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Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Liz Coffin-Karlin

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

Hi all! I’m Liz, the newest virtual intern here at Scholarships.com. I’m from Sarasota, Florida originally, and then moved way up to Chicago to attend college. I picked Northwestern University for a lot of reasons – it was in a whole new part of the country, it had great academics and it had a lot of student involvement – and I wound up with double majors in Spanish and history and a minor in Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

While academics were important to me, I always felt I expressed myself best through student activities. I worked on our newspaper, The Daily Northwestern, for four years, was an executive board member on the Global Engagement Summit and participated in NU’s huge Dance Marathon. Along the way, I also volunteered at a Chicago soup kitchen, worked as a lifeguard for our sports center and once even sold hot dogs at a football game to raise money for a student group. (It is COLD in those stands!) I also studied abroad in Buenos Aires, where I fell in love with empanadas, tango music and backpacking in the Andes.

I loved my time at NU but most of all, I loved the connections I made and the friends I met. I took a public service fellowship in Chicago right after graduating from college in 2010 and ran a teen internship program last summer at the Adler Planetarium. When that ended, I felt it was time to use my Spanish skills and after studying abroad in Buenos Aires and then getting a research grant to come back before my senior year, I had the language skills and the connections to get an internship at the Center for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.

Now, I’m excited to be with Scholarships.com, where I'll be sharing travel tips, college tips (make sure you set the microwave timer for two minutes not 20 minutes...unless you want to burn your dorm down) and professional tips for getting that internship or job you wanted. Nice to meet you guys – can’t wait to start writing!


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Prepping for a Summer Abroad: Financial Edition

by Mariah Proctor

When people hear I’m getting ready to leave on my third study abroad, there are no questions asked – just resentful looks that say ‘Well, aren’t you the cultured little rich girl.’ Okay, maybe the looks aren’t that venomous but the idea holds true. If you are considering studying abroad but think you can’t afford it, listen up: You can.

My first study abroad was paid for in the way many people pay for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land: through money left by my grandparents. There was something tender about imagining my grandfather working hard as a schoolteacher and saving every penny – pennies that would one day take me to Jerusalem. But the inheritance-type funds had run dry when I was asked to go to Southeast Asia for a summer, so my second study abroad saw a more creative, financial-finagling me.

The first step in paying for a semester of international intrigue is finding funding from your home institution. Most international study programs have discount or program-specific scholarships. Also, make sure you fill out the FAFSA to get a Pell grant if you’re eligible. Not everyone knows those government pick-me-ups can be applied to international study...but now you do. Go after one!

There are study abroad-specific scholarships all over the Internet (Scholarships.com is rich with financial opportunities that can be applied). The Phi Kappa Phi Study Abroad Scholarship and the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship are two of the most well-known sources of study abroad funding, plus oodles of country-specific and area of study specific-grants.

If you are persistent about diversifying your sources of funding, studying abroad can be less expensive than staying on campus. The most important thing is not to let the cost of a plane ticket or the dollar-to-euro exchange rate scare you away from what will be a fulfilling experiences in your young life. There’s no rule that says only rich kids can travel; if you dream of pyramids or tropical breezes, stop dreaming and start doing. Bonus: Studying abroad provides rich material for grad school application essays.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.


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by Paulina Mis

The government recognizes the dire financial circumstances of numerous undergraduate students, and slowly, steps are being taken to change things for the better. Three new federal grants have been created within the past two years, the maximum Pell Grant award has risen and interest rates on undergraduate Federal Stafford Loans will begin their gradual descent this fall. But…where does that leave graduate school students?

According the Council of Graduate Schools, the number of students seeking master’s and doctoral degrees is expected to rise by 12% between 2006 and 2014, and many of these students will need financial aid. While certain aid does not apply to graduate school students, plenty of assistance is available to those who know where to look. Here are just a few options:

Federal Aid Unfortunately, graduate school students are not eligible to receive federal grants, but federal aid in the form of federal work study and low-rate student loans (Stafford and PLUS) are still an option. And while the recently passed College Cost Reduction and Access Act will not lower loan interest rates for graduate school students, those who borrowed before July 1, 2006 will see a substantial drop in their bill. Variable interest rates on federal loans will decrease from 7.22%to 4.21 % this year.

Scholarships and Grants Numerous scholarships and non-federal grants are not just available to graduate school students, they are restricted to them. Companies and organizations frequently offer aid to graduate school students who display an interest in work that aligns with their goals. After all, these scholars can be the future innovators of their industry. To find scholarships you may be eligible to receive based on your year in school or major of interest, try conducting a free college scholarship search.

Employer Assistance Students who commit to working for a certain employer may be lucky enough to receive full or partial compensation for an additional degree. This is often the case with hospital staff, educators and employees who could help their companies profit through new skills and certifications.


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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

Scholarships are great, all free money is. But as is true for earned income, students who receive awards may have to report them to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). To be in the clear, undergraduate and graduate students should take the time to check if their scholarships and fellowships are tax free. As long as students are careful about how they spend the money, their awards will probably be tax exempt.

Scholarships and Grants are tax exempt if:

1. The recipient is a degree candidate at an educational institution with a regular faculty, curriculum and enrolled body of students who attend at the location of educational activities.

2. The scholarship money is used for required tuition, fees, books, supplies and equipment. Scholarship money used for room and board, travel and optional supplies is taxable.

3. The recipient is not accepting the scholarship in exchange for services received (e.g., teaching and research). This rule does not apply to scholarships received from the National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program or the Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship and Financial Assistance Program.

Sometimes, only a part of a student’s scholarship or fellowship will be taxable. For example, a student may receive $3,000 in fellowship money from a school. However, $2,000 of the money will be offered in exchange for assisting a professor in her research (fellowship money usually accompanies such stipulations.) The remaining $1,000 will not be taxed, as long as it is used for qualified school expenses. A student’s future research service earnings may have to be estimated and reported, even if the work has not yet been completed.

To be certain that all income is accounted for, students should take a look at scholarship conditions and whether they can be used to cover qualified expenses. Students who believe their scholarship and grant money may be taxable should report their award to the IRS. If the scholarship is not taxable and the student has no income aside from the scholarship, a tax return does not need to be filed.  To find additional information on scholarship, grant and fellowship opportunities, students should conduct a free scholarship search and take a look at Scholarship.com’s financial aid resources.


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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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Need-Based Financial Aid

June 11, 2008

by Paulina Mis

Affording a college education is becoming increasingly difficult, but help is available. Students who demonstrate financial need can look to numerous sources for assistance in paying for tuition and living expenses. Even those who do not demonstrate exceptional merit can qualify. Below is a list of financial aid resources students may be eligible to receive based on financial need. Additional need-based awards may be found by conducting a free college scholarship search.

Federal Grants The Federal Student Aid office oversees programs that comprise the nation’s largest source of student aid. Each year, billions in aid are awarded to college students across the country. The best of these, federal grants, do not have to be repaid. Students can look to federally-run need-based grants such as the Pell and the FSEOG to help pay for college expenses. Grants that are based on both merit and financial need—the SMART and the Academic Competitiveness Grant—are also a good option.

Federal LoansThough less attractive than grants, federal loans tend to have lower interest rates and better, more flexible, repayment options than private loans. This holds particularly true for need-based subsidized Stafford Loans and need-based Perkins Loans. Students interested in taking out a federal loan will first have to submit a FAFSA.

Sallie Mae Scholarships The Sallie Mae Fund is one of the largest sources of non-federal college aid. All awards offered by the organization have a need-based component. Since 2001, the Sallie Mae Fund has given away $12.7 million in scholarships to more than 5,000 college students.

College Scholarships Students may be  eligible for need-based aid offered by their college or university. Elite colleges such as Harvard, Northwestern and Stanford have been particularly gracious with their awards—Harvard students whose parents make less than $60,00 do not have to pay for tuition, room and board or expenses—but others are following in their footsteps.


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by Paulina Mis

Among the many complaints voiced by students in need of federal aid are those concerning insufficient Pell Grant awards and a lack of consideration for students who are smart, but not exactly the braniac kind of smart. These are valid worries, and while they have not been tended to fully, the SMART Grant is a start.

Approved by the Senate in late December of 2005, the relatively new SMART Grant allows students who have demonstrated financial need to receive over and above their annual Pell Grant limit.  Eligible students may receive up to $4,000 in SMART Grant money just by filling out a FAFSA.

Because the SMART Grant has been largely overshadowed by the more common and better-known Pell Grant, many students are unfamiliar with the  award. The SMART Grant can more than double a student's grant money, but there are a number of stipulations that considerably narrow the eligibility pool.

To be eligible for the SMART Grant, students must have already demonstrated sufficient financial need and must have been eligible for the Pell Grant. But that in itself is not enough. Students must also be majoring in the physical, life, or computer sciences, mathematics, technology, engineering or in a foreign language determined critical to national security. To show that they are dedicated to graduating with a degree in one of the aforementioned fields, students must have already completed the first two years of their undergraduate program—while maintaining at minimum 3.0 GPA. Additionally, students must be enrolled full time and must be taking at least one course required for the completion of their major during the term the grant is received.

Assuming the student meets all of the above criteria, the SMART Grant can make a big difference in an individual's ability to cover college costs. A Pell Grant award may not exceed $3,410 for the 2007-2008 schools year, an amount unlikely to cover annual college tuition, let alone fees and living expenses. An extra $4,000 would certainly make a difference.


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by Paulina Mis

After an anxious wait on the part of students and lenders, President Bush finally signed the College Cost Reduction and Access Act into law. And you know this is big if MTV reported on the bill even though partying at club Les Deux wasn’t involved.

According to the new law, the maximum Pell Grant offered to students will increase while the subsidies the government offers student lenders will decrease. This is the biggest boost in student aid since the GI Bill for veterans---and a fresh change from the 2005 $12 billion financial aid cut.

Among those who will benefit are needy students eligible for government grants and those who borrow from the government. Currently, students are eligible to receive a maximum $4,310 Pell Grant each year. This number will increase gradually, reaching a high of $5,400 by 2012.

Under the act, new subsidized Stafford loan interest rates will also be cut. A low point of 3.4 percent will be available to students who borrow between July 1, 2011 and July 1, 2012. Unfortunately, students will have to wait until 2008 to take advantage of this change. Until then, they are stuck with the current fixed 6.8 percent loan interest rate.

Students who plan to teach in low-income neighborhoods after graduating may also benefit. Future teachers may receive a $4,000 TEACH Grant for each year they attend school (up to $16,000 for undergraduates and $8,000 for graduates), but a pretty detailed list of additional eligibility criteria must also be met.

The bill was largely a result of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s investigation into illegal actions within the $85 billion student loan industry. The investigation revealed that numerous financial aid administrators, including one from the Department of Education, received financial incentives from lenders who hoped to improve their standing with schools.

Some of the financial aid changes outlined in the act were previously considered, but Cuomo’s investigation provided much-needed impetus. Although Bush had initially threatened to veto the bill, he agreed to sign once recommended changes were made. In a White House photo, the president is shown signing the bill with four smiling college students, three smiling congressmen and a smiling Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings looking over his shoulder. A sign that read, “Making College More Affordable” hung from his desk.


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Tour de Scholarships.com

December 19, 2007

by Paulina Mis

The whole “college graduates earn $1 million more than non graduates over their lifetime” stat is getting a bit trite. I’ll give you a few more if you’re not convinced that college is a worthwhile investment.

College graduates enjoy greater career security

College graduates can offer their children a more secure financial future

College graduates are healthier

College graduates are more likely to contribute to society

Anyway, you get the picture. The problem isn’t that the whole “follow your dreams” thing makes no sense. The problem is affording those dreams and affording the time and preparation it takes to follow them. Most of us don’t make enough money to loll around devoting our days to perfecting our sculpting skills and sharpening our 3 point shots. Even those with less risky dreams can’t always afford to test the waters, especially if the schooling required to get those jobs is too expensive and time consuming. That’s why so many students find themselves having to compromise their initial career goals after realizing their dream jobs won’t allow them to pay off student loans. Let’s just say that the need for qualified teachers isn’t caused by a disinterested public.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to be gloomy. I swear there’s a silver lining. Financial aid in the form of government grants and outside scholarships is readily available to students in difficult situations. Without a cloud of college debt hanging over your head, “The Road Not Taken” may suddenly become an option. The financial aid information found at Scholarships.com will help you familiarize yourself with the FAFSA, government grants, corporate scholarships, private scholarships, the ins and outs of student loans and myriad other financial aid opportunities. Whether you’re interested in preliminary information or ready to get down to business by finding scholarships, we can help you do it.

If you’re not convinced, you can take a tour of our site. Visit our homepage, and take a sort of “Tour de Scholarships.com” if you will. We can help you see how conducting a free college scholarship search will help you find scholarships and grants that, based on the information you provide, you're eligible to receive. Find New York scholarships, scholarships for graduate students, scholarships for minorities, poetry scholarships, music scholarships—you name it, we’ve got it. With information about more than 2.7 million scholarships and grants, Scholarships.com offers more than you’ll know what to do with. If you’re not convinced yet, just take the tour. Like the search, it’s free. You’ve got nothing to lose, and a world of financial aid opportunities to gain.


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