How saving might be hurting your financial aid chances

September 30th, 2011 by rebeccac

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Going back to college can get pretty expensive, so it makes sense to start putting away money for it as soon as possible, right? Build up some savings to complement any financial aid that you qualify for?

An article in today’s The Atlantic claims that may not be the smartest move after all.

A lot of it comes down to the FAFSA – the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – which you have to fill out if you want financial assistance with college. When the government is calculating how much award money you get from programs like Pell Grants and Stafford Loans, it throws everything into the equation – your income, your investments and your savings. If you have the cash socked away, the government figures you ought to use it for tuition and related expenses.

To a certain degree, that makes sense. But on the other hand, there a couple of flaws in this idea of throwing savings into the mix. 1) The government has no idea what your savings are for – maybe it’s been for college, but maybe it’s for big medical expenses. Or maybe it’s for your kids’ education. And 2) FAFSA essentially punishes people for exhibiting financially responsible behavior.

In his Atlantic article, Daniel Indiviglio gives an example based off a hypothetical student coming from a 4-person household where the combined income is $40,000:

• Student A has zero savings in the bank and gets awarded $4,000 in Pell Grant money.
• Student B has $50,000 in the bank and gets awarded $3,800 in Pell Grant money.

Is that a startling difference? No, and Indiviglio acknowledges that. But the big problem comes when one considers that FAFSA’s policies create a trickle-down effect. In order to simplify their financial aid processes, most colleges utilize the FAFSA information and copy their priorities in order to determine who gets the extremely valuable school-based aid. These include scholarships that can go a lot further in covering your education than any federal award, but you may not be considered as eligible for them because you have money in a savings account.

It is important that financial assistance money go where it is most needed, but can’t that be assessed based on income? Is there any real reason to short-change someone who makes sacrifices and manages their budget in order to tuck a little money away for the future?

It wouldn’t hurt the federal government to take another look at the situation and see if there’s a way to rearrange the formula so that responsible people aren’t punished for it. If they pave the way, it’s likely schools’ financial aid offices will follow.

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Scholarship Feature: Midland Business and Professional Women’s Club

July 21st, 2011 by admin

A Texas organization is throwing their support behind women who are trying to get back on track with education.

The Midland Business and Professional Women’s Club is offering four $500 scholarships each semester for women 25 years old and older who enroll in an accredited Texas school.

“Sometimes women don’t go back to school because they can’t pay and that shouldn’t be the situation,” President Glenda Knox told The Midland Reporter-Telegram.

In addition to meeting the age, gender and state requirements, those interested also must:

  • Be a high school graduate or GED recipient
  • Take at least six credit hours each semester
  • Demonstrate financial need
  • Submit a completed application and two reference letters
  • Maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher
  • Submit copies of expense receipts, their course schedule and (if applicable) their prior semester’s transcript

It’s preferred that the scholarship money is used directly for education expenses – books, tuition, etc. – but, unlike some other scholarships, they recognize that award winners may need the money for other related expenses, like childcare or transportation.

The Midland Business and Professional Women’s Club is a regional organization that focuses on representing women’s equality in the workplace. The application for their scholarship can be found on their official site.

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Tips for Winning Scholarships

April 20th, 2011 by admin

As the economy remains stagnant, more people are choosing to return to school. Many nontraditional adult students returning to college are under the false impression that all scholarships are for younger students entering school for the first time. This is simply not true. Many sources exist that offer scholarship aid for those students over the age of 25. Scholarships tend to be competitive. There are many things an applicant can do to increase his or her chances of being selected to receive these scholarships.
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First, the applicant should be prepared to apply early for scholarship offers. The providers tend to have strict deadlines and the offers open/close far in advance of their intended semesters. Starting far in advance also gives plenty of opportunity to take one’s time in making sure everything is complete, neat and free of errors. It also offers time to take care of any issues that may arise, such as lost documentation or the need for clarification.

When seeking a scholarship, an applicant must make sure that he or she meets the requirements. Some awards are very specific, and missing any of the parameters will knock an applicant out of consideration. Be sure to include all required samples, documents and other requested items. Forgetting anything could lead to delays or outright disqualification.

Scholarship applicants should be prepared to market themselves to the scholarship provider as a positive addition to the educational institution or profession. Excellent grades, high entry test scores and professional achievements are all important factors. Adults should have some sort of leadership or community service experience to showcase as well. This may be a good time to create a portfolio of projects for one’s profession and list any awards received. If there is anything that appears detrimental, such as a bad grade, be sure to offer an explanation. Leave nothing to the imagination of the application’s reviewer.

Part of marketing one’s self is preparation of an outstanding essay. The essay portion of the application is the equivalent of a face-to-face interview and should be taken just as seriously. This offers the chance to really explain one’s goals and why he or she is the best choice for the educational award. Keep in mind that the awarding institution wants to be certain it is making the best decision for giving away scarce resources.

It would be a good idea to seek the advice of people that have received scholarships. Better yet, applicants should use their network of mentors, past professors, supervisors and other professional acquaintances to guide them. Experience and another set of eyes goes a long way to polishing the application and revealing mistakes.

One of the newer tips to take to heart is checking personal Internet presence. Many people use social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Anyone that applies for scholarships should make sure that these sources of personal information show nothing detrimental. There have been cases in which decisions have been made or altered because of a person’s social information online.

Start your college search at US College Search or find us on Facebook and Twitter and check out all of our online degree options.

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Everything You Need to Know about Student Loans

August 26th, 2010 by admin

Student loans are an integral part of the education system, as many who look to gain education beyond high school must rely on them for financial aid. Student loans allow students to pay for various things in their college careers, such as tuition, room and board, and food.

It is important for all to completely understand everything that there is to know about student loans. Student loans have multiple aspects that both students and parents must consider before taking the plunge into thousands of dollars of debt. Parents and students alike must think about the process of getting a student loan, finding the best student loans available, how they can use their student loans, and the best way to pay back all of the loans that have been taken out. These tips will walk you through the entire loan process, from application to pay back.

Tip #1: Understand What Student Loans are

There are millions of students who apply for a student loan program each and every year. Many students fail to realize that there are different kinds of student undergraduate loans that they can apply for. Federal loan program loans are those that are loaned from the government, while bank loans are students loans provided by a general bank. Those seeking federal financial aid will need to fill out a FASFA form – the government decides how much money you will get based on the information on this form.

Tip #2: Consider all different Student Loan options

There are multiple loan options for those who are looking to get student loans for college. There are student federal loans that come from the government, low interest loans that work to provide necessary aid to college students. There are also basic college loans that come from banks or other third parties. These are the types of loans that often feature high interest rates, and are generally the loans that will not defer monthly payments until after graduation.

It is important for you to consider your different options before you actually decide on the loan that you are going to choose. You need to think about the pros and cons of each to understand what you will be getting yourself into before you finally decide on a student loan for your college career.

Tip #3: Use Your Student Loans with Caution

Student financial aid can be used for a myriad of things, depending on the actual loan that is handed out. Most student financial aid and student loan program monies can be used for anything connected to school, whether that be food, room and board, or tuition. College loans simply work to make college available to you, as most of the costs would be too high to pay out of pocket.

If you are thinking about the different ways for you to use your college loans and student financial aid, you need toe be cautious. You need to remember that these loans, whether they be a federal loan of a bank loan, are going to need to be paid back. Do not spend any of the student federal loan money that you do not need, as you will be able to kick that back into the loan to lower your overall total.

Tip #4: Student Loan Consolidation

Those who have multiple student loans, whether they have to pay them back within months or after they graduate, are going to want to consider consolidation. Loans consolidation simply takes all of your loans and lumps them into one student consolidation loan. Student consolidate loans make loan payments easier, as you will only be paying one monthly payment. Many will find that this helps to lower their student loan interest rate, as they are able to lock in a better rate with the student consolidation company.

Tip #5: Student Loan Repayment

Student loans can completely ruin your credit, as high amounts of debt and unpaid monthly payments are added to your credit score. The only way to slowly lower your student bad credit is to pay off your college loans promptly and on time. Simply set a reminder for yourself, as this reminder will keep you from dealing with late fees and credit score dings.

If you are looking to make a serious dent in your student bad credit you need to pay off more than the low monthly payment. Student interest rates for student loans are often high, simply adding to the amount that must be paid. The more that you can pay off, the less that you will be pay in interest over time.

Tip #6: Student Loan Budgets

There are plenty of different students that are somewhat taken aback by the incredibly large monthly payments that must be paid to keep up with student loans. They fail to realize that some intense budgeting is needed to make sure that no monetary mishaps occur.

Simply put, you must budget for your new expenses. Take the time to sit down and think about how much money you make, and how much money must go out to bills. You can then factor in basic needs, such as gas and food, to understand exactly how much money you need to save each month. It can be easy to get behind on student loan payments, making budgeting a crucial part of staying afloat. If you take the time to create a budget and stick to that budget, you will be able to pay your student loans.

The world of college loans and student loans can be difficult to understand. With different options and different consequences, students need to work to completely understand what type of loan they are getting, and how to pay that loan off. Taking the time to think about your loan, budget your expenses, and pay on time will help to make the overall college loan experience as painless as possible.

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Find your purpose – and maybe a better job

December 18th, 2008 by admin

So, you’re looking for some direction in your life. Well, you’re definitely not alone there. Whether you’re getting ready to graduate, or if you’re just looking for a lifestyle or career change, the number of choices out there can be overwhelming.We’re all well-aware that the economy is not super hot right now. But here’s a piece of advice I’ve heard some career experts recommend to people who are having a tough time snagging a job right now:

They say that volunteering can be a great way to gain experience that employers will appreciate. But best of all, many volunteer opportunities can give you the chance to make a difference in someone else’s life.

Today, I was reading about an organization called City Year. It’s affiliated with AmeriCorps (the domestic version of the Peace Corps), and it gives young people between the ages of 17 and 24 the chance to spend one year volunteering with kids from urban areas all across the country.

Though helping others is a great incentive, City Year can also help its members prepare for life after their year of service has ended. They offer education awards and scholarships, in addition to a monthly stipend to cover living expenses. Plus, you could experience life in a new place, while meeting new people.

A friend of mine who lives in New York City told me about how she sees City Year volunteers all over the place. She said she always recognizes them by their trademark red uniforms and their cheerful attitudes. Apparently, these folks really love what they’re doing!

The benefits of volunteering seem almost endless. And it might even open career or education doors in ways you weren’t expecting.

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Getting ready for the new G.I. Bill

December 5th, 2008 by AbbeyR

Most of us are familiar with advertisements created by the United States armed forces. A major selling point in a lot of these ads is the military’s promise to help servicemen and women pay for their college education.

To me, this idea seems pretty fair. Our country owes a lot to the men and women who defend the United States through military service at home and abroad. Offering our veterans a quality education when they return home is probably the least we can do to repay them.

Since the end of World War II – and the first version of the G.I. Bill – veterans’ circumstances have changed. Due to inflation, today’s Iraq and Afghanistan veterans’ benefits just don’t go as far as they used to.

This coming August, the new G.I. Bill will take effect. This version of the bill offers benefits to those who have served at least 90 continuous days of active military duty since September 11, 2001, or those who served at least 30 days and were discharged with a service-connected disability.

What does this mean for veterans and civilians?

Most likely, it means more veterans around college and university campuses. The new bill has been updated to accommodate rising education costs, so more veterans can pursue a higher-quality education.

The college experience can be daunting for some veterans who have grown used to a military-style daily routine. Civilian students should be welcoming and respectful to veterans they meet. Some veterans don’t mind answering questions about military life, but some would prefer more privacy.

If you want to get involved, many colleges have student veteran organizations. These groups can help veterans join a community, and can allow civilian students to reach out to veterans who have sacrificed so much for the rest of us.

 Sounds like a good thing to me!

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Make Money for College by Blogging

October 23rd, 2008 by admin

What would be easier than winning a scholarship for school? Blogging to earn money for school. We’ve discovered a great way to earn money for school and doing something almost anyone can start up: a blog.

With the forefront of technology, blogging has become trend that everyone has jumped on. No longer the case that you need an English or Journalism degree to write and have it published with the Wide World Web, getting your thoughts out there is easy. is about rewarding those who share their thoughts, opinions and perspectives. Every year since 2006, has held a blogging contest for people to win money for college.

The criteria isn’t too difficult, you just have to be enrolled in post-secondary education, have a blog that you are passionate about (no spam), be a United States citizen or permanent resident, and have your name and blog published on the website if you win. The scholarship awards a first prize of $10,000, and 2 runner-ups with $1,000 each. 

So, what are you waiting for? Explore your hidden talents of writing and put them to the test for a chance to win money for college. The deadline hasn’t passed if you already have a blog up and running. The submission date is October 15-30.  

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Tired of Carrying Around all Those Books?

September 18th, 2008 by admin

The campus bookstore is a familiar sight every semester. Students stand packed in line, their arms crowded with almost more books than they can hold.

But the future is changing.

Electronic book readers are really starting to pick up steam.  Instead of waiting in line and hauling a dozen books around, with ebook readers, students will be able to download the books instantly, and carry their entire semester’s worth of books on a single, lightweight device.

It’s already starting to happen.  This year, Penn State Universities Libraries and the English Department are beginning a project using the Sony Reader Digital Book, testing how useful having electronic book readers can be in a higher education setting.  And Plastic Logic has announced a new, larger electronic reading device that might just be perfect for academic textbooks!  Even library books are now becoming available electronically.

So this semester, go ahead and buy that backpack.  But who knows?  By next year, it might be out of style!

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Scholarship Secrets

November 20th, 2007 by admin

I remember the spring semester of my senior year of high school. The scholarship awards banquets never seemed to end. I also remember my friend Andy saying to me after the last banquet, “Geez. They should have just called these all ‘The Cara Awards.’”

Yes, it’s true I was a good student, but that’s not what got my name called so many times. It was my determination.

I spent a lot of hours after school meeting with my counselor to find all of the scholarship opportunities offered by local businesses. I spent many hours in the evenings applying for these local opportunities. I fit it in between studying and filling out college applications. And not many other kids did. That made my competition a lot smaller, which in turn made my combined rewards a lot larger.

I didn’t win every local scholarship I applied for … but I did get about 80-90% of them. And all that extra work cut my potential college loans by half (if not more than half). My time invested into the local scholarship market was well worth it.

See, most high schoolers aim for the stars when it comes to scholarships. (Which isn’t an entirely bad thing.) You want the biggest scholarship out there, and so you pour all of your time and energy into applying for those.

Yes – it’s a great investment of your time. If you get the scholarship. But you know what? Investing time into small scholarships is well worth it, too! Even if they only sustain for 1 or 2 years, all of those added up can take a large chunk out of what you require for loans and make college much less expensive in the long run.

I actually ended up getting a pretty good academic scholarship to my first-choice school. But it was the smaller, local scholarships that made the biggest difference. By the time I was 5 years out of school, I already had my college loans paid off.

So, as you start applying for scholarship opportunities, leave no stone unturned. College is a huge and expensive investment. Every little bit of money you can get will help.

Learn more about scholarship opportunities.

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Finding the Funding – Special scholarships available to minority students

September 25th, 2007 by Alex Bachhuber Staff Writer

Almost every prospective college student wonders where the money is going to come from to go to college. Getting the most out of financial aid and scholarships can be a confusing and sometimes stressful process, so starting early and being educated about your options is the best way to keep the pressure off.

State and Federal Aid
To apply for state and federal aid, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) must be filled out. By completing this form, you are eligible for need-based grants, scholarships, work-study programs and loans from the state and federal government. To apply online or find more information, go to

Private Scholarships
There are millions of dollars out there in a variety of scholarships. Private scholarships typically take some time to find and to apply for. A financial aid expert at Nelnet Enrollment Solutions, Craig Cornell, said, “Scholarships may be ‘free’ money, but you’ll find that the ‘price’ of finding ‘free’ money is the effort and perseverance you will need to uncover all of the opportunities out there.”

Cornell recommends looking at a variety of organizations. Check with your counselor for local scholarship information and then continue your search of community clubs, ethnic organizations, religious groups, education associations, veterans’ organizations and even local colleges.

The following web sites are great resources to find more information about scholarships and financial aid information. Use them, your high school counselor and financial aid professionals at your prospective schools as resources in your search for money to pay for college.

Search a database of more than $8 million in scholarships, allowing you to narrow your search based on who you are, where you live and what you are interested in.

The Sallie Mae Fund
Last year the Sallie Mae Fund gave out $2.5 million in college scholarships to low-income and minority students.

Hispanic College Fund
Information about several scholarships for Hispanic students can be found here. Make sure to look under the resource section to find links to scholarships with a variety of qualifications and interests.

Ronald McDonald National Scholarship Program
The Ronald McDonald House Charity offers four scholarships to high school seniors through their chapters nationwide. You can find all the information about scholarships and how to reach the local chapters that offer them on the site.

Other informative sites and scholarships to look at:
The United Negro College Fund

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute

Hispanic Scholarship Fund

Coca-Cola Scholars

The Gates Millennium Scholars

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