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Paying for a college education is no small task these days. Between tuition, living expenses, books and other needs – some degree programs can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, there are many ways to help ease this financial burden! Financial aid, scholarships, loans, and grants are a great way to start. In this article, you will learn how to leverage all the tools and resources available to help guide you on how to get the most financial aid possible.
A scholarship is an award for a specific amount of money that is given to the student based on merit. There are many types of scholarships available. These may come directly through the school you are applying to, or be made available to you from outside sources. If you are planning to apply to college, you cannot overlook these as an option for raising money for college. Regardless of the scholarship, you are applying for, you can plan on submitting your transcripts, your ACT/SAT scores, and writing an essay.
Many schools offer scholarships based on a number of criteria.
• Athletic scholarships are commonly offered to students. Once the offer has been extended, these students must attain a minimum ACT or SAT score and minimum grade point average (GPA) in order to qualify.
• Academic scholarships are another frequently awarded scholarship. These are awarded based on academic performance in high school or at community or junior colleges. Typically, GPA and ACT/SAT scores are the primary criteria for these scholarships. However, the criteria may change based on the number of qualified applicants.
• Non-Traditional Student scholarships are an excellent option if you qualify. These are offered to students based on many criteria. Race, gender, and age are typically considered for these scholarships. For example, if you are a parent who is returning to start or finish earning a degree, this could be a scholarship you may qualify for.
• Creative scholarships are also occasionally offered by colleges – usually specified by the art departments within the colleges. These usually require submission of work (music, artwork, photography portfolio, etc.) and these are considered along with academic performance and other factors.
Schools are not the only option for scholarships – often there are businesses or groups who fund scholarships as well. These also typically consider GPA and ACT/SAT scores – but there is a myriad of other factors that are considered. Scholarships can be awarded for:
• Creative use of products (duct tape, yarn, sticky notes, etc.)
• Genealogy – there are scholarships available to descendants of a specific lineage
• Career – there are many companies that offer scholarships for students getting specific degrees. Students seeking teaching degrees specifically have many scholarships available to them.
• Scholarship for Work – many businesses will pay for students to attend college and study-specific programs in exchange for returning and working for that company for an allotted amount of time. These can be excellent options for students, but make sure to read the terms of the agreement before signing. You will want guaranteed employment and to ensure that payback and opt-out clauses are available.
• The US Armed Forces also offer significant scholarships to students who enlist to serve for an allotted time.
This FREE comprehensive guide packed full of free knowledge, information and resources to help you in your scholarship search. This guide goes over scholarships that are available, how to find them, when to apply for them, how to get your money and how it could affect your student aid.
Grants are typically made available through colleges as well, they are also often awarded after FAFSA forms are filled out. A grant is similar to a scholarship because it does not require repayment at any time. These are usually made available based upon financial need and minority or non-traditional student status.
Work-study is a great way to earn money for college. These programs are typically on-campus jobs, they are paid by the federal or state government and are awarded based on financial need and qualification for the jobs needed. These jobs can be anything from reception work for college departments to janitorial services. You will know if you qualify for work-study programs after your FAFSA form has been accepted and approved. Then you can search the work-study job boards at your college for the option that is best for you.
Loans are available everywhere. In fact, you have probably heard people talking (complaining) about the problem with student loan debt often. Unfortunately, there are many loan options available, and it is tempting to apply for more than is actually needed. Student loans should only be considered if you have done everything you can to apply for scholarships, grants, and financial aid and still feel you may need more help. If this is the case, consider applying for federal student loans first.
These loans are usually awarded through your college or university and typically have interest deferment and/or delayed payment options. They also typically have lower, fixed interest rates.
Private student loans are available, but really should be avoided if at all possible. These loans usually have higher interest rates and generally begin accruing interest as soon as the funds are released, which means you will owe more at the end of the semester than when you got the loan.
Now that we have covered some of the options for gathering funds for college, let’s make sure you have the best chance of getting it!
It never hurts to apply early for financial aid or scholarships – because if you miss a deadline, then you missed your chance. So apply early and apply for as many options as possible.
One of the easiest ways to disqualify yourself for financial aid is to miss a box or a section of a form. Be sure that you check, and double-check that you have filled out the forms correctly. Check your essays for errors and grammar issues.
If you are accepted to several colleges, ask the financial counselors at the schools what they can do for you. You may find that you will qualify for significantly more aid at one school over another. If you are considering loans, compare interest rates, compare repayment schedules, compare deferment options, and compare fees. Doing your research is essential in ensuring that you get the most for your money.
The final thing to consider when looking at paying for college is how much money you really need. Here are some things to consider that will drastically affect your budget and the amount of money you will need to cover your costs.
• Tuition Costs
• Equipment Costs (books, computer, etc.)
• Cost of living (food, utilities, rent, etc.)
• Lifestyle needs (car, spending money, clothing needs)
It can be tempting to want to live large, but consider that the more you borrow the more you will be forced to pay back. Choosing a college or university that has lower tuition in a low cost of living area is a great way to save money. Living at home, or with roommates is another budget-friendly option.
Once you have decided where you will attend college and you know how much it will cost you, make a commitment to yourself to only borrow that amount. Set a budget for yourself and stick to it. This keeps you from over-borrowing.
I put together this FREE simple and essential budgeting tool for you to keep your college expenses on track. This a great stepping stone in getting you overall finances together and keeping your expenses under control while you’re in school. So what are you waiting for, download it today!
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