I’m pretty sure that most of you know by now that college can be quite expensive. Even a local college can put a rather large dent in your bank account, especially if you do not qualify for federal grants or other need-based aid. Yes, you can get a part-time job or take out student loans to help cover your expenses, but there may actually be a better solution…Scholarships! Here’s the catch, it actually takes some time and dedication to win, but wouldn’t you rather spend several hours writing scholarship applications at home than taking someone’s order at a drive-thru? Think about it; you could spend about 20 hours and win a $1,000 scholarship (or more), or 125 hours (at $8 an hour) tossing fries for roughly the same amount; it seems like a no-brainer to me. So, where do you find all of these college scholarships? It’s simple; click your heels together three times and say, ‘Show me the money!’ Just kidding…If you really want to find free money for college, check out these resources. Read the rest of this entry »
If you are one of the lucky students who has received acceptance letters from more than one college, congratulations! Your hard work and persistence has paid off, but you now have the difficult decision of choosing which college will be your home this fall. Each college that has offered you admission should also be sending you a financial aid award letter very soon. Although no two award letters are alike, most will contain similar information on what grants, scholarships and loans will be provided to you, should you choose to attend. The information in these letters is very important and sometimes a little confusing, but each should be considered seriously before making your final decision. Here are some things to look for when comparing your college financial aid packages. Read the rest of this entry »
You’ve probably heard the stories about those strange scholarships that are just waiting for students to find them. But if you’ve done any research lately, you know that those weird and wacky scholarships aren’t always the easiest to locate, even with the Internet. It may be simple enough to stumble across some of the better known programs, like the Stuck at Prom Scholarship or the duck calling competition, but finding some of the more elusive scholarships may take a bit of luck…or the help of a seasoned scholarship hunter. That’s where I come in! During the many years I have spent searching and applying for scholarships, I have unearthed quite a few unusual award programs. Here are some of the weirdest, wackiest and wildest scholarships I have found.
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When the Bright Futures Scholarship Program began in 1997, many hoped that the promise of free money for college would encourage Florida’s brightest students to stay in-state for school. The plan worked, but possibly too well. The number of students receiving funding rose from 42,319 (1997-1998 school year) to 174,047 (2011-2012 school year), a 311 percent increase since the program’s inception. To date, a total of 1,863,792 scholarships have been disbursed at a total cost of $3,983,644,160. Impressive totals, but the award isn’t quite the same anymore. In fact, over the last three years, the value of the scholarship has declined each year, due to an increased number of applicants and declining lottery sales. With rising tuition rates and falling award amounts, more students will be dipping into their own pockets to help meet the costs of college, which may have some questioning whether the reward is still worth the effort. Unfortunately, the new eligibility requirements are making it even more challenging to earn a Bright Futures Scholarship. Read the rest of this entry »
Navigating the complex realm of student loans can be confusing and a bit overwhelming for some families. Although many students will complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in January, and may receive financial aid packages that include both federal and private loans, not all students will understand the difference between the programs. Unfortunately, many students will simply accept their loan packages without reviewing any of the program details or repayment terms. Before any student accepts a student loan offer, federal or private, he/she should review the general differences between the programs first. Here is a brief overview of how federal student loans differ from private loans. Read the rest of this entry »
When I returned to college in 2004, I never considered scholarships. Like many students, I assumed I would not qualify and never even bothered to look at what might be available to me. But after my first semester, I was singing another tune. I was surprised to find out that I had let several potential scholarships slip through my hands, simply because I believed the hype and didn’t invest the energy to do a little research on my own. Although many of the programs open to me were merit-based, there were even more that rewarded me for my creative writing skills, volunteer work, and past employment. During the four years I attended college, I was privileged to win more than 15 different scholarships, which helped me graduate nearly debt-free. If you are planning to attend college soon, do yourself a favor and set aside some time for scholarship applications. Just follow these simple tips that worked for me and you might find yourself winning a few scholarships, too! Read the rest of this entry »
In a few weeks, the 2013-2014 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be available. If you plan to attend college in 2013 or in the spring of 2014, you should start gathering the necessary documentation now to ensure you are prepared to complete the form in a timely manner. If you have not already done so, now is also a good time to register for a PIN, which is required to begin the FAFSA process. If you are a dependent student, keep in mind that your parent(s) will need a PIN, as well. Depending on whether you are an independent or dependent student, you may also need the following items to complete your form: Read the rest of this entry »
The cost of a four-year degree can easily surpass the value of a modest home these days, so it’s not surprising that many students (and parents) experience sticker shock when reviewing college tuition rates. Unfortunately, as states cut back their funding of higher education, more colleges are forced to pass the cost on to the students. The average tuition at a public four-year college increased 15 percent over the last few years, but some states, like Georgia, have seen increases in tuition as much as 40 percent. It’s no wonder why some students may be questioning whether a college education is still worth the investment of time and money. Although you can’t typically haggle for a better price (like buying a new car), students do have other options for lowering their tuition bills. Here are five simple steps most students can implement to help reduce the cost of their college education.
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Home schooling has grown in popularity over the years, attracting families from diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. In fact, there was an estimated 2.04 million home-schooled students in the United States last year. Parents who choose to home-school may do so for a variety of reasons, including personal values/beliefs, safety concerns, and the ability to teach a wider array of subject matter to their children. Although these students often score higher on college entrance exams, many find that their non-traditional schooling can sometimes be an obstacle in obtaining college scholarships. Unlike traditional students, home-schooled students may find it difficult to provide documentation to support their educational achievements and extracurricular activities. Fortunately, many organizations and colleges now provide scholarship programs specifically for those students who have spent one or more years in a home-schooled environment. Here are a few of those available scholarship programs.
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The U.S. Department of Education recently announced that over 300 institutions have now agreed to use the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet for the 2013-14 school year. This is great news for students who have found it difficult to decipher the financial aid award letters sent out by many colleges. Although some colleges provide students with letters that are easy to understand, others can be quite confusing. Many are not clear about which student loans are being offered (public or private) and often lump them with other offers of financial aid, such as grants and scholarships. The Shopping Sheet, which President Obama unveiled in July, helps students effectively compare colleges by outlining the costs and responsibilities of student loans, as well as providing information on total estimated annual expenses, institutional rates of completion and default, and the student’s estimated monthly loan payments after graduation. Read the rest of this entry »