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by Paulina Mis

Any time is a good time to conduct a fellowship search, but the beginning of each school year is particularly good. Many fellowships are awarded on a yearly basis, and applications need to be submitted before the term begins—on time.

For graduate students, free government Pell Grants are no longer an option, and limiting loans should be a top priority. It is irritatingly ironic that many graduate school programs are more expensive than undergraduate ones, but less government aid is available.

Loan burdens may be so dire that, even after studying for years, many cannot enter their chosen careers without defaulting on loans. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the average graduate student ends school $45,000 in debt (compared with $18,000 for undergraduates). A lucrative job is needed to pay off such loans—especially when potential car, home and family expenses are taken into account.

Fortunately, aid in the form of fellowships tends to be pretty lucrative, often numbering in the thousands. Stipends and award renewal opportunities may even be involved.

Students may search for fellowship opportunities by visiting Scholarships.com and by browsing through college financial aid websites. At Scholarships.com, students can find scholarship, grant, and fellowship information on more than 2.7 million awards worth over $19 billion in aid.

Getting a head start will give students additional time to deal with application problems that may arise. Fellowships can be hefty, but so can the competition. Applying early may give students the edge they need to win.

Posted Under:

Fellowships , Graduate School


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Scholarship Poetry Contest

September 7, 2007

by Paulina Mis

Wooing a girl with poetry may be a bit seventeenth century, but today’s students can still take advantage of their creative talents. Scholarship poetry contests are common, and writing a poem sure sounds more fun than writing an essay on, let’s say, how Lincoln’s study of law prepared him for the challenges of presidency (those who disagree may visit Scholarships.com to see if they are eligible.) If you can do better than the trite “Roses are red” love tribute, you may have a shot at winning money for college. Take those poems out of your diary, and share them with the world: it can pay off.

Below are four scholarships for the poets at heart. For other options, you can conduct a scholarship search at Scholarships.com.

Poetry Out Loud Scholarship: Competitive students will like this one. A Poetry Out Loud Contest winner must compete at the classroom level before advancing to the school level. After that, winners move on to the state and then finally get to compete at the National Finals. State winners will receive $200 and an all-expense paid trip to Washington to compete in the national competition (the runners-up will win $100). At the National Finals, a total of $50,000 in scholarships and school grants will be awarded.

Live Poets Society of New Jersey: This is an annual poetry contest for students with a poetic flair and a passion for expression. If you miss this year’s deadline, just give it another shot next year: all high school students are eligible. There are many prizes so everyone should try. The best poet will receive the “Poet of the Year” $1,000 scholarship. There will also be a first place winner, 4 second place winners, and 6 third place winners. Numerous honorable mention winners and hundreds of regional winners will be recognized.

Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship: The Amy Lowell Scholarship will award students of any age the chance to pursue their education while traveling abroad. Although winners are not required to be enrolled while living abroad, they will not be able to come home either—not even for family visits. Bringing plenty of pictures and singing up for long-distance phone plan is a good idea. The prize is hefty, so those who are willing to cut their strings can make a bundle. For the 2008-2009 year, the award is $49,000. One member of the English Department at Harvard University, two recognized poets and a group of trustees will be judging the entries so proofread twice.

Posted Under:

Scholarships

Tags: Poetry , Scholarships

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Itty Bitty Ways to Save

September 7, 2007

by Paulina Mis

We all know how expensive college can be, and how the hidden fees get you just when you thought you had enough. Performing a free scholarship and grant search at Scholarships.com can save students a bundle, but the little changes can also make ends meet. You don’t have to be a miser to save a bit, and every bit can make a difference. Ok, that’s trite. What I meant to say was that saving has a lot to do with mentality. When you’re proud for having saved $15 with your grocery coupons, you may think twice about spending that money on a new CD. You’ve gone this far, no point in throwing your labor away. Here are small things that can motivate you to keep going.

BYOB. That’s right. Bring your own bottle. If you can’t stay away from expensive coffee shops, you should at least get a discount on their expensive drinks. Many coffee shops will take 15 or 30 cents off when customers bring their own—albeit adorned with a company logo—mug or bottle (request these for your birthday.) So maybe a few cents won’t make for huge savings, but they make for little ones. Plus, your coffee will stay warmer, and you’ll be saving the environment. 

Look for punch cards. While we’re talking coffee shops, check to see if they have punch cards. Many fast food shops, clothing stores and even car washes offer punch cards. If you shop at these places on a regular basis, you can earn free store dollars, a meal or a shiny car (wash).

Sign up for free membership cards. Signing up for a free grocery store card can save you a lot of money, but other memberships are also helpful.  Bookstore chains frequently offer free membership cards (I'm not talking about store credit cards). Member rewards may include a free drink at the food corner, points towards a book purchase and email reminders about upcoming sales. Use sale days to buy Christmas and birthday gifts in advance—books never go out of season.

Water please! College students can’t help it. Eating out is just a part of their lifestyle. The habit is expensive, but sometimes it has to be done. When it does, opt for water instead of another drink. It’s refreshing, it’s good for your skin, and it’s free.

There are many ways for students to save money. Surviving on free Starbucks’ honey packets doesn’t have to be one of them—see Mena Suvari in Loser. You can still head to Starbucks with coffee in mind, just bring your mug with you.

Posted Under:

College Costs , College Culture


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by Paulina Mis

A grant is a sum of money that does not have to be paid back. Because, like grants, scholarships are sums of money that do not need to be repaid, some grant providers use the terms interchangeably. Stipulations for both vary greatly, and the lines between the two are frequently blurred. Whether they are awarded by the government or another donor, grants are a very popular source of financial aid for college. Each year, students across the country apply and receive grants that make it possible for them to attend the schools of their choice.

Governments Grants

The government provides grants for many students who submit their FAFSA. Currently,the government offers five types of need-based grants to college students. There are Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), Academic Competitive Grants and National SMART Grants, the most popular being the Pell. These grants are considered to be the foundations of financial aid packages, and all other financial aid should be taken advantage of once a student exhausts their grant funds.

Undergraduate Grants

Undergraduate students who, based on their FAFSA, show financial need are the main recipients of need-based government grants. For the 2007-2008 school year, students may receive up to $4,310 in Pell Grant money. Students who show extreme need, graduate from a competitive school or plan to major in the math & sciences may be eligible for additional grant money.

Graduate Grants

Unfortunately, the government reserves most of its need-based grants for undergraduates. However, there are some government-assisted grant opportunities for students who demonstrate merit or who wish to enter a certain sector of the economy.

Outside Grants

Many students go straight to the government to find college grants. Because submitting a FAFSA kills a few birds with one stone—a student can find grants, loans, and federal work study with one form—it makes sense that government grants are popular. But a college grant search does not need to stop at the gates to the white house. Colleges, universities, organizations and personal providers offer numerous grant opportunities for both undergraduates and graduates. Scholarships.com can help you find them.

Undergraduate Grants

Students who search for outside undergraduate grants may have some work to do. Such grants are out there, but many do require students to perform research or internship work. Because many providers prefer to offer such opportunities to graduate students,outside grants are more popular amongst the older crowd. Seeing as many students search for internship opportunities regardless of pay, on-the-job compensation may be an excellent perk. Students who have an interest in wildlife and are willing to work on a project in the New England area, for example, may be eligible for the A.V. Stout Fund grant. With a little work, winners can receive about $1,000-$3,000 in financial aid.

Graduate Grants

Looking to outside organizations and universities for graduate grants is a student’s best bet. Because the government isn’t much help when it comes to need-based grants,it is a good thing that outside grants, scholarships, and government loans are still an option. As is true of much graduate financial aid, many opportunities are merit based. They may also require that recipients conduct research. Organizations who would like to encourage the growth of a certain career sector frequently offer grant opportunities to graduate students.

Undergraduate and graduate grant opportunities are readily available to college students. All it takes is a little searching and, if research or an internship is involved, some dedication. For undergraduates, submitting a FAFSA may be all it takes.

Posted Under:

Graduate School , Grants


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by Paulina Mis

Before Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s investigation into the student lender business even began, talks of making student loans more affordable were in the works for Democrats. Now that slews of financial aid officials have been found guilty of accepting money and gifts in exchange for spots on preferred-lender lists, changes are on their way.

After similar bills for government cuts on student lender subsidies were passed by the House and Senate, a compromise was finally reached. If the College Cost Reduction and Access Act is passed, and few want to be known as the ones who oppose it, student lenders will receive less aid from the government. Eligible borrowers may surpass outside lenders altogether by taking out low-interest government loans, but the borrowing limits on such loans aren’t always sufficient —and not all students are eligible.

The money the government plans to save by limiting lender subsidies would go towards increasing Pell Grants for students and decreasing the national debt. The Pell Grant maximums, capped at $4,310 for 2007-2008, would be raised to $5,400 over the next few years. Also in the works is a decrease in need-based interest loan rates. The current 6.8 percent interest rate would be cut in half.

Provisions that would keep students from drowning in their debt were also included in the legislation. Borrowers would not be forced to pay more than 15 percent of their discretionary income, and their loans would be forgiven after 25 years. A vote on the compromise is forthcoming. Although it is possible that President George Bush will veto the bill—he has warned to do so last month— an overturn is also likely.


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Setting-Up a Scholarship 101

September 5, 2007

by Paulina Mis

Many students are in desperate need of financial aid, and setting up a scholarship is a wonderful way to help them. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of a college education in 2006-2007 was $10,454 at public colleges and $26,889 at private ones. With Pell Grants capping at $4,310 this year, government money hardly cuts it. Here are a few things providers should think about when creating a scholarship.

One-Time Scholarship or Endowment?

An easy way to create a one-time or annual scholarship is to submit award information to a local scholarship foundation. It should be noted that annual scholarships (endowments) may require the provider to come up with more than $20,000. Ongoing scholarships are similar to bank accounts in that interest accrues on the initial deposit. The earned money then becomes an award. If winners are to receive a significant amount of money, a large initial donation may be required.

IRS watch

As long as scholarships are used for college expenses, they are usually tax-exempt. However, there are some IRS regulations, and they are particularly strict when it comes to corporate scholarship providers.

Who is eligible?

Scholarships are a great source of support to students who face difficult circumstances or enter underrepresented fields. Regardless of targeted recipients, providers should be clear on who they are looking for. There is no point in reading applications from students who won’t be considered. Criteria such as GPA, field of study, year in school etc. should be specific, but lax enough to give students a shot.

Advertising

With the help of Scholarships.com, advertising can be a cinch. Once a provider submits scholarship information, it will be made available to students who visit our site. To prevent providers from being inundated with applications from ineligible students, Scholarships.com will only show the scholarship to students who meet its eligibility criteria.

Posted Under:

Federal Aid , Scholarships , Tips


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FAFSA Grants

September 4, 2007

by Paulina Mis

When combined with free scholarship and grant opportunities found at Scholarships.com, government grants can significantly decrease, if not completely cover, a student’s financial needs. Unlike loans, grants do not need to be repaid; unlike federal work study and assistantships, there is no labor involved. When students submit a FAFSA, they are automatically in the running to receive government need-based grants. The most well-known of these is the Pell Grant, but lesser-known government grants are also available. Here is a breakdown of grants students may find on their FAFSA award letters:

Pell Grants

The Pell Grant is the largest grant program in the United States, awarding undergraduates with millions each year. The Pell Grant is the foundation of all government aid. Seeing as Pell Grant money is free, awesome GPA or not, students should take advantage of all offers before moving on to Federal Work Study and government loans. Unfortunately, students don’t always get their fill with Pell Grants. During the 2007-2008 school year, students may only receive up to $4,310 in aid from Pell Grants, and not all eligible students receive this much. This may seem like a drop in the bucket for those who need $12,000 or more each year, but every penny counts.

FSEOG

Students with extreme need may be eligible for the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). Like the Pell Grant, this is a grant for undergraduates. It is intended to provide additional assistance to the neediest of students, those with the lowest expected family contributions. Students may receive up to $4,000 each year in FSEOG funding, but awards may be as little as $100 per year. The award received will depend on the time of application, the level of need, and the rules at each school’s financial aid office.

Academic Competitiveness Grant

This is a new grant introduced during the 2006-2007 school year. Students who felt their merit-based aid opportunities were thwarted by grades that did not sufficiently reflect their abilities may receive some compensation. Up to $750 will be awarded to first-year undergraduates and up to $1,300 for second-year full-time undergraduates who have completed a difficult high school program. The state or local education agency is responsible for deciding which schools are deemed rigorous. For information on high school eligibility based on state, visit the Department of Education. As this is still a need-based grant program at heart, only students who were deemed needy enough for Pell Grants can receive Academic Competitiveness Grant money.

National SMART Grant

The National Science & Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (National SMART Grant) is awarded to third and fourth-year college students. Students who major in the physical, life or computer sciences, math, technology, engineering or a foreign language determined to be essential to national security may be able to supplement Pell Grants with SMART Grants. Up to $4,000 per year may be awarded to each recipient. A more detailed list of eligible fields of study may be found here.

Institutional Grants

In addition to government grants, students may find school grants on their award letters. These, unlike the government grants, usually take academic achievement into account. Some may also consider a student’s financial need. To find out more about institutional grants offered at each college, students should visit their school website and conduct a scholarship and grant search at Scholarships.com.

Additional Grants

Above is a list of grants students can receive by submitting their FAFSA, but students don’t need to stop there. Myriad scholarship and grant opportunities are available to them at Scholarships.com, and they aren’t restricted to undergraduates and those determined to be needy by government standards. To conduct a free scholarship and grant search, visit Scholarships.com, and find money for college.

Posted Under:

College Grants , FAFSA


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by Paulina Mis

College Board has been dealt another big blow. Just days after it was revealed they had bought their way into spots on preferred-lender lists, College Board announced a drop in SAT scores. College Board, a nonprofit organization that administers the SAT and AP tests, announced on August 28th that the average combined scores for 2007 graduates dropped by 1 point in critical reading and by 3 points in math and writing. Since 1967, average reading scores dropped by 41 points and math scores by 1 point (writing scores were not reported). College Board stressed the positive saying that more students, minorities in particular, were taking the test.

Earlier this year, the SAT was scrutinized after research released by the University of California revealed that the correlation between high school grades and SAT scores may not be as accurate as once thought. Although the test was a good indicator of first-year grades, the following three did not match up. Eventually, ambitious students adjusted to the University of California’s difficult curriculum, regardless of initial preparation.

The study was a continuation of a 2003 study which showed that SAT performance was better than GPA in predicting first-year college performance. Apparently, after catching up with the 80,000 students sampled, things had changed. In fact, findings showed that the longer students attended college, the greater the value in using high school grades as a means of predicting future performance. Such findings indicate that the strong correlation between SAT scores and socioeconomic factors is eventually watered down. The implications of this research are yet unclear. It is, however, becoming clear that the SAT may not be as good of an indicator of college performance as was once thought.

The question of whether the SAT & ACT tests should continue to be administered was one of two issues addressed in Scholarships.com’s annual Resolve to Evolve essay contest (the second dealt with the population’s effect on the environment.) To read what students had to say, you can visit the Scholarships.com 2007 Resolve to Evolve Award Winners page. To find sample questions and advice on preparing for standardized tests, you may visit the Resources section at Scholarships.com.


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Perkins Loans

August 30, 2007

by Paulina Mis

When it comes to loans, this is the real deal. The Perkins Loan program is a government and school funded program with the smallest interest rates, only 5%. Compared to other low-interest government loans and their high-interest private counterparts, the Perkins Loans are ideal for students who need on-the-spot funds.

Of course, the best of loans are not available to all. Seeing as these loans have the lowest rates, they are usually reserved for the neediest students. Luckily, needy graduate students are also eligible. They may have gotten the cold shoulder when it came to Pell Grants, but graduates still have options when it comes to low-rate government loans.

Even though the government puts forth a large amount of funding for Perkins Loans, the loans are still considered campus-based. This is because schools match some government contributions and are in charge of loan administration. They even have to apply to participate. Not to worry, most schools do participate in the program. Approximately 1,800 schools across the country provide students with financial aid in the form of Perkins Loans.

Students who are interested in the Perkins Loan should submit their FAFSA. Whether a student qualifies and how much aid they qualify for is based on their determined financial need and their school of choice. Undergraduates with the greatest need may be eligible for up to $4,000 in yearly aid; graduates may receive up to$6,000. Over the course of their education, undergraduate may borrow up to $20,000 and graduates can borrow up to $40,000 (this includes undergraduate loans.) Thankfully, if these loans add up, students have up to 9 months after graduating, withdrawing or dropping below part-time status to find repayment funds.

Perkins Loans are a good option for quick aid, but before applying, students should take advantage of free funding options. Performing a free scholarship and grant search at Scholarships.com and browsing through school websites may eliminate the need for loans altogether.


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Pell Grants

August 29, 2007

by Paulina Mis

Some of the best things in life are free, especially when it comes to financial aid. Students who fill out a FAFSA will quickly realize that a world of financial assistance is at their fingertips. Of all government aid, Pell Grants are definitely the sweetest. Providing aid to millions of undergraduate students each year, the Pell Grant is the largest grant program in the U.S.

Used loosely, a grant is a monetary award that does not need to be repaid. Graduate school grants tend to come with some research strings attached, but not the Pell Grants. All students who submit a FAFSA will be automatically considered for Pell Grants, and all they need to do is to fill out the admittedly pesky form. Information about whether they qualify for aid and how much aid they qualify for will be sent to students by their respective colleges. These school "award letters" will usually arrive sometime between March and April, though dates do vary.

Students who got into college by the hairs of their chinny chin chin need not worry about being ruled out for aid. Pell grant money has nothing to do with GPA, athletics, involvement, talents, and all other things that make the average student shudder. These awards are based mainly on financial need.

If you are raising your eyebrow suspiciously, you deserve a pat on the back: Pell Grants are not perfect. The government can help you, but only to a point. Aside from the financial aid eligibility issue, Pell Grants have fairly low caps. For the 2007-2008 year, the maximum Pell Grant award is $4,310, and this is not the award most students will receive. The amount of aid a student will receive depends on financial need, the cost of school attendance and the length of stay. The hourly status of a student is also considered. Students who can fit their schoolbooks into a purse will receive less aid than those who attend full time. Graduate school students, unfortunately, are not even eligible. Students who cannot attend with under $5,000 in grants may need to look elsewhere for financial aid. Students who show extreme need, graduate from a competitive school or plan to major in the math & sciences may be eligible for additional government grants. Those who don’t should consider applying for scholarships, non-government grants and fellowships. A great place to perform a financial aid search is Scholarships.com. With 2.7 million scholarships & grants worth over $19 billion, Scholarships.com has something for everyone.

For more information on Pell Grants, visit Student Aid on the Web.

For additional information on financial aid, visit the Resources Section of Scholarships.com.


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