Saving Money On Your Education Can Help Strengthen Your College Plans
By Courtney White, Stride Success Coach
When it comes to covering the costs of college, free money is the goal for everyone. As a former financial aid counselor, I get tons of questions, daily, about how to reduce the costs of college, and about how to find scholarships and grants. These types of funding options are out there, but it requires diligence, timeliness, and commitment to being steadfast and unyielding in your search to find them. The good news is that doing research and beginning early can help make finding college funding opportunities easier.
Financial Aid Tip #1: Start your scholarship search early.
Experts suggest beginning the search for scholarships the summer of your junior year, but starting even earlier could be beneficial. The key is to learn which organizations are offering the scholarships that will be applicable to you. Start locally with any community-based organizations, and check within the realm of your potential majors’ program.
You should also familiarize yourself with the scholarships offered by your college prospects. This information will take time to gather, so starting as early as the ninth grade is often recommended. Finding annual scholarships that may only be available for high school seniors early will allow you the opportunity to bookmark their webpages, volunteer for their organizations (if applicable), and afford you the time to build your GPA to meet the scholarship requirements.
Once you have compiled a good listing of scholarships throughout your high school search, you will be ready to apply seamlessly in your senior year. And, a final word on scholarships… DON’T stop looking in your senior year. You should continue to seek scholarship opportunities throughout your college tenure.
Financial Aid Tip #2: Understand the costs associated with your choice schools.
This financial aid tip cannot be overstated. Many people do not give the time and attention to educating themselves on all the costs that will appear on their college bill. Your bill is generally composed of tuition, general fees, and room and board… if you choose to live on campus. Other costs come in the form of books, supplies, and miscellaneous expenses you may incur. However, these will not appear on your bill. Understanding where you can cut costs (for instance, living at home vs. on campus can save you tens of thousands, annually) will help you make informed decisions on how much you are willing and able to spend towards your education. It can also help you from over-borrowing, if you decide to take advantage of student loans.
Financial Aid Tip #3: Complete the FAFSA.
Higher earning families may think there is no point in completing the FAFSA, but its certainly worth it for everyone. It’s important to remember that there is no income cutoff for FAFSA eligibility, some universities require students who are seeking scholarships to complete the FAFSA, and certain grant funds can only be provided by completing the FAFSA. Every family looking to save on college costs should plan to complete this important application to maximize their potential savings.
Financial Aid Tip#4: Appeal your financial aid decisions, if necessary.
If you do not receive enough financial aid, and have certain special circumstances, you may be able to appeal your financial aid decisions and request for additional funding from your university. Conditions such as… job loss or decrease in income, divorce or separation of a dependent student’s parents, death of a dependent student’s parent, special needs or disabled children, unreimbursed medical and dental expenses, catastrophic loss (such as damage or loss from a natural disaster), textbook costs beyond the standard allowance in the cost of attendance, change in the student’s marital status, end of child support, social security benefits for a child, or alimony payments… are just some common situations that may qualify you for an appeal.
If you think you have mitigating circumstances that allow for an appeal, please contact your financial aid office, to discuss your situation with a counselor who can help.
Be sure to also check out this Success Coach blog to discover 5 Ways To Save Money For College!
Interested in learning more before choosing a college? Be sure to check out the podcast, A College Recruiter Discusses How To Help Teens Take A Step Forward On The Path to Their College And Career Dreams!
You may also be interested in reading the article, Know Your Options For College Financial Aid, as well.
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