“You?ve won a $2,000 scholarship!? said the voice on the phone.

?Excuse me,? I replied.

?You?ve won the Virginia A. Bowmaker scholarship in the amount of $2,000. I will be mailing the check today and you should receive it by the end of this week. It?s made out to you and your school. You?ll have to sign it and deliver it to your Bursar?s office.?

Now you can imagine my elation. This is the stuff dreams are made of ? $2,000 means that you might have enough money left over after paying your tuition bill to buy yourself a hamburger or a case of ramen noodles.

Once I got back to school I proudly dropped off my scholarship check and then walked out the door with a smile on my face. Two days later I decided to check my account statement. That day I learned one of those life lessons you?re always told that you will learn in college: Disappointment is inevitable. Instead of reading $2,000, my account balance read $1,250.

This had to be a mistake. I went back to the Bursar?s office. They told me to go to the office of Student Financial Assistance. The office of Student Financial Assistance then tried to blame it on the Bursar, but then someone impatiently explained to me what had happened.

The first $500 dollars of my scholarship was applied directly to my tuition. The next $1,500 of my scholarship was split. Half of it was applied to my tuition and the other half was taken out of a grant that I had already received from UR.

To make things worse, originally I had received a $2,000 federal work-study grant. This means that the money I made would not be counted against me when determining my financial aid.

However, because my $2,000 scholarship put me over the bracket for qualifying for that much work-study, my work study grant was reduced to $889.00.

This makes my net gain on my $2,000 scholarship $139. I guess the other $1,861 got lost somewhere in the shuffle.

That?s the paradox of financial aid. You need money for tuition, so you apply for scholarships and a job. However, if you get a scholarship for over $500, half the amount gets taken out of your existing financial aid package. If you work without a work-study grant, the money that you make is taxed and counted against you when you apply for financial aid.

All I know, is that I worked hard for merit and need-based scholarships and all I have to show for it is $139 dollars.

Too bad most of my books cost more that.

Emily Brandon can be reached at


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