Financial Aid – federal, state, saving plans, loans and scholarships
Deciding how to pay for college can seem an intimidating and demanding task. The amount of information you have to sift through, the forms you have to fill in, the detailed personal and financial questions you have to answer – all of this can seem like an impossible task, especially given how much else you have to do as you prepare to begin the next step of your academic career.
While it might be insincere to propose that this process isn't as difficult as it seems, it will become less confusing the more time you spend with it. In this article we'll look at financial aid from a number of angles and perspectives; we'll look at the important terms, the important forms and the things you absolutely need to know to make an informed decision. Hopefully, by the time you finish the article, the myriad options will seem less tangled and confusing.
We'll begin at the beginning by looking at FAFSA and other essential documents for securing federal aid. We'll then turn to state financial aid, including grants, scholarships and other awards. In Part 3 we'll talk about savings plans such as 529 accounts and other methods of saving for college. Finally, in Part 4 the discussion will turn to college scholarships, including tips on where to look for them and how to secure them.
Along with deciding where to study and what field to major in, figuring out how to pay for your education is one of the most important decisions you'll have to make regarding college. Government officials estimate that up to 8 million students every year fail to take advantage of the aid opportunities available to them. The main factor cited is fear of paperwork and red-tape. The best way to ensure that this doesn't happen to you is to be informed. The more you know, the less you'll fear.
For the most part, the articles that follow are written with the college aspirant as the primary audience (with the one exception being Part 3 covering 529 accounts.) Parents should not be put off by this. The information contained is valid for them, too. If you are a student reading this make sure to involve your parents in this process as early as possible.
Part 1: THE ESSENTIAL DOCUMENTS
ESSENTIAL DOCUMENT # 1: FAFSA
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Your road to securing funding for college begins here. You can not skip this step; it is essential, not only for federal monies, but for almost all other sources of funding too. We're talking state tuition money, public and private scholarship aid, work-study funding and nearly all other funding opportunities.
FAFSA details www.collegescholarships.com/financial-aid/fafsa
ESSENTIAL DOCUMENT #2: (CSS) PROFILE
You've probably heard of The College Board. They're the sadists who develop the SAT and other standardized tests. They are also responsible for the College Scholarship Service (CSS) PROFILE form. This form is longer than the FAFSA and is designed to furnish more accurate and exacting financial information. The form is longer because the methodology used here is distinctly different from the methodology used at the federal level.
The PROFILE is a necessary document that is required by hundreds of public and private colleges, universities and scholarship organizations. Be certain that you complete and submit this form.
CSS Profile details www.collegescholarships.com/financial-aid/css
TYPES OF LOANS
There are three main types of federal loans that are available for attending college. They are:
Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans and PLUS Loans.
Federal Loan details www.collegescholarships.com/financial-aid/loan
PART 2: STATE FINANCIAL AID
In addition to exploring all of the federal options for college funding, you'll want to examine the funding options at the state level. All states distribute money for undergraduate and graduate studies each year. While the feds give away the most money, the states (taken as a whole) also award billions annually. In the paragraphs that follow, we'll look at state-based financial aid and how it can compliment and improve your financial aid future.State Aid details www.collegescholarships.com/financial-aid/state-aid
PART 3: 529 PLANS AND SAVING FOR COLLEGE
There are many ways to save money for college – stocks, bonds, mutual funds, CD’s, T-bills - but the most popular is the good ol' fashioned savings account. The second most popular method of saving for college is 529 college savings plans. Just what is a 529 plan and how does it work? In this article, we'll explore this relatively new phenomenon and look at the ways in which it might help you realize your higher education goals.
529 SAVING PLANS details
529 PREPAID TUITION PLANS details
COVERDELL EDUCATION SAVINGS ACCOUNTS (ESA) details
PART 4: SCHOLARSHIPS: FINDING THEM, APPLYING FOR THEM, WINNING THEM
If you've never applied for a college scholarship, probably most of what you think you know is wrong. Don't be alarmed by this. After all, a lot of what you think you know about history is wrong, too (Pilgrims never landed on Plymouth Rock, Van Gogh did not shoot himself and Hitler didn't have only one testicle, etc.)
In the following link, we'll spend a little time debunking the myth that scholarships are not for you. And then we'll spend the rest of our time looking at how and why scholarships are just the thing you need to help make college affordable and less debtsome.
Win Scholarship details www.collegescholarships.com/financial-aid/finding-applying-and-winning-a-scholarship