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by Susan Dutca

Understanding the financial aid process, much less filing a FAFSA, can be tedious and daunting. With over 130 questions and requiring more than 30 minutes to complete, students may procrastinate, or completely avoid completing a FAFSA. With pending changes for the upcoming years - such as an earlier deadline - some experts claim the process won't necessarily get easier or more affordable, if not done correctly. Terry Savage, an expert writer for the Chicago Tribune, claims the new FAFSA will be more "intrusive than federal tax forms because it not only asks about income but also the assets of parents and students." Savage outlines some tips and general information on how to prepare for the changes, including early application and knowing the logistics of 529s, financial aid, and FAFSA:

  • Earlier application dates: Many people can recall the last-minute rush to apply for FAFSA and the anxiety that accompanies it. A big change in the FAFSA for 2017-2018 academic year is the earlier application. Students will be able to file as early as October 1, 2016, as opposed to January 1, 2017. Additionally, you will be able to use a FAFSA retrieval tool to directly and electronically access tax information from the IRS, after filing a 2015 tax return. The income you will report on your 2015 return will, in turn, affect your financial aid for the 2017-2018 academic year.
  • 529 Plans: 529 plans are college savings accounts that are exempt from federal taxes and were designed to help taxpayers set aside funds for a designated beneficiary. While any U.S. citizen or resident alien of at least 18 years old may open a 529 account, beneficiaries are typically children, grandchildren or younger relatives. Assets in a 529 plan owned by either the student or their parents count as need-based aid but plans owned by grandparents or other people do not count as assets. If money is withdrawn from the accounts of grandparents or other relatives, there is a penalty in the following year's financial aid package. Savage recommends you do not withdraw from your 529 account until your junior year in college, after filing the FAFSA for that year. Withdrawing from the 529 is not penalized so long as you are paying for "qualified expenses," including tuition, room and board, books, and other miscellaneous fees. Withdrawing from a grandparent-owned 529 plan is considered direct income to the beneficiary. There is a 10 percent penalty and taxes for withdrawing money to cover any other costs, unless the student receives a scholarship, dies, or is disabled.
  • Family assets preferred over child assets in financial aid scheme: UTMA custodial accounts are considered student assets - such as property, real estate, fine art, or future inheritances - which could have a large impact on financial aid eligibility. However a custodial 529 plan of a dependent student is treated as a parent's asset on the FAFSA - meaning less impact on the dependent students' financial aid eligibility. It is recommended that custodial accounts be spent for the child's benefit prior to the FAFSA filing year or transferred into the custodial 529 account.
  • Income-driven assets: In addition to providing all income information on the FAFSA through parents' tax returns, assets such as capital gains also count as income. Savage notes that "selling stocks and taking gains" the year before filing can impact what the student will receive in financial aid. For example, taking $3,000 in capital losses can reduce parental income, Savage states. The result of student income will reduce financial aid on a "dollar-for-dollar basis" which consequentially may become a disincentive for students to work and support their education.
  • Take the time this winter break to review the FAFSA changes so as to be better prepared and gain the most in financial aid for your college education.

    Credit is attributed to Terry Savage and the experts at the Federal Student Aid website. Savage is one of the country's most prominent advisers and a best-selling author on personal finance, corporate boardrooms, academia, the markets, and the economy. Federal Student Aid (studentaid.ed.gov) is a free website and source of information provided by the office of the U.S. Department of Education.

    And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Jess Hanch

For $900, you can have a class taken for you and guarantee yourself an "A". Tempted? Academic cheating is now an industry helping online students get the grades they want by doing absolutely nothing. The art of cheating has been taken to a new level, with companies offering services for a price to guarantee students an "A" in their online classes. With the intelligence ingenuity of professional cheating companies, professors fear the growth of the cheating industry and how it degrades online education.

A ten-week study at Western Carolina University addressed the issue, and generated surprising results. Professors Alvin Malesky and Robert Crow created a fake online course, enrolling students with fake names and designating a couple of random students as "cheaters". Those students had to shop around for cheating companies and fool the professors. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, those students googled keywords like "take my class for me" and "cheat on my online class" and 20 plus companies came up in the results. One student who was successful paid a company upwards of $900 to complete all of his coursework and get an A. To the professors' surprise, the company was successful. These companies have professionals in every field of study, able to effectively complete coursework and avoid plagiarism. Professor Crowe stated that the cheating student’s work was at a higher level, but not enough to "red-flag him". Throughout the study, both professors detected plagiarism, but none were from the students assigned to use a cheating service.

The results raise many concerns for educators, and should raise concerns for employers. The growth of these companies will increase the number of students with false degrees and zero credibility. With the number of students enrolled in online courses, if only a fraction of those students cheated, the number still breaks the ten-thousand mark. The study supports those who believe online courses are not legitimate, and makes it difficult for professors who support online education to effectively teach these courses and make sure their students are prepared for real-world jobs. To address this concern, the study was published with tips on how to catch cheaters, and Malesky cites "awareness" as the best way to detect cheating. With regards to the rise of the cheating industry Malesky says "as of now, there are no mechanisms in place to [effectively] stop it". How do you think this seemingly widespread cheating affects online education? Start a conversation below.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Jess Hanch

Texas is set to become the eighth state to allow concealed carry on public campuses. Texas Senate Bill 11 also known as the “campus carry” law, allows licensed gun owners to bring firearms into classrooms, dorms, and other campus buildings. Campus carry will take effect on the anniversary of the first mass campus shooting in America, which took place at The University of Texas on August 1st, 1966. The University of Texas has not seen another massacre since. The law will not affect community colleges until 2017, and private universities have the option to opt out of the legislation.

According to the New York Times, University of Texas Chancellor and Navy SEAL vet Admiral William McRaven stated "…I have all sorts of guns. I just don’t think bringing guns on campus is going to make us any safer. If you’ve ever been shot at, which I have, then you have an appreciation for what a gun can do." McRaven addressed the decision respectfully, stating although "it was not what we hoped for…I appreciate legislators for recognizing the very specific safety considerations that are unique to campus environments." The University of Texas working group, including licensed gun holders, also believes "it would be best if guns were not allowed in classrooms, however does not recommend classrooms should be designated as gun free zones".

In an attempt to keep campus safe, the law allows universities to designate gun-free zones. The University working system also has gun safety rules, including a ban on open carry, and a license requirement. To have a license in Texas, carriers must be 21. Only 1% of the University population meets that criteria. Texas has a large population of gun-rights activists, some even using mobile apps to avoid gun-free zones out of fear (statistics show that most modern mass shootings take place in gun-free zones). The Texas Tribune sites a woman who uses the app because she feels a gun-free sign is like a “come and rob us” invitation to criminals. The Tribune also reported that anti-gun activists on a Texas community college campus are protesting the law by carrying around sex toys to "protest idiocy with idiocy". It was also reported that many students, regardless of what side they are on, only see protesters as a distraction.

Law makers from both sides of the argument want to create a better society, but cannot agree on how, or who, will protect law-abiding citizens. Despite either side, criminal attacks are part of modern society. Do you think laws discourage criminal activity, or simply prevent law-abiding citizens from defending themselves? Would you feel more or less safe on a campus that allows concealed carry? Comment, and start a discussion below.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

Photos of seven Citadel cadets singing in white hoods surfaced on social media - Hoods that very closely resembled those worn by members of the Ku Klux Klan. The seven students claimed they were singing Christmas Carols and that the hoods they were sporting were intended to help them portray the "Ghosts of Christmas Past" for a skit. Whether their resemblance to the KKK was intentional or not, the Citadel Minority Alumni Facebook group was not amused.

The Citadel's Lt. Gen. John Rosa took to Facebook with a statement of his discontent stating, "these images are not consistent with our core values of honor, duty and respect," and were "disgraceful," "offensive and disturbing." All the members of the group were identified and suspension proceedings are already underway.

A person with knowledge of the incident and the school's rituals between underclassmen and seniors claims that, based on the way the men were standing in the photo, they are likely to be freshman, or "knobs," and this is a form of hazing. Despite the group's intentions, the girl who made the Facebook post was "threatened, harassed and offered money from numerous Citadel Cadets to take it offline in order to not 'ruin their lives.'" The woman was approached by a male on several social media platforms, reportedly telling her "I always wanted a black girl." Though she ignored his advances, his Snapchat feed showed the photos and videos of the Citadel cadets singing and laughing and so she "screenshotted and decided to share because [she] was so offended."

Discussions have been ongoing at The Citadel's minority alumni pages and graduates agreed with Rosa's statements but want to see further action take place to show students their behavior is not acceptable. In your opinion, how should the administration respond to this incident? Should there be punishment of the perpetrators beyond suspension? How would you handle this situation if you were on the disciplinary committee? Leave us your thoughtful comments below.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

Erika Christakis sent a controversial email questioning whether there was any room left for the nation's youth to be "a little obnoxious, inappropriate, and even offensive" when dressing for Halloween and it was NOT well-received.

A week before Halloween, students were advised to avoid party themes and costumes that have "racial and ethnic overtones" so as to avoid offending minority students. In response to the initiative, Associate Master Erika Christakis wrote an email encouraging the community to consider the issue through an intellectual lens: a day "traditionally used as subversion for children and young adults is also an occasion for adults to exert their control." In American universities, free speech and tolerating offense have diminished substantially - replaced by censure and prohibition, she claims. Christakis pinpoints blame not on the students but on those who have "lost faith" in young people's capacity to self-censure through social norming.

Using her expertise on early childhood, Christakis uses the example of a "blonde-haired child wanting to be Mulan for a day." Is pretend play not a form of imaginative expression? There is a distinct difference between playing dress up and appropriating culture, according to the associate master. When did it become unacceptable to do the things you did when you were eight years old? In her email, she supports the university's goals to avoid "hurt and offense" - the question is: how do you do this without controlling college students?

Que the backlash. In a responsive open letter, "concerned Yale students, alumni, faculty, and staff" claimed her comments were "jarring and disheartening" because she "failed to distinguish the difference between cosplaying fictional characters and misrepresenting actual groups of people." Those responding claimed that "Yale's history is one of exclusion" - from blackface to the Eurocentric courses and lack of diversity among faculty.

Christakis' husband, Silliman Master Nicholas Christakis, will continue teaching at Yale. 70 faculty members expressed their "strong support of the right of Erika and Nicholas Christakis to free speech and freedom of intellectual expression." That number of signatures is still overshadowed by the number of faculty who "express solidarity with students' concerns." Many students have praised her courses, including: The Growing Child in Global Context and Concept of the Problem Child. Students feel her leave will be a "very big detriment [to students] interested in these issues, and the class could have been getting better."

Christakis will return to working with children and families because she worries that Yale's climate is not "conducive to the civil dialogue and open inquiry required to solve urgent societal problems."

What do you think about Christakis' approach to the issue and how people responded? How is Halloween dress on your campus? Leave us your insightful comments below to start a discussion.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

Wearing 5-inch heels and an even taller wig, Professor Scudura decided to put it all out there for academic discussion in what one might term a "performance lecture". "The Fabulous and Subversive Nature of Drag Performance" was more than a lecture and a lot closer to adult "show and tell". Rather than offer up more dry discourse on the subject, Domenick Scudera brazenly decided to do something much more dramatic.

To best "subvert the traditional symposium structure,” Dr. Scudera dressed in "five-inch high heels, pantyhose, a tight dress, and a mile-high wig" and topped off the look with makeup and false eyelashes. Drag, according to the professor, is a "distinct form of art that brings into focus issues of identity, authority, agency gender variance, and masculine/feminine constructs.” Though he claims that academia symposia and conferences can be "dry, forced, and sometimes unproductive," Dr. Scudera was still somewhat hesitant, asking himself, "Would I be taken seriously?"

What are the stereotypes for professors and how are they maintained? For Dr. Scudera, wearing "professor clothing" is a form of drag. He questions whether wearing "a suit and tie to teach is any different than wearing a dress and heels?" Though during his presentation he had deliberately "held back any opinions…to remove any perception that they [the students] must agree with me to receive good grades," he believes that the students’ disapproval was "code for 'my professor is gay and I am not comfortable with that.'"

Another point of Dr. Scudera's presentation is that of the "diverse facets of identity" that tend to not mix well in other realms. His drag identity, "Summer Clearance," who can be found performing at a gay club or event, will never mix with his identity as a college professor. And vice versa - he does not "carry back" his drag queen identity to the college. He questions whether the separation of the two identities "negates that part of myself in order to be taken seriously as a professor." What Dr. Scudera realizes however, in his experience as both drag queen and professor, is that he cannot be easily compartmentalized simply because students “slam him in their evaluations." Furthermore, he believes that his "authentic self is much more valuable in reaching more students."

Would you be interested in attending this symposium? Why or why not? Leave us your insightful comments below.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

According to Breitbart news, a 21-year old student at the U.K.'s University of York committed suicide 24 hours before the university's cancellation of International Men's Day. After 200 feminist campaigners, students, staff and alumni expressed their fury over a professor's comments about International Men's Day, the university decided to not observe the November 19 holiday and instead continue to focus on "inequalities faced by women." Though students fought to reinstate IMD, the decision was not reversed.

Monday morning at 2:30 am, police responded to a campus call for a 21-year old male who was found with life-threatening injuries. Allegedly, the male student committed suicide for unknown reasons. The student's name has not been disclosed and few details were reported regarding the incident. Breitbart reported the death notice through an anonymous tip-off from an angry university student, who viewed the university's IMD decision as a "downplay of the seriousness of men's health."

Despite the recent suicide and the alarming male suicide rate in the U.K., the university did not reinstate the event. Some Twitter users have voiced their disapproval in York's action and some tweeted they would no longer apply to the university because "it discriminates against men," attaching statistics about mental health, education, and employment. U.K. organizers of IMD report that 13 men commit suicide each day. In 2013, 78% of male suicides "within the most vulnerable age group between 45 and 59." The percentage of U.K. men taking their own lives is at an all-time high. The university has not addressed the suicide incident, and this suicide, along with other male suicides, received little to no attention.

What exactly is International Men's Day? IMD was created in the 1960's to raise awareness for "men's health, improve gender relations and promote gender equality." Based on recent events, men's mental health, along with other common issues, are being pushed further despite IMD's attempt to raise awareness and promote gender equality. Do recent events highlight a need to observe men's issues such as physical health, mental health, rape, and domestic violence - issues that all people, men included, struggle with and do not gain sufficient attention? How do you think this affects gender equality? Share your thoughts below, and start a discussion.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

The University of York cancelled International Men's Day (IMD) on Thursday after outraged students, staff, and alumni protested comments made by a male faculty member and requested an apology for "the manner in which it [the release] was framed." Dr. Aidan Lee of the University’s Equality and Diversity Committee stated that "[although there's focus on] raising awareness about - and removing barriers for - women," there are "some specific issues faced by men" that must be addressed.

Dr. Adrian Lee, of the University's Equality and Diversity Committee, claims that men are "significantly under-represented in a number of academic disciplines." In specific areas such as academic staff appointments or professional support series, "the support staff complement is often heavily weighted towards women, with some departments employing no men at all in these roles." The United States Department of Labor shows in 2014, 36% of women were employed in educational and health industries and only 10.9% of males were employed in the same field.

Despite statistics, students and staff were offended by Dr. Lee and wrote an open letter to the Chair of the Equality and Diversity Committee, expressing their discontent. 200 signatures from students, staff and alumni supported the letter, demanding "a 'full account' of how supporting/promoting men's issues 'in this way' was acceptable by the committee." The group called for an apology for "the use of dubious scholarship in the claim that women are advantaged in hiring processes." Dr. Duncan's apologetic email was posted on the university's webpage, and the IMD event was cancelled. According to the IMD website, International Men's Day is "optional" and "focuses on...improving gender relations and promoting gender equality," ironically the main issue highlighted by women's rights activists.

Students are currently campaigning to reinstate International Men's Day because "it is important that we recognize men's day just as much as women's day. True feminists should be fighting for gender equality for both men and women. To cancel men’s day is simply hypocritical. Equality is not just for women and should concern both genders." What should the university do? Whose side are you on? Share your thoughts and start a discussion below.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

To help tackle the issue of rising tuition costs, thousands of British students are paying for college by using "sugar daddy" websites. One particular site, SeekingArrangement.com, has 12,600 UK students signed up with proof of college enrollment. Their motto? "You + SeekingArrangement = No College Debt." SeekingArrangment is a way for "beautiful, ambitious people to graduate debt free" through "arrangements with older sponsors." Is the world of "sugar daddy" relationships a mutually beneficial dating experience, or just another term for "sex work"?

According to Fox News, users claim there is a huge difference between "providing company for men" to support their college education and prostitution. According to one 20-year-old student on SeekingArrangement.com, she earns $2,000 a month from the "sexual arrangement." She claims, "I've saved quite a lot. It pays for my travel, my books, and I haven't had to take out a student loan. I've been quite well off.” Brandon Wade, the founder of SeekingArrangements.com, believes it enables "sugar babies" to "upgrade their lifestyle" and is therefore not an escort service. Wade claims sex was never expected, neither were the countless marriages worldwide that resulted from the pairings. "You want to find somebody who is well educated and who can provide for you financially, you know, so it's sort of the Disney dream per say," claims Wade.

However, for one married 62-year-old sugar daddy who is currently seeing four sugar babies, "sex is an integral part of the site." According to the man, "I wouldn't be able to meet girls as young and as beautiful as this through an ordinary dating site." Sugar daddies such as him believe that the consensual relationships are appropriate for students seeking to supplement their bank accounts without having to spend "eight hours slogging in a bar only earning minimum wage." The general consensus between both parties is that expectations go both ways and that sugar daddies "provide money to individuals who decide they want a certain type of relationship." Whether it be a means to cure loneliness, or for those who simply don't have the time for a committed relationship, several women have agreed that they "always end up getting what they want financially, and that's the whole point. You've got to play the system."

Although Scholarships.com neither condones nor condemns the aforementioned practice, we believe that paying for college doesn't have to be daunting, and that the best way to fund your college education is through scholarships. Check out how many you qualify for today, and start earning free money for college.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

Earlier this week, 18 year old NAU student Francisco Curiel was charged for selling and possessing illegal drugs and paraphernalia. Why was he selling? Allegedly, to pay for books. Although on a full ride to Northern Arizona University, Curiel supposedly had an outstanding balance of $600 to pay for books and materials. After a room search, police found two bags of powder and plastic tubes with cocaine residue. He and his roommate, Damian Hernandez, were both arrested with charges of possession and sale of narcotics and paraphernalia.

Last year Census data revealed that 72 percent of undergraduate college students worked a job while in school to pay for costs that financial aid does not cover. Though typical jobs include working at a coffee shop, waiting tables or retail, some students are opting to take the non-traditional route by selling drugs since the drastic change in opinion of the legalization of marijuana. According to Pew Research Center, support for marijuana legalization is rapidly outpacing opposition with a majority (53%) of Americans in support of legalization. Growing support is evidenced by four states who have already legalized marijuana, including: Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Alaska. Furthermore, there is a handful of other states looking to pursue similar suit, such as: Massachusetts, California, Missouri, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada and Ohio. These statistics however, give no insight as to people's opinions on the selling of heavier drugs, such as cocaine.

While there are monetary benefits to selling drugs such as reducing or eliminating college debt, student dealers admit there are severe consequences if caught selling. One anonymous student at Boise State claimed, "If I get thrown in jail, my bail is going to be more than what I make." An undercover detective with the Boise Police Department stresses the importance in avoiding such involvement, as it could cost a year sentence in prison or felony charge. Felony charges drastically affect future career opportunities and felons risk unemployment. Often the "middle man" is charged with the same sentence as the seller. The detective urges students to continue applying for scholarships and constantly talking to college financial aid offices for more monetary assistance.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

With the help of the federal government, seventy-two women's and civil-rights groups are launching a campaign to pressure colleges into protecting students from anonymous, threatening social-media posts. Users are able to post anonymously on apps such as Yik Yak - dialogues that aren't necessarily classroom-appropriate. Discussions sometimes contain racist, sexist and other derogatory content which has led to college arrests due to campus threats. According to the groups' letter to the Office for Civil Rights, colleges fail to monitor the anonymous posts or pursue harassers due to colleges' "vague First Amendment concerns." Whose voice is more important in this situation?

Social-networking platforms that attract online harassment such as Yik Yak, 4chan, and BurnBook have safeguards that can be easily maneuvered by slightly changing works like "rape" to "grape." Community monitoring allows students to "down-vote" such comments for removal but does not prevent the initial posting. Some posts go beyond sexual harassment and threaten students with rape and murder, as seen at the University of Mary Washington. The Office of Civil Rights launched an investigation due to alleged Title IX violations. Colleges tend to avoid responsibility for online harassment on social media platforms mostly because students do not need university servers for access.

Yik Yak's popularity is evidenced by their $60 million in investments and is one of the most profitable social-media applications that allows anonymous discussions. While some organizations such as the Feminists United and the Feminist Majority Foundation are pushing for Yik Yak's ban, Dr. Junco at Harvard University studied the app and would "hate to see colleges prevent students' use of the application, because many of the statements made on it… are positive or affirming."

In your opinion, should Yik Yak and other similar apps be banned or not? Share your thoughtful opinions with us in the comment box below.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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