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Common Financial Aid Questions

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 help needy students find thousands in aid. Even if students are ineligible for free grants, they may receive aid in the form of federal student loans—these usually offer lower interest rates. Scholarships are another great funding option. There are countless scholarships out there, and many are not merit based. Conducting a free scholarship search at Scholarships.com will help students find scholarships for the average, the exceptional, and the kooky. With over 2.7 million scholarships and grants, students are bound to find something.

Are scholarship searches reliable?

Some of them are. Scholarships.com, for example is a member of the BBB, TrustE, NACAC, NSPA, etc., and is a proven, legitimate scholarship search website with dozens of success stories available for you to check out and millions of students assisted over more than a decade of service. However, students should be wary of services that ask for money. They should also stay away from those that claim to do all 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 grant awards. Students who receive little aid can benefit greatly from scholarships. Contrary to beliefs of certain celebrities, more money equals fewer problems.

Are graduate students eligible for government financial aid?

Yes, but not all of it. Graduate students may be eligible to receive money in the form of loans and Federal Work Study (FWS), but they are not eligible for free government Pell Grants. However, plenty of non-government aid is available for graduates. Myriad scholarship, grant and fellowship opportunities may be found at Scholarships.com. Searching college financial aid sites should also produce some results.

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. Pell Grants are capped at $5,635 for the 2012-2013 school year. Assuming that students will receive the full amount — many don’t — they may still be lacking. It is best to set up an account in a guardian’s name. Less than 6 percent of parent assets are taken into account when determining need. Student assets are weighed more heavily. Parents might want to consider using student money to buy college necessities 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 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 take out loans may look at college preferred-lender lists. These are supposed to be based on the best interest of the student, such as low-interest rates and service quality. However, students should always perform personal research. Instances of suspicious college and lender partnerships have occurred. When searching, 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 free monetary awards: they do not need to be repaid. Grants may be offered without service requirements (e.g., Pell Grants) or with research requirements (this is typically 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. Loans need to be repaid, with interest.

What are 529 Plans and Roth IRAs?

Students and parents who can put college money aside should take advantage of student savings account tax incentives. 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 tax incentives for attending college?

Aside from 529 Plan incentives, the Hope Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit will allow parents to reap some benefits from their college piggybank drain.

How can I increase my chance of landing scholarships?

Students can increase their chances of winning by decreasing their competition. Applying for awards restricted to those within a city or major, for example, should help. Scholarships.com will help students find specific scholarships by showing you awards available to you based on your personal profile, a good many of which. It is also important to pay attention to all regulations. Students should only apply for scholarships they are eligible to win and should always remember to proofread their work.

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