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Asking Your Student Loan Servicer the Right Questions

June 23, 2014

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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Newsflash: University Offers Athletic Scholarship to Gamers

June 24, 2014

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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Five Tips for Maximizing Merit Aid

July 11, 2014

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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When Choosing a College, Research Early and Often

August 26, 2013

When Choosing a College, Research Early and Often

by Abby Egan

I started looking for colleges in my junior year of high school because I was so unsure about what I wanted. Deciding on a college was a scary thought to me because I was under the impression that I was going to be stuck at whichever school I chose for four whole years. So to ease my ever-increasing stress levels, I visited my dream school (MCLA) almost seven times before accepting to attend for the fall of 2011.

I jumped at every opportunity to get to know my top choice better and better: I visited on long weekends with my parents, signed up for multicultural nights and participated in overnight programs bussed from Boston. I took the drive to MCLA whenever I needed to talk to the Bursar about bills or the financial aid office about student loans. Though it was a long ride, I got on a first-name basis with the librarian and a handful of school officials, putting faces to names and breaking down that wall between being strangers and being acquaintances.

I took the time to really determine whether I wanted to spend the next four years at MCLA. Though my parents researched facts online and talked on the phone with MCLA officials, I made sure to do my own research as well. The bottom line was that I was attending MCLA, not my parents, so I made sure everyone I encountered at the school I spoke to knew me and not just the me my parents spoke about.

I knew I wanted to attend MCLA after my first visit but I’m glad I took the time to get to know the institution a little bit better. It made me feel more prepared for my first semester of freshman year but even if you visit 100 times, you might not know if your school is the one for you until you immerse yourself in the community. If for whatever reason you don’t feel it’s right, don’t panic: You can always transfer. Deciding on a college isn’t the end all be all – there’s always room for change – but you just have to find what’s right for you.

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.

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SOTW: AFA Teen Video Competition

This SOTW is Accepting Entries Through December 1st

October 21, 2013

SOTW: AFA Teen Video Competition

by Suada Kolovic

As more and more families across America are affected by Alzheimer's disease, many teenagers as well are becoming aware of this heartbreaking brain disease - from personal experiences in their own families, watching friends and neighbors or involvement in community service.

Recognizing this, the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA), a national nonprofit organization, has created a division specifically for teens, AFA Teens. Its goals include raising awareness among teenagers and the general public about Alzheimer's disease and related dementias; providing education, counseling and support to young family members; enabling teens to share feelings with other teens and experts; and referring teens and their family members to supportive services.

In a further effort to provide an outlet for teenagers to think creatively about Alzheimer's disease and to engage the younger generation in this cause, AFA offers the AFA Teens Video Competition for teens ages 13 to 19. AFA will award $500 to the grand prize winner and $250 to the first runner-up. For more information on this scholarship and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today!

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Boo! Short & Tweet is Back!

Your Scariest College-Related Experience Could Earn You $1,000 or a Kindle

September 25, 2013

Boo! Short & Tweet is Back!

by Suada Kolovic

Applying to and attending college can be the best time of your life but it can also be the scariest! Did your guidance counselor forget to include your transcript in your application packet? Were you matched with a freshman roommate who had an aversion to soap? We want to know: Tell us your scariest college-related experience in 140 characters for a chance to win $1,000 or a Kindle for college through our latest Short & Tweet Twitter Scholarship!

Don’t be scared – entering is easy! Simply log on to Twitter (or create an account if you don’t already have one), follow us and mention us (@Scholarshipscom) in your tweet detailing your scariest college-related experience. Here’s a detailed breakdown of how to apply:

  • Step 1: Follow @Scholarshipscom on Twitter.
  • Step 2: Mention us (@Scholarshipscom) in a tweet answering the question “What is your scariest college-related moment?” Once you do this, you are automatically entered to win a $1,000 scholarship or one of two Kindles.
  • Step 3: You may apply as many times as you want but please limit your tweets to one per day. Each tweet will be a stand-alone entry and tweets that are submitted by non-followers, exceed 140 characters, do not include @Scholarshipscom, do not answer the entire question or are submitted after the November 3rd deadline will not be considered. From there, the Scholarships.com Team will determine which entries are most deserving of the awards; the best tweet will receive a $1,000 scholarship and second- and third-place winners will receive one Kindle each.

This scholarship competition is offered by Scholarships.com and is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Twitter.

For official rules, please click here.

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How to Become a Student Leader

September 6, 2013

How to Become a Student Leader

by Chelsea Slaughter

Are you already involved on your campus? Take it a step further by becoming a respected individual in your organization(s) – there are so many opportunities for you to show people you are just another face walking the campus! Here are some tips on how to be seen as a student leader:

  • Run for Office in an Organization. Choose that one organization that you absolutely adore and run for a position. Don’t be scared about the extra responsibilities: The more in tuned you are with the mission and goals of the organization, the less it will feel like work. As an officer, people will see YOU when they think about the organization...let your love and pride be shown!
  • Join Your School’s SGA. The Student Government Association is a great way to get your feet wet in student leadership. Through the SGA, students can let their voices be heard about campus events, extracurricular activities and policies so if you feel like you have ideas that need some shine, this is the perfect place to bring them. You could even run for a SGA office. (Bonus: Most schools have scholarships for their SGA officers.)
  • Become a Peer Educator, Campus Ambassador or Student Life Worker. I am sure you have seen such people working around your campus, especially during freshman year. Here at JSU, we have peer educators and campus ambassadors that conduct activities like giving campus tours, speaking in freshman orientation class and promoting campus safety. If your campus has something similar, this is an amazing way to get your face seen and gain respect from your peers. There are also student life workers that help in the office and orientation leaders that run freshman orientation during the summer. Many of these are paid positions as well so you can earn money as you give back to your campus.

Chelsea Slaughter is a senior at Jacksonville State University majoring in communications major (public relations concentration) and minoring in art. She serves as a resident assistant on campus, serves as treasurer in the Public Relations Organization and is an active member in W.I.S.E., NAACP and Omicron Delta Kappa Honors Leadership Society. She aims to work in the entertainment industry post-graduation and is well on her way thanks to an internship with a digital marketer to several music artists. Chelsea strives to achieve all of her goals and motivate others along the way.

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SOTW: Hays C. Kirby Scholarship Contest

This SOTW is Accepting Entries Through March 2nd

January 27, 2014

SOTW: Hays C. Kirby Scholarship Contest

by Suada Kolovic

Anyone who knew Joe Foss, or is familiar with his life knows that Joe believed in service to others and his country. His words: “I’m proud to be an American. I’m humbled to have been able to serve this great country and fight for its matchless Constitution;” reflect the values by which he lived.

The Joe Foss Institute has developed video and essay scholarship contests that ask students to take time to consider what the Founding documents mean, as well as the sacrifices made by those brave Americans defending our freedoms. In each contest, they invite high school students to submit an entry based upon a selected theme. This year’s theme is "American Flag & Anthem Etiquette." This contest is open to U.S citizens of all national backgrounds that are currently studying in the United States or in an American military school out of the country. Eligible contestants must be high school students in a public, private, alternative, parochial school, or a home study program. Previous JFI scholarship recipients are not eligible.

For more information on this scholarship and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today!

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College Tuition Increases Slow, Government Aid Falls

October 25, 2013

College Tuition Increases Slow, Government Aid Falls

by Suada Kolovic

High school seniors heading to college in the fall, listen up: The average cost at the nation’s four-year public universities rose 2.9% this year, the smallest annual increase in more than three decades (yay!) but the slowdown in tuition increases have been offset by reductions in federal grant aid (boo!).

According to a new report from the College Board, public colleges have raised tuition prices so sharply in recent years not to gouge students but to bank on the increased state aid. And although the increase is moderate, "this does not mean that college is suddenly more affordable," says economist Sandy Baum, co-author of Trends in Higher Education reports on tuition and financial aid. "It does seem that the [upward tuition] spiral is moderating. Not turning around, not ending, but moderating." Unfortunately, students continue to suffer from the constant cycle of rising costs and serious college debt. Shrinking state aid for public colleges and universities has translated into the cost of public schools to jump $1,770 in inflation-adjusted dollars. The amount of government aid received last year fell $6,646 for every full-time student at those institutions while just five years ago, each student received $9,111 in today’s dollars. (For more on this report, click here.)

If college is in your forecast, what do you make of the report’s findings? Let us know in the comments section.

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Don’t Let Cost Dictate Your College Choice

October 1, 2013

Don’t Let Cost Dictate Your College Choice

by Mike Sheffey

Choosing your major or school based solely on price is wrong. There are not enough words in the dictionary to describe my disagreement with this logic, but I will try.

First and foremost, college students (and people in general) will fail at things they don’t care about or aren’t excited about. If people choose their school or major based on price, they will likely not be going to the place they want to go or studying what they want to study. That’s not really going to push them to succeed: College costs limit choices and ignores the idea that there are scholarships and other financial aid out there. If you qualify academically for a school, money should not (but unfortunately can) matter.

Another part of this mentality is too much parental control. Guess what, students? You’re adults now. You’re attending college and working on a presence in the real world – don’t let your parents be that invisible hand that pushes you a direction that you don’t want to go. If you choose a major or school they weren’t pushing you to go to, I’m sure your parents will get over it eventually. (If not, too bad: It’s your life.)

If money is the deciding factor, think of this: Your interests are cheapest. Why? Because if you attend school elsewhere or don't major in your preferred field, you won’t be happy and won’t do as well in classes. That could lead to not graduating on time and thus, more money spent. Even if you graduate, give it a few years and you’ll realize that wasn’t what you wanted and going back to school is not cheap. If you follow your interests from the start, you save the money spent on more school or another school. Also, look into the scholarship opportunities you qualify for because I guarantee there are more out there than you think.

My advice? Act on passion and interest, not what others tell you. The minute that money starts steering your life is the minute you risk your future. If you choose a major that you love at a school you love, you won’t regret it.

Mike Sheffey is a senior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He also works with several friends to promote concerts and shows in Greensboro, NC. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.

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