The Center for Life Beyond Reed

Low-SES and First-Generation Students

Welcome to our resource page for Low-SES and First-Generation Reedies! Here, you can find some resources and information we’ve compiled to help you navigate the world of internships, jobs, and scholarships for you. We know college can be isolating to low-SES and first-gen students, but we promise you aren’t alone in this, and we’re here to help you with the unique challenges you may face. Those of you making history for your family or financially supporting yourself and them while you study here are superheroes. No matter what opportunities you’re pursuing or what the job searching process means to you right now, you bring so much to the table, and we want to empower you to reach for whatever success means to you, bring your talents to the world, and live with purpose. We’d love to meet you wherever you are - and we mean that literally and metaphorically - to talk about your life beyond Reed. And finally, we know we aren’t perfect: if you notice any ways we could improve this page, please let us know by emailing

Affording Opportunities...

You probably already know that volunteer and internship experience is a great thing to start gaining while you’re in college. It looks good on your resume, can help you network and “break in” to your desired field, makes you more employable, and, of course, can teach you valuable lessons and help you focus your career goals. But all too often, such positions are unpaid or low-paying, forcing you to give up your time without compensation. Thus, starting the career path can be challenging in that it often demands you go through a resume-building, experience-building period of struggling to support yourself - and your family, if you need to - before getting a career that pays enough for you to live comfortably. It’s a system that, all too often, reserves the ability to “chase your dreams” or “find your calling” for those who don’t have to worry about where their next meal or next month’s rent will come from, and sticks low-SES job seekers in positions that don’t serve their goals. We wish that weren’t the case, but it is. And hey, if putting off your dream job for a while is what you’ve got to do to keep yourself and your family afloat, we support you in that, too (and we’ll happily help you land that just-for-now job). But let’s discuss some other options first. There are three main resources we want to direct your attention to when it comes to navigating this phase: federal work study, grants, and (of course) ourselves.

Federal Work Study

Federal Work-Study (FWS) is one way to earn income while gaining work experience in part time jobs on or off-campus related to community service or your course of study. Federal Work-Study is a form of need-based financial aid that pays students an hourly rate in part-time jobs on or off-campus related to community service or your course of study. You can check to see if you have Federal Work-Study in BannerWeb. There are two types of work-study, Federal Work Study and Reed Work Study; learn more about both and the differences between them on the Student Work Office site.

If you are interested in working in an off-campus FWS position, you should check out the SEEDS website and view the open positions on Handshake. SEEDS (Students for Education, Equity, and Direct Service) is the Reed department that handles all off-campus FWS placements. CLBR can help you when it comes to choosing a FWS site that is in line with your interests and career goals, with the job application, and with boosting your resume for your site(s) of choice, and if you need any career-related advice while on the job (like how to navigate the workplace’s social environment or what to wear).

If you are interested in on-campus work, see the Student Work Office website and check out on-campus jobs on Handshake.

Fellowships & Awards

There are a ton of opportunities out there to win financial sponsorship to support projects such as travel, research, internships, attending conferences, and more. They’re awarded by - among other entities - Reed funding, companies, nonprofits, and branches of the government. One drawback to this route is that they’re competitive, and another is that there are simply so many of them that it’d be nearly impossible to start from scratch and pore through all of them to find and apply for the ones that are the best fit for you. However, both of these are obstacles we can help you with! Here’s a list of Reed Sponsored & Summer Grants, and here’s our page on Nationally Competitive Opportunities. We also have a tool that lets you search and filter fellowships and awards. Just to highlight a few examples, Reed offers awards that support unpaid internships and funding for those interested in pursuing social justice opportunities; and has connections to scholarships that support low-SES students in studying abroad, fund overseas low-SES/first-generation student internships. There are also off-campus opportunities we don’t partner with (yet!), like the Emerging Leaders paid internships at top Portland companies for first-generation and low-SES students, so we encourage you to do some Googling on your own. Most of all, though, we hope you’ll make an appointment or swing by to talk with us about your options. It’ll be much faster than trying to sort through them all on your own, since we’re already familiar with the options and can help you decide. Plus, we can help you fill out the applications to maximize your chances of success!

Career Advising at Prexy

If there’s anything at all you have questions about or would like support with along your career development journey, whether you’re just starting to think about how your interests could shape your summer job or whether you’re in the final stages of considering what to do after Reed, we’d love for you to come in and speak with us. We can help you find and apply for any sort of career-related opportunities, including (but not limited to!) Federal Work Study placements, grants, and on- and off- campus jobs. No matter what your goals are, we’d be happy to help you achieve them.

...Getting To Them…

We also understand that transportation to and from off-campus opportunities can be a challenge, especially if you don’t own a car. We’d like to draw your attention to four low- or no-cost ways to get where you need to be: Trimet passes subsidized through Reed College, Trimet’s low-income program, free bus passes for low-SES Reedies, and carpooling.

  • Reed’s Trimet subsidy: You can buy a monthly Trimet pass for 50% off, or $50, at the cashier’s window on the 300-level of Eliot Hall. They’re open Monday through Friday, from 10 AM to 4 PM. This is open to all students, not just low-SES ones, so don’t worry about bringing income documentation or anything - but make sure to bring cash or a check, and your Reed ID!
  • Trimet’s low-income program: If you’re enrolled in certain assistance programs or have a household income below a certain amount, and can provide documentation of that, you’re eligible for reduced fares through Trimet. Unlike the Reed option, this discount applies to all passes, not just month passes, and it ranges from 50% to 72%. A monthly honored citizen pass through Trimet costs only $28. Current Reed students who qualify for and register for an honored citizen bus pass can have the $28 monthly pass fully subsidized by Reed—learn more about the honored citizen pass here.
  • Carpooling: Sharing a ride can be a cheap and efficient way to get where you need to be, as long as you can find someone to share it with.
    • If you’re headed to an off-campus Federal Work Study site: Reach out to the SEEDS Program Coordinator, Tara Sonali Miller (, 503-777-7563) or to your supervisor at that site, and see if they can connect you with other students who work there. In addition, Federal Work Study compensates students for up to an hour of transportation time per day, which more than covers daily bus fare.
    • If your destination is elsewhere, there’s still a chance other Reedies are going the way you’re going. Try asking around to try and find them, and see if they would let you tag along!

...And Affording Clothes To Wear To Them

The high-stakes expectation to “look professional” for an interview, internship, or job can be daunting for anyone, but it’s especially challenging when you can’t afford to go on a businesswear shopping spree. Sometimes, a whole new wardrobe of suits and leather shoes isn’t a wise, or even feasible, use of your money. The most convenient solution may be to ask around: it’s likely that other Reedies have business attire they could lend you. If that’s not an option, though, here are some other ideas.

  • Dress For Success is a Portland nonprofit organization that aims to “empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and life.” They offer personal shopping assistants and workplace-appropriate clothing, free of charge. Unfortunately, you must be referred by a social service agency - a list of organizations that can refer you can be found here. And, of course, this may not be too helpful if you don’t identify as a woman or want “women’s” clothings.
  • Best Foot Forward is similar: their motto is “outfitting men for business and life.” They offer business formal, business informal, business casual, and hospitality clothes and shoes at no charge for people who need “men’s” clothing they can wear on the job. However, you need to be referred by a job counselor.
  • Unfortunately, we know of no service at this time that provides comparable services for nonbinary people, or anyone who wouldn’t feel comfortable in either women’s or men’s clothing. However, we encourage you to check out the Reed Community Pantry, reach out to Reed’s Queer Student Union and Low-SES Facebook group, and to the Portland Q Center - hopefully somebody will have ideas we don’t! (If they do, we’d love if you let us know so we can add them to this page.)
  • If none of the above work out for you, you can apply for the Career Advancement Fund, which allows you to apply for up to $500 per year for expenses related to your career exploration and development. Professional clothes for students who otherwise couldn’t afford any is absolutely the sort of thing it’s intended to help with (please note that requests for professional clothing are generally limited to $200)!

Student Loan Forgiveness Information

You might have heard of federal loan forgiveness programs. It’s true: the federal government offers loan forgiveness for graduates who go into public service and those who go on to become teachers. The former become eligible for forgiveness through working at least 30 hours per week (or meeting their employer’s definition of full-time) at a 501(c)(3) nonprofit or a government organization, and after making 120 qualifying monthly payments. Check out this page for much more detailed and up-to-date information. Teachers, on the other hand, should refer to this page, but the gist of it is that they’re eligible for forgiveness of up to $17,500 after teaching full-time for five years in a low-income school or educational service agency. You might also be interested in this resource, last updated in Spring 2017, that was put together by Reed’s financial aid office in partnership with Innovative Changes, a non-profit they partnered with.

All of that being said, it’s very important that you know that even if you do everything required to gain loan forgiveness, loan forgiveness is not guaranteed. There have been a significant number of cases where individuals follow every step and do everything properly, but still don’t end up being able to access loan forgiveness. So, we don’t necessarily advise building your whole career direction around the hope of loan forgiveness - rather, it’s a nice bonus you may want to consider if the path to it aligns with the goals you already had.

Non-Career-Related Community Resources

We’ve tried to provide a pretty extensive list of resources here related to your Life Beyond Reed, but the truth is that your life while at Reed is equally important (if not more so), and there are also a lot of resources out there to help with that. Career-related topics are the only ones we can help you with at Prexy, but from healthcare to food to housing and more, there are systems in place to support you. We’d like to direct your attention to the Reed Low-SES and First-Gen Information and Resource Guide, to the Reed Low-SES/First Gen Student Group (Facebook), the Reed Community Pantry (RCP)and to Reed’s Multicultural Resource Center. You’re not alone in any of this.

If you have any further questions or could benefit from some one-on-one career guidance from us, we’d love to meet with you. All of CLBR’s counselors are experienced in and sensitive to the unique needs of low-SES and first-generation college students, but if you’d rather meet with one who understands firsthand, schedule an appointment with Hayden, who was a first-generation student, or with Shania or Charles, both of whom were first-generation and low-income students. We look forward to meeting you!