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by Suada Kolovic

Figuring out the bottom line when it comes to the cost of your college education is definitely stressful. With everything that goes into determining your financial aid package (your parents’ income, your earnings and your family’s net assets), it’s important to understand that merit aid (aid based on a student’s attributes like (academics, athletics, extracurriculars, etc.) is available to student regardless of their “need.” New federal rules are blurring the distinction between scholarships awarded on merit and grants awarded because of a student’s financial need – for instance, a growing number of colleges now award “need-based” aid to students from families earning six figures! – so we’ve compiled a few helpful tips to maximize your chances for merit aid and increase your overall financial aid package.

  1. Fill out the FAFSA. Federal rules have changed and college aid officials are now allowed to award need-based aid to students whose parents earned decent salaries last year but have recently been laid off; institutions can also make accommodations for a family’s unique circumstances, such as high medical bills.
  2. Apply to schools where you’d rank at the top. While your dream school might be an Ivy League, you should apply to at least a few colleges where your GPA would put you in the top 25 percent of the student body.
  3. Do the research. If you’re interested in a college, find out what it has to offer when it comes to merit aid. You might qualify for more awards than you think!
  4. Before making a final decision, compare net prices. Consider the cost of attendance in its entirety, including tuition and fees, room and board, books and transportation. The school that offers the most in merit aid might not be the best choice; sometimes the college offering the largest merit scholarship might have the highest net price because its tuition is higher.
  5. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Believe it or not, you have leverage when it comes to negotiating your merit aid package. If you have received admission letters from two or more universities and your first choice has a higher net price than your second choice, contact your first choice institution (which one is “that institution”...first or second choice?)! Some schools might be willing to match the merit aid offered, which would provide you the opportunity to attend your first choice school for less money!

Can you think of any tips that we might have missed? If so, please add them to our comments section! For more information on finding money for college and how to properly fund your college education, check out Scholarships.com Financial Aid section.


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by Suada Kolovic

The Class of 2008 graduated college in the midst of the Great Recession but new government data show that in terms of employment, they're doing just fine.

The National Center for Education Statistics study entitled "First Look at the Employment Experiences and Lives of College Graduates, 4 Years On" surveyed 17,000 people who graduated in the 2007-2008 academic year. They found that of those graduates who were not enrolled in further postsecondary studies in 2012, 82.5 percent were employed; of those individuals, 84.5 percent were in one full-time job, 7.8 percent had one part-time job and 7.7 percent had multiple jobs. Anthony P. Carneval, director of Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, said the 2007-2008 graduates were "basically a step ahead of the storm," in terms of having jobs lined up before the recessions effects were felt. (Unfortunately, students who graduated in 2009 and 2010 were not so lucky.) You'll find several highlights from the study below but for a more in-depth look, click here:

  • Graduates who worked but had never gone on for more postsecondary education had held an average of 2.1 jobs in the years since graduation. Nearly 39 percent had held one job, while 11.4 percent had held four or more jobs.
  • On average, graduates who had not pursued further postsecondary education worked 84 percent of the months since graduating, spent 5.8 percent of those months unemployed and spent 10.2 percent of them out of the labor force.
  • Graduates who were not enrolled in a postsecondary program in 2012 and who had a full- or part-time job worked, on average, 41.2 hours a week in that job. Full-time workers earned an average annual salary of $52,200 and a median salary of $46,000. Part-time workers earned an average of $25,900 and a median of $20,200.

It's important to note that the study doesn't show whether graduates were employed in a field related to their studies, how student loan debt affected graduates' wealth or earning potential, or whether they sought financial support from family members. With that being said, what do you think of the findings? And to the recent college graduates, how is your job search going? Share your thoughts and experiences in our comments section!


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What’s in a Decimal Point?

Online FAFSA Error Makes Low-Income Filers Look Like Millionaires

July 7, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

When it comes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a decimal point could make a world of difference: An update to this year’s FAFSA has cost some low-income filers a chance at some serious federal student aid.

For the 2014-15 FAFSA, the government expanded several income and asset fields in the online form to accommodate higher incomes. Herein lies the problem: Some lower-income filers are missing the .00 outside the box and entering cents into the text field. And when the do that, an income of $28,532.79, for example, is converted into $2,853,279. Big mistake. Huge. If the error isn't caught or corrected on individual forms, the filers could lose out on Pell Grants or other need-based student aid. According to Jeff Baker, policy liaison at the Education Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid, the department has already identified 165,000 individuals who've made the mistake. He's estimated that a majority of colleges have at least one affected student, while some may have hundreds. "It's a serious problem," said Baker at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators’ annual meeting. "We have to fix it." (For more on this story, click here.)

With all the headaches that typically go into applying for federal aid using the FAFSA, what are your thoughts on the current roadblocks? Why not just have filers round income to the nearest whole dollar amount? For more information on the FAFSA, the importance of applying and what you'll need before you get started, check out Scholarships.com’s Federal Aid section.


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by Suada Kolovic

For the budget-conscious high school senior, it seems like a no-brainer to apply to the local state school for the best shot at affordable tuition. But with the economy in a slump and funding cuts becoming the norm, public universities across the country are more interested in recruiting out-of-state students. Why? It’s pretty simple: On average, tuition and fees for students crossing state lines is more than double that of their in-state peers. So if you have your sights set on schools beyond your state’s boundaries, check out the 10 most expensive public schools for out-of-state students (figures do not including room and board, books and other miscellaneous costs):

Did your prospective college make the list and does this information alter your interest in the school? Is it fair for colleges facing financial woes to place the burden on the shoulders of incoming out-of-state students? Share your thoughts in the comment section and for more info on how to fund your college education, head over to Scholarships.com.


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by Suada Kolovic

We've all been there: Going about our day without a care in the world when it dawns on us that (go figure) our term paper on the pros and cons of procrastination in the creative process is due tomorrow. Panicked, we consider emailing our professor an excuse about a death in the family but given we killed off Nana (who's actually alive and well back home) last semester during finals week, we decide it's best to pull an all-nighter. The next day, we're irritable, unmotivated and just plain sluggish and while the simple solution is to overcome procrastination and not leave an assignment until the last minute, the Art Center College of Design has suggested a different approach: a nap room on campus.

The Pasadena, Calif.-based college opened its first nap room last year in an effort to combat exhaustion among its mostly commuter students. "Our Nap Room is available for students four weeks during each 14-week term. We are a year-round program with three terms a year," said spokesperson Teri Bond. "The room is available 24 hours on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during those four weeks each term." And while there isn’t a determined space just yet, Art Center students are hoping to follow in the footsteps of the University of Colorado-Boulder and the University of Michigan in instituting a permanent nap room on campus. (For more on this story, click here.)

If you’re a fan of napping between classes, do you think it’s your university’s responsibility to provide nap rooms for students? Let us know what you think in the comments section. And for a more detailed look into the Art Center College of Design or hundreds of other universities, check out our College Search.


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by Suada Kolovic

If you're actively considering a career as a physician, you're well aware of the long, rigorous and demanding road ahead. With challenging coursework and fierce competition in the forecast, not everyone is up for the challenge...but that hasn't necessarily translated into fewer students applying to medical school. According to U.S. News & World Report, medical school experts have predicted a shortage of doctors throughout the next decade but no shortage of prospective students. In 2013, total applications increased by 6.1 percent with the average number of applications at the top 10 medical schools totaling approximately 10,645. Check out the top 10 medical schools that receive the most applications for the most recent school year below:

Did your top-choice medical school make the list? If so, would you consider other schools with less competition? For more information on applying to medical school and figuring out how you're going to pay for it, head over to Scholarships.com.


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by Suada Kolovic

Figuring out how you're going to pay for your college education can be intimidating. No one wants to pay off student loans for the rest of their lives, full-tuition scholarships are rare and federal student aid seldom covers all college costs, so considering a community college to curb the financial strains is smart! But attending a community college doesn't necessarily dismiss the likelihood of defaulting on your student loans: According to the most recent cumulative default rates, the percentage of two-year public school students who default is 18.7 percent and 13.2 percent for students at two-year private and nonprofit institutions – that's more than double their four-year counterparts! If you're a community college student, check out U.S. News and World Report's three tips you can follow to avoid defaulting on your student loans.

  • Think before you borrow. Just like your other obligations, a student loan is a commitment. You are responsible for repaying it whether you complete your education or not. By thinking before you borrow, you can help ensure the former comes true.
  • Maximize your federal financial aid. Contrary to popular belief, financial aid is available for community college students. And while you should think before you borrow, you can be less reluctant if you go with federal loans.
  • Stay in school. Maximizing federal financial aid can help community college students in an additional way: It can keep them in school if they run out money. Taking out student loans without going on to complete your program of study can lead to big repayment problems. So whether your goal is a formal credential from a community college or to eventually transfer to a four-year institution, it’s important to stay on target so you don’t end up with debt but no diploma.

Can you think of any tips to add to this list? If so, please share them in our comments section. For more information on the pros and cons of attending a community college, head over to Scholarships.com College Prep section.


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by Suada Kolovic

An Illinois university is redefining the traditional notion of what it means to be a college athlete: This fall, Robert Morris University will be the first school in the country to offer athletic scholarships to students who play the video game League of Legends. Gamers rejoice!

Citing the "large surge in popularity" of video game competitions, the university announced that it "recognizes the value and legitimacy of eSports and is excited to add eSports to its already rich athletic curriculum." Since news of the scholarships broke last week, the school has received hundreds of inquiries from prospective e-athletes. Interested in the details? Robert Morris will fund about 30 renewable scholarships, some of which will be valued at $19,000! Robert Morris’ team will join the Collegiate Star League, made up of 103 universities, including Arizona State, George Washington and Harvard. Kurt Melcher, Robert Morris University’s associate athletic director, said he's happy to see online athletes included in the school's sports program. "League of Legends is a competitive, challenging game which requires a significant amount of teamwork to be successful," he said in a statement. "Robert Morris has always been at the forefront of providing opportunities for a diverse student population with different interests and skills." (For more on this story, click here.)

Is Robert Morris’ inclusion of eSports the wave of the future? Should other schools begin offering athletic scholarships to gamers? Let us know your thought in the comments section. For additional information on more traditional athletic scholarships, head over to Scholarships.com’s Sports Scholarships section. Be sure to check out our examples of school-based and sports scholarships from outside organizations and don't rule out academic scholarships when applying for funding either!


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by Suada Kolovic

If you're a recent high school graduate, chances are you're looking forward to the independence that comes with becoming a college freshman. And while anticipating all the excitement that comes with entering college – meeting new people, establishing a home away from home, etc. – establishing how you're going to pay for it is an entirely different story. Here at Scholarships.com, we encourage students to apply for scholarships early and often but taking out student loans might be inevitable. With that being said, knowing what questions you should ask your student loan servicer might ease the transition so check out the list of helpful questions that financial aid officers, student loan counselors and former lenders recommend you ask:

  • When exactly will my payments begin?
  • Do you have my current contact information on file?
  • What is my interest rate?
  • Is my interest rate competitive?
  • Is there any way to get an interest rate reduction?
  • Is consolidating my loans a good option for me?
  • How do I qualify for Interest-Based Repayment or Income-Contingent Repayment?
  • Do I qualify for an economic hardship deferment?
  • What happens if I lose my job?
  • If I go back to graduate school, what are my loan options?

Can you think of any other questions you’d like answered? If so, feel free to add them in the comments section. And for more information on the ins and outs of student loans, head over to Scholarships.com’s Financial Aid section.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

President Barack Obama reportedly issued an executive action on Monday in an effort to alleviate student loan repayment problems for those with large post-college debt and salaries that make their loan payments unaffordable.

The executive order issued by the president, pushing through a program known as the Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan would cap loan payments at 10 percent of monthly income for the borrowers of federal direct loans. Federal law currently allows most students to do this already, but President Obama's order further extends this option to students who took out a federal direct student loan before October 2007 as well as those who haven’t borrowed since October of 2011. As many as 5 million more borrowers will reportedly be affected by this extension, which will begin in December of next year. You can determine eligibility by visiting the Federal Student Aid Repayment Estimator

Opponents of the executive order are concerned by the potential of students taking out enormous loans to attend expensive schools and majoring in subjects that are unlikely to prepare them for (or align them with) lucrative careers and the ability to repay the debt. This would result in taxpayers throughout the country bearing the burden of these loans, regardless of whether they or their children benefitted from a college education, let alone forgiveness of any of their debts.

For some, this is an opportunity to get out from under crushing debt, but at what cost? Where does the “forgiven” balance show up? Should the taxpayer at large shoulder this additional burden or should aspiring college students be seeking more affordable options for education and/or preparation for their professional lives?


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