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Financial Aid: Commonly Asked Questions

August 29, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

You will find that, as you go out in search of money to fund your post-secondary education, a lot of questions are going to surface. Naturally, being that we are the largest independent and dedicated resource to scholarships and financial aid on the web, we have a lot of answers. Below, we have a list of some of the most common questions, along with their answers. If you don't find an answer to your question below, check out our Scholarship F.A.Q. page.

  • How can the average student find financial aid for college?

    Students searching for financial aid should begin by filling out a FAFSA and by applying for scholarships. FAFSA submissions can earn students thousands in aid. Many students are worried that their parents’ average income will impede their search for financial aid. That’s not true. Restrictions on availability are not as strict as students think. Even if students are ineligible for free grants, they may receive aid in the form of government loans: these carry much lower interest rates than private loans. Scholarships are another great funding option. There are countless scholarships out there, and many are not merit based. There are the normal, everyday student scholarships, and then there are the downright kooky scholarships. To find both , students can perform a free search at Scholarships.com. With over 2.7 million scholarships, they are bound to find something.
  • Are scholarship searches reliable?

    Some of them are. Naturally, Scholarships.com is not only legit, but also the best way to find the most current information about scholarships. Not only are we on the up-and-up, but we make sure all the awards listed on our site are as well. If they so much as charge an application fee, we don't list them. Students should definitely be wary of services that ask for money. There is no need to pay to for a scholarships search. Scholarship providers are giving money away, not hiding it. Students should also stay away from websites that claim to do all of the work. Most scholarships require students to submit personal information, information that only students will know. Any site that suggests otherwise may be attempting to scam you.
  • Will scholarships affect my eligibility for financial aid?

    They may. The government takes student awards into consideration when offering aid. However, students should not be deterred by this. The effects are not likely to be great. Many schools use student money to offset loan eligibility, not to offset free grant awards. Students who believe they may not be eligible for much aid can benefit greatly by applying for scholarships. Contrary to beliefs of certain celebutantes, more money equals fewer problems.
  • Are graduate students eligible for financial aid?

    Yes and No. Graduate students are eligible to receive money in the form of scholarships, grants, fellowships and assistantships, but they are not eligible for the government Pell Grant. However, graduate students need not worry; there is plenty of non-loan aid out there. Myriad scholarship and outside grant opportunities may be found at Scholarships.com. Many graduates may also receive school grants, fellowships and assistantships; these are usually merit-based. Loans should be used as a last-case resort.
  • My parents have saved for my education; will this affect my eligibility for aid?

    Yes. However, this should not discourage parents and students from saving. Free school grants are capped at $4,300 for the 2007-2008 year. Assuming that students will receive the full amount—many don’t—they may still be lacking. Those who save should set up an account in a guardian’s name. Less than 6% of parents’ assets are considered to be potential college contributions. The percentage increases significantly if students own the money. Parents might want to consider using student money to buy college necessities such as laptops and living extras before submitting their FAFSA.
  • I didn’t receive enough government aid. What can I do?

    You have options. Students who did not receive sufficient aid can try to speak with financial aid administrators. They may be willing to help—especially if a students’ financial situation has recently changed (e.g. job loss or new medical bills). Students may also apply for scholarships and grants, year round. As a last resort, students may apply for loans.
  • How do I know which lender to choose?

    Students who choose to seek out additional aid through loans are likely to find preferred-lender lists at their college. Lists are generally generated based on low interest rates and service quality. However, students should always perform personal research. There have been issues with colleges receiving incentives for placing lenders on preferred-lender lists. When researching, students should compare interest rates, on-time payment benefits, penalty charges and additional fees.
  • What is the difference between loans, grants and scholarships?

    Grants and scholarships are both free monetary awards: they do not need to be repaid. Grants may be offered without service requirements (Pell Grants) or with research requirements (usually the case with graduate students). Scholarships are awards that may be awarded based on merit, talent, major, ethnicity etc. They are not restricted to top students. Plenty of average-student scholarships are out there. Loans need to be repaid, with interest. The government offers the best interest rates on loans. Government guaranteed loans and completely private loans tend to be more expensive.
  • What’s this I hear about 529 Plans and Roth IRAs?

    Students and parents who can put college money aside should take advantage of student savings account tax incentives. Certain accounts are especially created with students in mind. Oftentimes, the deposited money can grow tax-free. Some accounts, though not created for students, offer tax breaks if funds are used for college. The most popular savings account options are the 529 Plan and the Roth IRA. Additional options include the Coverdell and the UTMA.
  • Are there any other things I can do to lower college costs?

    Aside from scholarships, FAFSA, fellowships, and tax breaks, students may consider working. Students who are eligible for Federal Work Study may look into part-time job options. Federal student jobs are usually flexible when it comes to scheduling. Non-federal jobs are usually plentiful on campuses as well. Because there are so many potential workers, the 10 fast-food joints on each block may be willing to accept odd hours if someone is around at all times.
  • Are there any tax incentives for attending college?

    There best known tax incentives are those for 529 savings plans. Many parents don’t realize that there are more breaks out there. The Hope Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit will allow parents to reap some benefits from this college piggybank drain.
  • How can I increase my chance of landing scholarships?

    There are plenty of ways to increase the chances of winning. One of the best is applying for very specific scholarships. Students are more likely to win if the award is restricted to those within a certain city or major. Scholarships.com helps students find these types of scholarships. Based on profile answers, Scholarships.com can show students a listing of scholarships they are eligible to win.

    To increase the chances of winning, students should also apply early. Some scholarship programs receive submissions from many applicants. Students who apply early are less likely to have applications lost in a pile of submissions. Last but not least, students should remember to pay attention to all regulations. They should only apply for scholarships they are eligible for and should always remember to proofread their work.
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Scholarships.com Resolve to Evolve 2008 $10,000 Essay Scholarship

December 10, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

Each year, Scholarships.com offers seven students a total of $10,000 to be applied toward their education. The scholarship essay topics are meant to evoke thought and to challenge participants to proactively respond to controversial issues. Students applying for this year’s award will be able to choose between writing about the effectiveness of the No Child Left Behind Act and about the rising cost of higher education. Students may write about either topic, provided their ideas are original. Scholarships.com looks for essays that demonstrate critical thought and highlight the student's ability to analyze and find solutions to potential problems. A winning essay will be worth up to $3,000 and will be forwarded to the appropriate public official in the hope that Scholarships.com can be part of the solution. Award winners will be notified by May 30, 2008 and announced on June 30, 2008. Their essays will be made available to the public on the Scholarships.com Winners  page soon thereafter.

For more information about this and other scholarship opportunities (including contact and application details) you can conduct a free scholarship search.

Prize:

1. One $3,000 grand prize 2. One $2,000 prize 3. Five $1,000 prizes

Eligibility:

1. Applicants must be U.S. citizens 2. Applicants must be high school seniors during the time of submission 3. Applicants must be 18 years of age by the time the prize is awarded on July 31, 2008 4. Applicants must plant to attend a U.S. Department of Education accredited 2 or 4 year college, university or trade school in the fall semester following their entry. 5. Only one entry per person

Deadline:

March 31, 2008

Required Material:

1. An essay of no more than 1,000 words answering one of the following questions:

A. Has the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 been successful in fulfilling its purpose? Why or why not? B. How has the rising cost of a college education affected students and families? What can the government do to  offset any adverse effects or related financial pressures?

2. A short, informal response that demonstrates why attending college is important to the applicant as well as an outline of the applicant’s academic and career goals. The response should include an answer to the following question:

What do you feel will be your biggest obstacle in attending college, and, if able to attend, how do you think your degree will help you achieve your goals?

3. A letter of reference that addresses applicant potential and provides support for receipt of scholarship assistance. The letter should be from an adult who knows the student well enough to speak authoritatively about their character and abilities e.g., teacher, counselor or other school faculty. If none of the aforementioned is able to assist the applicant, a parent or other adult relative will suffice.

Further details, including information about applying, can be found by conducting a free scholarship search. Once a student has completed the search, this scholarship will appear in their scholarship list, provided the student is eligible.

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Tour de Scholarships.com

December 19, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

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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Scholarships.com "Tell A Friend" $1,000 Sweepstakes

January 9, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Gossiping doesn’t cause that warm, “I’m so sweet” feeling you get by helping someone—except this time. It’s true, by gossiping, you can help yourself and your friends.  When you tell your pals about Scholarships.com, you will get the chance to pocket $1,000. When they register, they too will get the chance to win.

It really is that easy. Just refer up to ten friends, and every time one of them registers, your name will be entered in our drawing. You will have until March 3, 2008 to get your entry in and to make your friends register. They will thank you for it. 

If you haven’t registered yet, give it a try. The process is both free and easy. Scholarships.com members will have access to a database with information about more than 2.7 million college scholarships and grants worth over $19 billion.

Those who win the giveaway won’t have to stop there, and neither will those who don’t. Many scholarship and grant opportunities are available to students in need of financial aid. Students can find scholarships based on major, age, school … talent, interest, location … job, gender …. Let’s just say that there are many awards to choose from. Check out the official rules for additional information about the Scholarships.com "Tell A Friend" Sweepstakes, and conduct a free college search today.

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Top Universities Scramble to Keep up with Harvard's Financial Aid Package

January 10, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

When word spread that Harvard would increase financial aid to both the middle and upper classes, tensions boiled at schools across the country. It was bad enough that Harvard attracted the best and the brightest from every nook and cranny—now they would be inexpensive too. Some guys have all the luck.

To be fair, Duke did beat Harvard in the financial aid race by being the first to announce their plan to pour an extra $13 million into the financial aid program, but their promise was simply not as impressive as the one offered by Harvard. When Duke capped their student loans to prevent debt, Harvard eliminated loans altogether—and replaced them with scholarships.

After Duke announced that parental contributions would no longer be expected from families who made less than $60,000, Harvard (which had already established that policy in 2006), announced that families making between $60,000 and $120,000 would only be required to contribute 0-10 percent of their income. Those making between $120,000 and $180,000 would only have to pay 10 percent of it. 

Shortly thereafter, Stanford jumped on the bandwagon by saying that they too would do more to make their school affordable. According to The Stafford Daily, the school made plans to increase their need-based aid by 15.2 percent. The change would save the average parent $2,000 each year.

The trickle down effect also influenced other schools. Among those with New Year’s resolutions involving financial aid boosts are the University of Pennsylvania, Tufts, Haverford and Swarthmore.

Of course, not everyone gets to benefit. It’s easy to be a philanthropist when you have large endowments in the bank, which not all schools can boast. Students at colleges and universities with less money or larger student bodies were not as satisfied with their financial aid offices.  According to The Michigan Daily, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor would not only leave their policies as they are, they would continue—like many other colleges—to raise their prices. So much for that financial aid revolution we've all been waiting for.

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House Wants Textbook Prices Monitored

January 31, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Each year, I heard complaints about the textbook policies of my old college economics teacher. He wrote the only textbook required for class and re-released it—in a nearly identical format—annually. As a result, previous students couldn’t make money by reselling their old books, and new students couldn’t buy used books at a discounted price.

If the House passes its proposed textbook bill, universities might be forced to curb this type of practice. The new bill would make it mandatory for colleges to release course supply information in catalogs thereby giving students the chance to consider class costs before signing up and the time to search for cheaper resources.

Publishers would also have to play a part in decreasing the supply prices. The bill proposed that publishers be forced to minimize textbook costs by cutting down on attached CDs and workbooks. They would also have to publicize the wholesale costs of books and to make known the previous versions costs. If the new versions were revised, the revisions would have to be summarized. With this information, students would be better equipped to decide whether a new textbook version was worth the price.

The book addendum, a part of the House’s new version of the Higher Education Act, was not a part of the corresponding version already approved by the Senate. If the House passes this bill, Senators will again have to approve the changes.

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Puppy Love Pays for College

February 13, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Whoever said it’s a dog eat dog world must not have met the Westminister Kennel Club Dog Show bunch. As the well-behaved dogs trotted across the stage in perfect sync with their owners, it’s a wonder the negative phrase was ever associated with pups.

At the end, the multicolored beagle named Uno managed to take home the prize for this year’s Best in Show. Standing only 15 inches high, Uno rose to the occasion and proceeded to be the first of his breed to win the title since 1939. As I watched last night’s event next to my dog, I increasingly questioned my pet's behavior. Is alternately biting each leg, the tail and my pillows really satisfying?

Obviously, not all dogs can strut the runway, but that doesn’t stop owners across the nation from falling in love with them. Not only are dogs a man’s (and woman’s) best friend, but they can now help you pay for college. If you’re a lover of dogs, check out the scholarships below for some financial aid options. For additional scholarship opportunities, you may conduct a free college scholarship search at Scholarships.com.

Florida Institute of Animal Arts Scholarship

This $5,000 scholarship can help students interested in attending the Florida Institute of Animal Arts in completing their education. If you want to learn a thing or two about dog grooming, check this school out.

Dog Writers Association of America

The Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) is sponsoring a junior’s essay scholarship award for students between the ages of 18 and 22. By writing about their experiences with dogs, students can win a $500 to $1,000 scholarship.

The Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSD) Scholarship

Low income individuals with disabilities can use this scholarship to acquire and train an assistant dog. Awards are largely based on financial need.

American Kennel Club Veterinary Student Scholarship

The American Kennel Club currently offers $145,000 in scholarships to eligible veterinary school students each year. Applicants are judged on academic achievement, need and activities with purebred dogs or related research.

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Volunteering Scholarships

March 5, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Helping someone is a reward in itself, but I guess college scholarships and grants couldn't hurt. After all, you can't control when good karma decides to stop by with financial aid.

To promote volunteer work and help students who help others, scholarship providers have set up the following volunteer awards:

BR!CK Awards Scholarship

Think of the BR!CK Awards as the Oscars for volunteers. Nine winners who have committed exceptional acts of kindness will receive a scholarship of $5,000 as well as a $5,000 reward to be forwarded to their charity of choice. They will also get to participate in an award show where celebrities present their prizes.

Discover Scholarship Program

This corporate scholarship was created for current high school juniors who have demonstrated accomplishments in community service and leadership, faced a significant challenge and maintained a minimum 2.75 GPA. Up to 10 scholarships of $30,000 each will be granted.

Kohl’s Kids Who Care Scholarship

With the help of this scholarship, student volunteers between the ages of 6 and 18 can earn $5,000 toward their college education. Other prizes include $50 Kohl’s gift certificates and $1,000 scholarships.

A Voice for Animals Scholarship

The Voice for Animals Scholarship, an award provided by the Humane Education Network (HEN) gives students the chance to speak out against animal cruelty. Awards are offered to students who submit the best essays and to those who have worked to improve animal welfare.

Comcast Leaders and Achievers Scholarship

To be eligible for the Comcast Leaders and Achievers Scholarship, high school seniors must first be nominated by their principal. Those who demonstrate leadership skills within the community and who work to engage youth in activities that boost self-esteem and encourage an ethic of service can win $1,000 scholarships.

Jesse Brown Memorial Youth Scholarship Program

The Jesse Brown Memorial Youth Scholarship Program was created in memory of Jesse Brown, a member of the Marine Corp who dedicated his time to assisting disabled American veterans. Students who volunteer at local VA medical centers for a minimum of 100 hours will be able to receive a scholarship from this provider. 

For additional information about volunteering scholarships as well as awards based on different criteria, try conducting a free college scholarship search at Scholarships.com.

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Common Scholarship Myths

April 1, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Numerous students find themselves doubting whether applying for scholarships is really worth their time.  They assume that competition is tough and that most applicants have an exceptional academic record—not true. It’s in a student’s best interest to maximize his/her financial aid potential by giving scholarships a shot. Check out some common scholarship misconceptions below before passing up valuable options.   1. All scholarship contests are competitive—There is no denying that a few national scholarship competitions can be difficult to win. Certain corporations go out of their way to advertise their philanthropic actions, and they create very minimal eligibility criteria to encourage students to apply. However, millions of scholarships are available, and most are neither well-advertised nor open to every student.

Try searching for awards you are eligible to receive based on strict criteria. If you’re a Chicagoan and you find an award available only to high school seniors residing in Illinois, go for it. Remember, the competitors are just as intimidated by you as you are by them. Don’t give up before you start.   2. Applying for scholarships will reduce federal student aid eligibility— A number of students worry about federal aid reductions resulting from scholarship winnings. Let’s set the record straight. According to Federal Student Aid representatives, Pell Grant awards will not be reduced because of scholarships. It is, however, possible for schools to limit certain loan eligibility or to reduce school scholarship offers. But unless you’re expecting a full ride from Harvard, you have nothing to worry about. Even if you are, the effects will be minimal, if any.   3. It’s easier to work for the money—Yes, you are pretty much guaranteed a paycheck when you work, but working is not the easiest way to find money for college. Student jobs are a great source of supplementary income, but, realistically, a student paycheck is unlikely to cover tuition. Plus, scholarships and jobs are not mutually exclusive. If you have the chance to win $3,000 by spending three or four hours typing away, take advantage of it. You may have to work an entire summer for that money. Even if you don’t win, the few hours won’t destroy your social life.

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Funding College with Sweepstakes

April 9, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

You’ve seen them before, the shiny cars standing in the mall, the slot boxes covered in pictures of dollar bills and palm trees. That’s right, they’re sweepstakes—easy money. Unlike most scholarship essays, sweepstakes involve little to no effort. Requirements may be as minute as an email or a postal address.

Sweepstakes are definitely a breeze, but they are a competitive breeze. Just about everything that entails little work and big money is. The young and old love sweepstakes like a kid loves cake. Some become addicted, spending hours on end rummaging through sites in search of contest opportunities.

While students should by no means rely solely on their luck to fund college, legitimate contests may be worth a shot. Someone will win the prize, and you just may be that lucky someone. For college sweepstakes that may help you afford an education, check out the links below. To find college scholarships and grants that are a bit more reliable, try conducting a free college scholarship search

Scholarships.com "Tell A Friend" $1,000 Sweepstakes (New Winners Announced Every Three Months!)

Coca-Cola & Chuck E. Cheese’s $25,000 College Scholarship Sweepstakes

Academic Finance Corporation (AFC) $50K Giveaway Scholarship Sweepstakes

SuntTrust Off to College Scholarship Sweepstakes

Wells Fargo CollegeSTEPS Program & Scholarship Sweepstakes

$100,000 Oxy Cash for College Sweepstakes

TI-84 Plus Silver Edition Prep for College Sweepstakes

What’s Your Freedom Quotient Sweepstakes

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