Paying For A College Education

By this point in time, many students have decided on which college they plan on attending in the Fall and have sent in a deposit to hold their spot in the incoming college class. Now reality sets in as families work towards figuring out how to pay for a college education. Certainly a college education is a large investment and fortunately their are lots of options for paying for college, some better than others. There are many steps that one can take in covering the costs of college and I will outline those steps in this article.

Hopefully, you have applied for financial aid and been awarded a financial aid package by the college. Aid packages may include money from grants and scholarships, federal loan programs, and work programs. In most cases, although financial aid awards from college are key in meeting college costs, the financial aid offered will not cover all of the related college expenses. The reality is that even with financial aid from colleges, most families will still need to come up with additional funding.

Most people don’t have all of the funds needed to pay for college readily available and it may be necessary to pull from a number of different sources when figuring out how to pay for college. Keeping in mind that it is best to take advantage of the lowest cost options, I will start with those such options first.

After applying any financial aid funds that were awarded, families can figure out the balance due to the college. One of the lowest cost options available to cover college expense is a tuition payment plan. Typically, most colleges have a relationship with a tuition payment plan administrator and will provide families with details about available plans. Essentially, a tuition payment plan allows a family to pay their college-related expenses over the course of a designated time period, typically over 8 to 10 months, instead of having to pay a lump sum prior to the start of each semester. Tuition payment plans allow families the option of spreading out payments, making it more manageable for many. Usually there is a reasonable fee to join a tuition payment plan, however, the cost is much less than paying interest on loans. More details of how tuition payment plans work is available on this site.

Outside scholarships are a great way of funding college and are available from a number of sources. Please be sure to check in with the guidance office at your high school and apply for any available local scholarships. In addition, scholarships are available from national and state-wide sources as well. See the information on Scholarships Searches on this website. Although there is a lot of leg work and time needed to search and apply for scholarships, it can prove very fruitful if you make the effort.

If a family needs additional funding beyond what they can afford in a tuition payment plan, there are many different types of loan programs available. If the student received a financial aid award letter from the college, their financial aid package may have included either one or more federal loan programs. The most popular of these federal loan programs includes the Federal Perkins Loan Program, Federal Stafford Loan Program, and the Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loan Program. Details of each of these programs can be found on this website by following the links provided above. These federal loan programs do provide fair interest rates, fees, and various repayment options to borrowers. If a student was determined to be eligible for one of the student loan programs, the program name and amount would be listed on the student’s financial aid award letter. If found eligible, then the student would follow the instructions provided by the financial aid office to complete the paperwork for those loan programs.

Another popular federal loan program is the Federal Parent PLUS Loan Program which is a loan available to parents of undergraduate students who meet certain eligibility criteria. Parents need to first complete an application for this loan which will determine their eligiility, based on credit and payment history. If approved, monies would be available to parents to help cover the costs of college. Parents can borrow up to the difference between the total cost of education minus the total amount of financial aid awarded. The interest rate for the PLUS Loan is 7.9%. More information and details on the PLUS Loan Program can be found on this site.

In addition to the funding options listed above, families have access to private education loan programs offered by banks, credit unions and other agencies. Private education loans are based on credit and the terms of these loans vary greatly between sources and should be looked at very carefully. It is important for familes to carefully compare private eduaction loan programs so they know all of the costs associated with borrowing through loan programs of that kind. Our article entitled Private Loan Considerations gives you a list of questions and guidelines when comparing private education loans.

So as you can see, there are many options available to families to help fund a college education. Obviously, free money such as scholarships should be maximized as well as financial aid sources provided by the college via the financial aid office. For those needing loans to help meet college costs, please just be sure to understand the terms of any loans before applying for and accepting loans.

Lots of information is available to you about college financing in particular as well as related college planning. Please visit Financial Aid Sense to check out all the information about financial aid and college financing. Best of luck in your college journey!

Check out this newly updated financial aid book – great for juniors in high school who are planning ahead for college – don’t miss out on financial aid opportunities – pick up a copy of Financial Aid Sense today!

 

Jan Marie Combs, EzineArticles Basic Author

High School Juniors and College Planning

Spring has sprung and it is a beautiful time of the year! It is also a great time of the year for high school juniors to begin the college planning process! Being proactive and organized will serve you well as you move forward and plan for college! There are many things that high school juniors can and should do beginning in the Spring of their Junior year to best prepare for the college admissions process.

Below we have highlighted some important action items for college bound high school juniors related to the college admissions process:

  • Attend a college fair! Large and small college fairs occur all throughout the Spring and provide a handy opportunity for college bound high school juniors to meet with admissions representatives from participating colleges, ask questions, and collect valuable information from colleges. Most fairs are free to the public and many also offer the opportunity to attend informational sessions related to the admissions process and college financial aid process at the college fair. A great opportunity to gain knowledge and insights into the entire college process.
  • Visit college campuses to get a feel for schools you may be interested in attending! Students should visit as many college campuses as possible so that you get a sense of what size college you will be most comfortable attending. There are two ways to approach college visits! One way is more informal; this is when you may just pop in on a campus and look around. Many college campuses are open to the public, thus if you are driving by a college campus you can always stop in. Pick up a catalog at the Admission Office, drive through the campus, or park and take a walk and visit the student center or another busy area on campus. It is a great way to get a feel for the campus, especially when college is in session. One can also make an appointment for a formal campus tour. Typically, one will need to contact the Admissions Office in advance and sign up for a tour at a specified time. This is a nice opportunity to meet with an admissions representative or student guide who will provide a more formal overview of the college and a tour. Be sure to prepare beforehand so that you can ask questions and gather as much information as possible.  See this article on planning for the college campus visit which gives some pertinent tips and helpful information.
  • Standardized tests are still required by many colleges and universities in the United States. High school Juniors should plan on taking either the SAT or the ACT or both during the Spring of their Junior year. Information on these standardized tests can be found on The College Board’s website and on the ACT website and both provide. You will be able to register for these tests online.
  • Think about who you will ask to write Letters of Recommendations for you to submit as part of your admissions applications during your senior year.  Although you won’t complete these applications until senior year, high school juniors should think about who they will ask well in advance of admission deadlines. Most colleges require at least one letter (many two) of recommendation from an academic teacher, so put some thought into who you will ask and give that teacher a heads up. If you know of a teacher or counselor who is retiring at the end of the school year, be sure to ask them for a letter prior to leaving for the summer. Students should ask teachers who know them well and can write about not only their academic strengths but also speak to their personal values and contributions.
  • Search for scholarships! Many foundations, businesses, associations, clubs, and civic organizations have scholarship monies available. Searching for scholarships is time consuming and tedious but can result in obtaining money for college – money that does not need to be paid back! Searching for outside scholarships is a separate process from the college financial aid process and should be taken seriously. Lots of great information on searching for scholarships can be found in the following articles: Outside Scholarship Searches, Beware of Scholarship Scams, Outside Scholarship Considerations, BLOG Post – Scholarship Search Guidelines, BLOG Post – Scholarship Search Scams, and Scholarship Tips. Hope this information is helpful as you embark on the important scholarship search! For more information on scholarships searches and tracking worksheets, see Financial Aid Sense.
  • Research financial aid options and familiarize yourself with the process. Financial aid is available, however, there are many important details about the financial aid process that you should be aware of. Missed deadlines can jeopardize financial aid eligibility, thus it is important to be aware of what is required. In addition, the process can be very confusing. Financial Aid Sense is a newly updated financial aid publication that helps families navigate through the financial aid and college financing processes and shares numerous tips about how to stay on track and manage the process. Don’t miss out on financial aid opportunities! Learn what you need to do today to apply for financial aid!

Best of luck in your college search! Let us know at Financial Aid Sense if we can be of any assistance!

 

 

 

Jan Marie Combs, EzineArticles Basic Author

Scholarship Tips

Happy New Year! With the new year upon us, high school seniors are busy finishing up their college admission applications and hopefully completing their financial aid applications as well.

Although we have a lot of information on our site pertaining to college scholarship search guidelines and scholarship search ideas, we wanted to share some additional tips to think about this time of the year related to finding scholarships for college, as follows:

College bound high school seniors should touch base with their high school guidance counselors to obtain a list and application guidelines for any available local scholarships. Many civic and local-based organizations and businesses will provide information to the high school guidance office pertaining to available scholarship monies for college. This is typically the time of year when guidance offices begin compiling lists of available scholarships so high school senior should be sure to check in with their guidance office.

Parents should also check in with the human resource department of their employer and inquire if scholarship programs for dependent students of employees are available. Many employers have scholarship monies for college available to children of employees and students should also be sure to check with their employers as well.

Best of luck in your scholarship search for college!

For additional information about financial aid and college financing, we recommend you see our newly updated guide – Financial Aid Sense.

"Financial aid book and resource for college"

 

Jan Marie Combs, EzineArticles Basic Author

Scholarship Search Guidelines

Free money! What everyone wants for college, right? Scholarships are one source of gift aid and are typically monetary awards that are based on some sort of achievement, talent, connection, or area of interest which in most instances does not need to be paid back.

There are a number of ways of searching for scholarships. Students can check with employers, their high school guidance department, as well as with local businesses and with civic and community organizations. In addition, one can search for scholarships for free by accessing a national database of available scholarships. After answering questions and establishing a student profile, the student will be provided with a list of scholarships that match his or her interests. Although a tedious process, searching for (and applying for) scholarships is an important part of the college financing process. However, during your scholarship search, there are a few guidelines and cautions that I want to make you aware of.

Although most scholarship agencies are on the up and up, there have been some reported scams over the last number of years. Since scholarship information is readily available online, NO ONE SHOULD PAY anyone or any agency to conduct a scholarship search for them. Scholarship searches are both free and straight forward. A widely used national database of scholarships is available on Scholarships.com and is easy to use. Visit that site to conduct a scholarship search yourself and then carefully follow all of the directions for each scholarship application.

Just a few tips related to scholarship searches:

How can you tell good scholarships from the bad?

A scammer will guarantee that you will definitely win an award, requires personal finance information, such as a credit card or bank account numbers, tells you that you won something even if you didn’t apply, and/or doesn’t supply you with accurate contact information. STAY AWAY from anyone doing those types of things.

A legitimate scholarship service should NOT charge money for a scholarship search or to apply for a scholarship and makes contact information, scholarship application materials, and entry guidelines readily available when requested to do so.

If you do suspect a scam, please speak up as this helps others. Keep copies of anything you receive from the company that you suspect and report the information to the National Fraud Information Center at www.fraud.org.

There are a lot of other resources related to scholarships on our website at Financial Aid Sense. In addition, in our newly updated publication Financial Aid Sense: A Practical Guide about financial aid and the college financing process has devoted a section of the guide to assist families with the scholarship search process AND includes tracking forms, check lists, and more. Check out Financial Aid Sense – a practical guide that helps families navigate through the entire financial aid process.

"Financial Aid Book"   "Customer Reviews for Financial Aid Sense"

Jan Marie Combs, EzineArticles Basic Author

Scholarship Search Scams

Recently there have been a lot of questions pertaining to searching for scholarships for college, thus we wanted to devote another BLOG Post to this topic. Although many seniors in high school may be focusing now on their college admission applications, they also should be focusing on the search for outside scholarships. Outside scholarships are available through foundations, businesses, civic organizations, employers, and many large and small companies all looking to support students in financing their college degree.

In addition to the related articles on outside scholarships found on this site, we wanted to mention a few helpful tidbits related to scholarship searches that will hopefully help streamline the process.

The process of looking for outside scholarships is tedious and time consuming, however, for those that put the time in both searching for scholarships and completing the required applications, it can be very fruitful. First, to look for scholarships, be sure to use a reputable and recognized search engine, such as fastweb.com. Students can use this site, build a custom profile for themselves, and secure a list of appropriate scholarships. Each scholarship will require its own application from, and in some cases a copy of the Student Aid Report, transcripts, and letters of recommendation – to name a few items that are often requested. Students should approach the scholarship search process just as they do the admission process – stay organized, track required data, meet all deadlines, and submit a neat and complete application. Tracking sheets are available in the appendices of Financial Aid Sense and we also devote an entire chapter to the scholarship search process filled with helpful information related to scholarship searches.

One thing to be sure of, plenty of information on scholarships is available for FREE, yes free! Please do not pay a company to do a scholarship search for you as one can secure the same scholarship leads themselves by using fast.web. There are many companies out there that take people’s money for a scholarship search that the family can do themselves. For more on scholarship search scams see the article on this site.

If you are awarded an outside scholarship, please be sure to find out if it is renewable in future years, and if so note what is required for renewal. Colleges typically will take into consideration scholarship monies that are received and will expect the money to be used towards educational expenses, so be prepared to disclose the amount of scholarships received to the college’s financial aid office.

More info on scholarships can be found in Financial Aid Sense.

Best of luck in your search!

"Financial aid book and resource for college"

 

Jan Marie Combs, EzineArticles Basic Author

Help Control Loan Debt – Find Scholarships

Just read an article on Huff Post Education about average loan debt of student loan borrowers. A link to the article is below at the bottom of this post for those interested. Essentially, the study cited in the article found that the average loan debt for borrowers under 30 was almost $21,000 per borrower, which is a hefty amount, especially for those in lower income fields starting out. One of the reasons for this high average debt, per this article, is that colleges are offering less scholarship money, forcing students to borrow more loans.

That prompts me to want to remind families of the value of looking for outside scholarships as a funding option. It is a tedious process looking for scholarships, however, your labors can prove very fruitful in securing additional funds for college. Just wanted to remind everyone of the information on outside scholarships that we have on our site. Finding scholarships takes time and students should begin their search process early on, thus those students entering their senior year of high school this fall can start the process now, it is not too early.

In addition, in Financial Aid Sense, there is a whole chapter devoted to the outside scholarship search which may prove helpful. In addition, our templates in the appendices of the book will help streamline the process and keep you organized while searching for scholarships. Check out the book as it is a tremendous financial aid resource for those entering their senior year of high school.

Below is the link to the article mentioned above: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/17/average-student-loan-debt_n_1680469.html?ir=Education

Best of luck in your scholarship search!

Jan Marie Combs, EzineArticles Basic Author