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Expert Debby Fowles shows you:
-Nine little-known places to look for scholarships
-13 tips for winning scholarships
-Maximize your eligibility for financial aid
-17 secrets to save money on college housing
-Creative ways to control entertainment costs
-12 cash-generating ideas
-Textbook websites that will save you money
-The secrets of successful budgeting
-8 warnings about student loans
-Get the best jobs on campus
Avoid graduating from school with a mountain of debt!
You've probably read up on Pell grants, work-study, Stafford loans, Alternative loans, and other forms of financial aid until your head hurt, so we won't rehash the basics here. Instead, we'll cover the not-so-well-known tips and tricks for finding financial aid and getting as much mileage out of it as possible, how to make sure you don't disqualify yourself from your financial aid awards, and how to get the U.S. government to help pay for your college education. You'll also learn critical strategies for increasing the amount of financial aid you're eligible to receive.
1. Talk to your parents early about financial aid. Make sure you're on the same page with them about how much financial support they'll be able to provide for college and what each of you will do to get through the financial aid process and meet all the deadlines. Lack of communication with your parents on this subject could cost you lots of money.
2. A heads-up about Early Decision. If you choose this route, you'll know whether you've been accepted to the school of your choice by early winter, but you won't know what your financial aid award is until spring. This means you'll have to accept or reject your Early Decision offer without knowing anything about your financial aid package. If your award is not enough and you can't come up with the balance, you may have to attend another school.
3. If a school that's not your top choice offers more financial aid than your first choice, send a copy of the higher award letter to your first choice and ask if there's any possibility of additional aid so you can afford to attend that college. Sometimes if a school sees that you've been offered more aid elsewhere, they'll try to find more funds for you. This works best if the school is eager to have you as a student (because of your scholastic background, athleticism, talent, or other characteristic).
4. Don't rule out expensive colleges just because you think you can't afford them. Some schools have large endowments and offer larger financial aid packages than others do. You may end up with the same out-of-pocket costs that you'd incur at a less expensive school, or even lower.
5. When evaluating your out-of-pocket costs of attending one school versus another, you need to be able to compare the total costs minus the financial aid package you are offered. To help you make this comparison, ask the financial aid office of each school what the average financial aid award offered to students is each year. The school you think you can't afford to attend may actually end up being cheaper than the one you thought you had to settle for.
6. Before you get too excited about your financial aid package, read all the fine print to make sure the offer is good for all four years of college. More and more schools are placing expiration clauses in their aid packages, so make sure you know exactly how long the school's commitment extends. Even better, get it in writing.
7. If you have a sibling who is in college, consider attending the same school. Some colleges provide tuition discounts for families with more than one student in the same college.
8. The FAFSA deadline is tricky. The earliest you can file is January 1, because the information is based on the prior calendar year, but you won't have your income tax return completed by then. Submit the FAFSA as soon as possible after the deadline, even if it means you have to estimate your income and expenses; you can always correct them later if necessary. It can take up to six weeks for the form to be processed, and you want to be sure it arrives at the schools you've applied to before they begin awarding financial aid, or you may lose out.
9. Make sure you complete the correct version of the FAFSA. The year on the form should be the academic year for which you're applying for aid (for example, 2005-2006 for the academic year that begins in the fall of 2005). The same applies if you complete the form online. If you use a form with the wrong date, you won't be awarded any financial aid in the year you need it.
10. Filing your financial aid applications (not the FAFSA) with the schools is like filing your income tax return. To reduce your chances of an audit, experts recommend that you file as close to the deadline as possible. Financial aid officers can't begin awarding aid until the priority-filing deadline, and if your application is sitting around while they're waiting, the officers will have more time to go over your application with a fine-tooth comb and find problems.
11. If you volunteer for the Peace Corps, you may be able to have your Stafford, Perkins, and Consolidation loans deferred, and your Perkins loan partially cancelled, while helping less fortunate people in one of seventy developing countries. For each year of service, 15 percent of your Perkins loans can be cancelled. Contact the Peace Corps at 1-800-424-8580 or 1-202-692-1845, or visit www.peacecorps.org.
12. Take steps to maximize your eligibility for need-based financial aid. For example, if you (or your parents) have stashed away money you won't need immediately, consider paying off consumer debt, like credit card balances. Credit card debt is not factored into the financial aid eligibility equation, but assets such as cash are. By depleting your cash balance to pay off debt, you maximize the amount of aid you're eligible for and reduce your interest costs at the same time.
13. If you are planning to buy a new computer or use some of your savings for another major purchase for college, consider doing it before you complete the financial aid forms. Your savings lowers the amount of financial aid you're eligible for; so spending the money early (on college necessities, of course) will increase your eligibility for aid.
14. If you didn't qualify for financial aid, or received very little, but you now have a sister or brother who is about to enter college, reapply. Families with more than one student in college may qualify for aid that their income previously prevented them from receiving.
15. A few states provide free tuition at state schools for qualified Native American Indians. The Association on American Indian Affairs also offers scholarships to Native American students who are from a federally recognized tribe and are at least one-quarter Indian blood. For more information, see www.indian-affairs.org/scholarships/aaia_scholarships.htm.
Chapter 1: Good Ideas for Making Money
Chapter 2: Maximize Your Financial Aid
Chapter 3: Maximize Your Scholarships
Chapter 4: Understand and Control Credit Card Use
Chapter 5: How to Be Smart and Safe about Credit Card Debt
Chapter 6: Manage Your Student Loans
Chapter 7: Save Money When Paying for Your Education
Chapter 8: Mind over Money
Chapter 9: Born to Shop? Think Again
Chapter 10: Miscellaneous Money-Saving Tips
Chapter 11: Live Thrifty Now
Chapter 12: Having Fun without a Lot of Dough
Chapter 13: Scout out Student Discounts
Chapter 14: Get the Most Bang from Your Bank
Chapter 15: Save Money as a Nontraditional or Graduate Student
Chapter 16: Smart Thinking at Tax Time
About the Author
Posted March 3, 2009
Concise, practical and useful information in an easy to ready format. I got it for my soon to be college student, but found useful information for myself. I recommend it highly.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.