools might offer more money!

Did you know that you could be accepted to multiple schools at the same time? Before you register for classes at your school of choice, it is a good option to apply to multiple schools and send them your FAFSA information. When filing your FAFSA you can indicate that you want your information sent to over ten universities. Each will give you information on how much financial aid they can provide. Remember, circumstances can change drastically during the year, so it is always important to see what the best financial option might be.

By looking at their multiple financial aid award letters, one student of mine was able to figure out exactly what ACT score they would need to achieve to make their top school financially viable.

3. There are ways to pay for application fees.

two people comparing numbers between a calculator and a piece of paper.

A big reason most people only apply to one school is application fees. They can range from low ($20), to medium ($60), to high (over $100). That can add up fast if you are applying to multiple schools. But there are ways to make it cheaper to apply to more colleges! First, if you are a student on free and reduced lunch or Pell eligible, you qualify for a national application fee waiver. Talk to your high school counselor about getting a fee waived. There are no limits to how many waivers you can fill out. If you do not qualify for a fee waiver, the university itself might be able to help. Many universities will waive application fees for students who come visit the campus or have talked to an admissions representative. Not only does that make the application cheaper, it gives you a chance to go visit schools.

There are also many schools that do not require an application fee for applying. All community colleges have a free application, meaning you are guaranteed at least one additional application that you will not have to pay for.

4. It makes the college process less stressful.

There is no denying that picking a university is a difficult choice for a high school senior. Especially if there are certain requirements you need to pass before you are officially accepted. The biggest of these obstacles for most students is standardized tests. The ACT and SAT can, not only decide if you can afford to go to the school of your choice, it can determine if you even get in at all. My ACT score was too low to get into William & Mary, but was good enough for Truman State. Some schools are even moving away from the standardized test score altogether. When you apply to multiple schools with different requirements for acceptance, it makes this score less impactful.

5. Don’t let rejection bring you down.

a teen writing things down in a notebook.

April of my senior year I was out of time and options. The only school I could see myself at did not accept me, and I did not finish the application to the only other school I visited. I eventually attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City for two years before transferring to Truman State. UMKC is a GREAT school, but I never felt personally connected with my choice. A lot of that was because I was judging it compared to the school I really wanted to attend. That attitude hurt my grades and my morale. The only solution was to go somewhere else for a fresh start.

This year, students across the country will get the same bad news. They did not get into the school of their dreams. But that should not be the end of your educational journey! By applying to multiple schools that you enjoy, you save yourself from feeling defeated. The main key to success in college is having an investment in your studies and that comes from being invested in your time at school. There is no such thing as a “safety school,” just other options you might enjoy if the first one does not work out.

5 Reasons to File a FAFSA

Every year, the U.S. Department of Education gives roughly $120 billion in federal loans, grants, and work-study funds to more than 13 million college students. These funds are awarded only to those who file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

By not submitting a FAFSA, students are leaving billions of dollars on the table, and are missing out on a pretty great deal. Federal loans have low interest rates, federal grants don’t need to be repaid, and work-study programs are a great way to pay for college while building your resume. And about 90 percent of high school seniors who submit a FAFSA enroll in college the following fall semester, whereas only about half of the high school seniors who do not submit the form end up enrolling in the fall. Filing a FAFSA to see what financial aid you qualify for could be the deciding factor.

The point is, there is NO reason you shouldn’t submit a FAFSA, and countless good reasons why you SHOULD. Here are five:  

More than just a loan

While most students submit a FAFSA as a way of securing a low-interest loan from the federal government, filing a FAFSA is also the only way to become eligible for certain types of aid that don’t need to be paid back. Every year, millions of dollars in grants and scholarships from states and universities are distributed based on financial need, and the only way to qualify for this aid is by submitting a FAFSA.

Most students qualify

You may qualify for free aid, like the Pell grant, or Access Missouri grant, but you won’t know unless you file. Anyone with a household income below $250,000 is eligible to receive some form of federal aid, as long as they submit a FAFSA. While only 5 percent of U.S. households make too much money to qualify for federal aid, more than 40 percent of high school seniors fail to file a FAFSA.

Federal loans are easier to pay off than private loans

Some students, instead of filing a FAFSA, choose to borrow money from private lenders such as banks, credit unions, state agencies, and even schools. However, there are many benefits to choosing a federal student loan over a private student loan.

The first is interest rates. In most cases, the interest rate on Federal loans is lower than those of private loans. The federal interest rate is also fixed and won’t change, whereas private loans can have variable interest rates, which are harder to predict.

Payments on Federal loans aren’t due until six months after you graduate or leave college, so you’ll have a grace period to land on your feet before your first payment is due. However, many private lenders require students to start making payments while they are still finishing school. Federal loans can also be deferred or put in a forbearance period if you are experiencing certain hardships, like a job loss or medical issue.  

It’s free to submit

It costs nothing to file a FAFSA, and you won’t be required to accept any aid you are offered. High schools across Missouri host FAFSA Frenzy events, where students can receive free help filling out their FAFSA. The FAFSA is easier now than it has ever been, with more simplified questions coming in the next few years.

Your financial situation could change

Unexpected crises, such as a global pandemic, create financial difficulties. One day, you could have a complex spreadsheet, mapping out exactly how you plan to pay for every one of your expenses; the next day, something bad happens – your income level changes, your employer goes out of business, a family member has a medical emergency, etc. – and your entire plan is sent into a tailspin. When special circumstances arise, you can appeal to your college’s financial aid office for additional assistance. Filing the FAFSA gives them a starting point to understand your financial situation. If things have changed, colleges can often use what’s called “professional judgment” to help you overcome new financial challenges and help get you back on your feet.

Making the most of a virtual internship

In the world of COVID-19, virtual may be the new normal for a lot of people. Going forward, school, work, and meetings will likely include an online or remote element. The same can be said for internships.

Internships provide great opportunities for college students to gain insights into the work they will be doing in their chosen career path. However, an internship where the work is done primarily in a remote setting can come with a few added difficulties.  

Here are some tips on how you can make the most of a virtual internship:

Ensure that you have good communication skills

It is hard sometimes to understand certain projects or work you may be assigned. Do not be afraid to reach out and ask for clarification. A simple email or call could be the difference between completing the project successfully and messing it up. Do not be afraid to ask questions, you are not in the physical office building, so communication is essential!

Establish a schedule

Being a virtual intern means there is a lot more room for distraction than if you were in person. By establishing set times throughout the week to work on assignments for your internship, you will be organized and get things done on time.

Plan introductory meetings with the staff you will be working with

Establishing good working relationships is a little more difficult when you are interning virtually, but it is not impossible! Ask your supervisor which staff members you’ll be working closely with. Then schedule meetings with those staff members and get to know them. Just because your internship is virtual does not mean you can’t create mutually beneficial relationships with your coworkers!

Get the most out of the internship that will benefit you in the future

Internships may be a little different virtually, but that does not mean they are any less important. Work hard on all the projects you are given, ask for feedback, establish what kind of work you enjoy, and make sure to challenge yourself. If you feel like your workload is a little light, ask your boss for a few additional projects. A virtual internship may be hard at first, but you can get just as much out of it as you would if you were in person!

Why making connections is essential for college freshmen

College is a very different experience than high school.

High school offers students structure. College offers students freedom. Take advantage of that freedom and you’ll graduate college with connections and friendships that will last a lifetime.

Step out of your comfort zone.

The best way to make connections at college is to get involved on campus, whether that be through Greek life, student run organizations, or talking to your instructors after class and during their office hours.

When you first get to college in August, start out by getting to know the people on your floor and in your residence hall.

Don’t be overwhelmed thinking you won’t have time for outside activities and responsibilities. You’ll only be in class for about 15 hours a week, which leaves plenty of time for working, studying, joining clubs, and hanging out with friends.   

Most colleges have different introduction events when students first move to campus, such as ice cream socials, mixers, concerts, sporting events, and activity fairs. Attend these events with an open mind. Stepping out of your comfort zone is not always easy, but over time, you will find it is almost always worth it.  

Build relationships with professors.

Many professors have office hours, in which students are encouraged to come in for one-on-one meetings. Making connections early on with your professors will prove beneficial when it comes time for midterm and finals, as well as when you start apply for internships, jobs, and/or graduate school and need letters of recommendation. Professors sometimes have hundreds of students in varying classes, so make sure they know your name and how much effort you’re putting into their class.

Remember, professors are there to help. Don’t hesitate to ask.