Getting Ready for College as a High School Senior Reply

Student Loan

Student loans and scholarship money.

It’s crunch time for high school seniors preparing for college. For many, the end of the prior school year and the summer before senior year was spent applying for scholarships and grants  and spent September applying to colleges.. Most students will have a decision from the colleges they have applied to by April, but there are things that need to be done before then.

Finishing up scholarship applications:

High school seniors should be finishing up the application process for most of their scholarship requests. It is important to review the scholarship application deadlines as well as ensure that all requested information for each scholarship is completed correctly. Many scholarships are very competitive and incomplete or incorrectly completed applications are often not considered. Others may require essays or letters of recommendation or transcripts. It is important to take the time with each scholarship that has not already been submitted to ensure that all requirements have been accurately completed.

Even though college starts in the fall, it is not too late to continue to look for other scholarship opportunities. This may be a good time to check with local social and philanthropic organisations in within the community for further opportunities. College expenses add up quickly and any extra fund sources, even smaller scholarships, are worth the time to investigate.

Two misconceptions regarding completing the FAFSA:

It is time to complete the FAFSA application, if it has not been completed already. Some students and parents think that they must wait until after 2016 income taxes are completed. Others think that they cannot apply for financial aid until they have been accepted by a college. Neither of these are true. FAFSA applications can be completed prior to income tax returns, and can be amended once the returns are completed. If a student has applied for more than one college, information on all colleges can be included in the FAS application.

With the FAFSA application, timing is everything. Many of the grants and financial aid options offered by the FAFSA are offered on a first come, first served basis. The sooner the application is completed, the more opportunities for financial aid will be available.

Most applications to college are decided in March or April. If a student has applied for Early Decision or Early Action, then likely he or she has already received the decision. It is important to speak with admissions counselors and understand the complete admissions process. Regardless of the admissions process for the individual college, having the FAFSA completed will simplify the process.

Learn more about what seniors in high school should be doing for college applications with Peterson’s.

Fill Out Your FAFSA Early to Help You Estimate Your EFC Reply

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College money

Navigating the financial aid process can be confusing and difficult, especially when trying to calculate your estimated family contribution (EFC) on your FAFSA application. Your EFC is a number that determines your eligibility to receive federal student financial aid. This number is calculated by a formula that is established by federal law, and includes your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets, and benefits (unemployment, Social Security, etc.), family size, and other family members who will attend college. Luckily, you don’t have to do this on your own. The US Department of Education makes a lot of great tools to help you estimate the aid you will receive.

First, if you are a high school junior scoping out colleges to attend after you graduate, you should start in January so that you can find out what the cost of attendance (COA) is for each of your prospective colleges. Depending on how much tuition and room and board is going to be, it will help you decide which colleges are worth spending time on.

So, how do you calculate your EFC? After you’ve filled out your FAFSA, this number will be available to you after the FAFSA has been fully processed. Though you are able to fill out your FAFSA between January 1st and June 30th for the same calendar year, you should file the application as soon as they are available so that you don’t miss out on any aid. You will have to fill out the FAFSA every year you attend college, so it is good to get familiar with the process.

However, if you want to estimate your EFC before filling out your FAFSA, there are many free tools online to help you do that. On the Department of Education website, they have a FAFSA4caster that will give you an estimate of your eligibility for need-based and non-need based aid, including federally subsidized and unsubsidized loans and other grants to help you pay for school.

Find out what your EFC is with a free calculator.

11 Reasons Why Going to an In-State College is Better Reply

application4Deciding whether or not you want to go to college in-state or out-of-state can be a tough decision. Affordability, acceptance, independence, and where your friends go can all factor into your decision. While going to college out-of-state has perks if your budget allows, going in-state can save you a lot of money and headache, especially in the first couple years of school. Consider these tops reasons why you should go to school in your home state.

  1. Consider your budget

In-state tuition is significantly cheaper than out-of-state tuition. In some cases, schools charge more than twice as much if you are coming from a different state. Reducing the amount of student loans you have to take out in order to graduate should be on the top of your list when considering which college you want to go to.

  1. In-state colleges allow you to be close to home

Even if you choose a college that is a couple of hour drive away from your home town, being close to home has its benefits. During breaks, you can easily drive home to be with your family and friends if you go to an in-state college. On top of that, having your family close will allow you to have a greater sense of support when you need to reach out for help — having a free place to do your laundry is huge perk as well.

  1. In-state colleges are typically academically equivalent

In-state colleges often get a bad reputation, especially when you consider them next to ivy league and division one schools, but don’t think that your state’s college won’t offer the same amount of academic value as the other schools. Depending on where you live, your state college might be one of those high-ranking universities anyway, but even if it isn’t, you will still be able to obtain your degree from an accredited institution and find a job after you graduate.

  1. It is often easier to get accepted into an in-state college

Getting accepted into colleges is often not considered as much as it should be when students first apply. Some colleges can be hard to get into if they are out-of-state, especially if you don’t have very high SAT and ACT scores, perfect GPA, and extracurricular activities that show you will bring value to the school. Typically, however, in-state colleges take into consideration that you are from in-state and can be easier to get accepted.

  1. Consider scholarships and additional financial aid benefits to going in-state

Some states offer additional financial assistance to students who go to school in their home state. These types of state programs can help you keep your student loans to a minimum while still being able to achieve a high level of education. Check with your college’s financial aid office to see what types of extra financial assistance might be available to you.

  1. Community college is a great way to save money while getting your generals out of the way

Another decision high school graduates have to make is whether or not to go to a state college or university, or a community college in your home city. While community colleges don’t offer a complete bachelor’s degree, they do often offer two-year technical degrees, certificates, and can be a great way to get your generals out of the way before you go to a state college where tuition is typically higher.

  1. Where you get your bachelor’s degree doesn’t matter as much as you think

Yes, getting a degree from an ivy league school like Harvard or Yale is better when finding a job or applying for graduate school, but this comes with a huge financial burden. For the majority of people who get their bachelor’s degree, what matters most to employers is that you are hard-working and have academic and professional experience.

  1. Consider where you plan on working

If you are planning on finding a job in your home state, employers will value students who graduate close to where the company is located. Especially for entry-level positions, home-town companies often want graduates who have family close because it is a signal to employers that you don’t plan on leaving.

  1. Save money on travel and living expenses

This isn’t something that most students think about. When you go to school in-state, and especially in the same town where your family is located, you can save a lot of money on the little things, like laundry, food, travel, and rent. Even if you decide that you don’t want to live with your parents, you will find that having them close will help you save money in the long run.

  1. Don’t forget about the unexpected

Unexpected situations pop up where you will need help and having family close will make it that much easier. If your car breaks down, you need help moving, or you just simply forgot to bring bring your homework to class, you will find that having family close will help to reduce the stress of the unexpected situations that come up.  

  1. Independence comes in many forms

Going out-of-state may offer a greater sense of independence, but that independence also comes with higher costs and a greater sense of responsibility. If your school doesn’t have dorms, consider renting an apartment with a couple of your friends that are going to the same in-state school as you. This can help you gain independence and save money doing so.

5 Things You Need To Know About Starbucks, Arizona State University, and the Future of Higher Education Reply

HK_Starbucks_Coffee_in_Caine_RoadIf you’ve been following any news about higher education lately, you’ve probably heard about Starbucks’s new initiative to pay for the college educations of its students. You can find plenty of good summaries and informational articles out there, including this one from Inside Higher Ed, this one from the Washington Post, and this one from the Seattle Times. Here’s a simple version:

1. A partnership between Starbucks and Arizona State University Online is going to pay for employees’ tuition entirely for their junior and senior years of online education.

2. The same partnership will provide financial assistance in the form of a scholarship for the first two years of college.

3. This is not a loan, and is based entirely upon employees’ continued work at Starbucks (there is a certain minimum number of hours students must work to qualify for all this) and attendance to the Arizona State University Online program specifically.

Sounds great, right? Well, it’s maybe a bit more complicated than it at first might seem.

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Debt Versus Education: What You Need To Consider Reply

Education savingsGail Marksjarvis of the Chicago Tribune wrote this article (which is now unfortunately closed off to most viewers on the Chicago Tribune website), stating that students should consider debt when they decide what college to attend. In the past, we’ve argued that college shouldn’t be all about the bottom line, how much money you can make versus how much money you spend. That said, though? Gail Marksjarvis is right — you should consider debt when you decide what school to go to.

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Getting In is Only Half the Battle… Reply

iStock_000004647415XSmallMoney. It’s all about money. The admissions process is no exception, as the cost of higher education has continued to skyrocket in recent years. The price tag of a B.S., M.A., or Ph.D. has not only increased in the Ivy League and other esteemed private institutions, but also at less-competitive public schools. Tuition at many popular state and public schools, such as the University of Michigan and University of California institutions, can cost in excess of $10,000 per year for residents, while the total cost of attendance (including room, board, and supplies) can exceed $20,000. If you’re applying to one of those institutions and lack residency, you’ll likely pay nearly double those amounts.  More…

Monday Link Roundup for Week of 12/2/13 Reply

P copyHello folks! I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and maybe even got some great deals shopping in the wee hours of the morning on Black Friday (I was most definitely not shopping but rather sleeping off my turkey binge from the evening before). Thanks to my colleague, Brendan Conway, for filling in with last week’s link roundup. This week, since today is Cyber Monday and I assume everyone is spending the entirety of the day online shopping, I’m going to do everything I can to distract you from discounted flat-screen TVs, tablets, and video games and instead turn your attention to some of the most interesting happenings in the world of college admissions. More…

Pay for College, Make Money? Reply

iStock_000004647415XSmallWhile catching up on admissions news over my morning coffee yesterday and putting together our Monday link roundup for this week, I came across an interesting article on CNN Money. The article fascinated me so much that I deliberately left it out of the link roundup, as I wanted to think about it, do a little research, and then talk about it in its own separate post. This is that post, if you haven’t guessed by now. More…

Monday Link Roundup for Week of 11/4/13 Reply

P copySugar high steadily fading into a post-candy-binge hangover? Check.

Festive jack-o’-lantern slowly withering as it rots on your front porch? Check.

Halloween supplies and decorations instantly gone from your local stores, immediately replaced by gaudy Christmas displays? Check.

Advertisements proclaiming the arrival of the holiday shopping season already filling airwaves, newspapers, and websites everywhere? Check.
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