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How to Maximize Your Financial Aid Package

Feb 13, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

Figuring out the bottom line when it comes to the cost of your college education is definitely a stressful part of the process. With everything that goes into determining your financial aid package (your parents’ income, your earnings and your family’s net assets), it’s important to understand that merit aid – aid based on a student’s attributes (academics, athletics, extracurriculars, etc.) – is available to student regardless of their “need.” New federal rules are blurring the distinction between scholarships awarded on merit and grants awarded because of a student’s financial need – for instance, a growing number of colleges now award “need-based” aid to students from families earning six figures! Who would have thunk it?! So, we’ve compiled a few helpful tips to maximize your chances for merit aid and increase your overall financial aid package.

  • Fill out the FAFSA. Federal rules have changed. College aid officials are now allowed to award need-based aid to students whose parents earned decent salaries last year but have recently been laid off, as well as make accommodations for a family’s unique circumstances, such as high medical bills.
  • Apply to schools where you’d rank at the top. While your dream school might be an Ivy League, you should apply to at least a few colleges where your GPA would put you in the top 25 percent of the student body.
  • Apply to schools that offer generous need-based aid. In the 2009-10 academic year, Louisiana College reported that 88 percent of students were receiving non-need based financial aid. Do the schools you’re considering boast the same kind of aid?
  • Do the research. If you’re interested in a college, find out what it has to offer when it comes to merit aid. You might qualify for more awards than you think!
  • Before making a final decision, compare net prices. Consider the cost of attendance in its entirety including tuition and fees, room and board, books and transportation. The school that offers the most in merit aid might not be the best choice; sometimes the college offering the largest merit scholarship might have the highest net price because its tuition is higher.
  • Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Believe it or not, you have negotiating leverage when it comes to your merit aid package. If you have received admission letters from two or more universities and your first choice has a higher net price than your second choice, contact that institution! Some schools might be willing to match the merit aid offered, which would provide you the opportunity to attend your first choice school for less money!

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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Avoid These Top Five College Admissions Interview Mistakes

Jan 7, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

When discussing the art of nailing your college admissions interview, it’s important to talk strategy. Every Tom, Dick and Harry will stress the importance of dressing professionally and the value of asking questions but did you know that over rehearsing your responses is a big no-no, too? Well, it is! If you’re starting to prepare for your college admissions interviews, check out U.S. News & World Report’s top five mistakes to avoid below:

  • Showing immaturity: College is about learning to live independently and your admissions interview is partially about proving that you are prepared to do just that. They suggest not having your parents drop you off or, worse yet, bringing them along.
  • Acting disrespectful or rude: While this should be obvious, do not check your cellphone during the interview for any reason. Just don’t. They suggest turning if off completely or switching it to silent (not vibrate) before even walking into your interview.
  • Skipping school research: Before your interview, research the school and prepare a few questions to ask at the end. Remember, they shouldn’t be questions that can be easily answered by perusing the school's website for a few minutes. Asking a question that's too simple can be just as bad as giving a blank stare.
  • Being shy: It's difficult for an interviewer to get to know you if you don't share enough information. And if you appear timid, it can leave the impression that you might have difficulty adjusting to new social settings in college and actively participating in class discussions.
  • Bragging too much: While you shouldn't be so humble that you don't say anything positive about yourself when asked about your accomplishments, be careful not to go overboard. Going on for too long about how great you are and how many amazing things you've done can be off-putting. It's okay to let some of what you've done speak for itself.

For those who have been through the interview process before, do you have any other helpful hints? If so, please share them in the comments section!

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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The FAFSA: New Year Means New Application

Jan 1, 2014

by Alexis Mattera

Though it’s a day off from school and work, New Year’s Day is also a day to get down to business. While you’re starting in on your New Year’s resolutions, opening up a new calendar, and packing up the holiday decorations, there’s one more thing that college students and college-bound high school students should do each January. The Department of Education starts accepting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (more commonly known as "FAFSA") on January 1 each year. State application deadlines fall soon after—as early as February in some cases. So while you might not start classes until August or September, you want to start applying for financial aid as soon as the FAFSA is available each year.

In order to complete a FAFSA, you will need the following:

  • your social security number
  • a driver’s license if you have one
  • bank statements and records of investments (if you have any)
  • records of untaxed income (again, if you have any)
  • your most recent tax return and W2s (2012 for the 2013-2014 FAFSA)
  • all of the above for your parents if you are considered a dependent
  • a PIN to sign electronically (go to pin.ed.gov to get one)

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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Scholarships for Moms

Dec 19, 2013

by Suada Kolovic

In a perfect world, mothers would transition flawlessly from PTA meetings and dance recitals to conferences on synergy and the importance of SEO in one fell swoop. Reality check: We don’t live in a perfect world and for those mothers interested in competing in the corporate world, going back to school is a viable option. And while juggling college-level courses and a fussy baby is a stressful mix, you do have one thing working in your favor: bountiful scholarship opportunities.

Scholarship providers recognize the challenges mothers returning to school face and offer many scholarships and grants specifically for them. Check out some of the scholarship opportunities for mothers below; for more information on these and other awards, conduct a free scholarship search on Scholarships.com today.

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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Scholarships.com Virtual Interns Wanted

Dec 6, 2013

by Alexis Mattera

Whether you're putting pen to paper, live tweeting campus events or blogging until the wee hours of the morning, one thing is certain: Sharing information is your passion. And you know what? It's ours, too, so let's join forces through Scholarships.com's virtual intern program!

Over the last 15 years, Scholarships.com has been a go-to site not only for high schoolers in search of financial aid but for college students living away from home for the first time, trying to balance limited money for food and fun, and adjusting to postsecondary academic expectations. We have plenty of information on those topics and more but we want to hear from you about what's going on at the campus you call home for the majority of the year. From parties to politics, from housing to hazing, and from class registration to commencement exercises, let us know what's trending at your school and your musings could be featured regularly on our blog.

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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Top Colleges with the Highest Rate of Student Internships

Nov 7, 2013

by Suada Kolovic

Five years after the financial crisis, recent college graduates (and folks in general!) still find themselves struggling with a stagnant job market. And with the slow pace of job growth looming, internships are a great way to for students to boast their resumes, gain experience in their fields of study and become more viable candidates once the economy does improve. Plus, according to a survey of more than 1,000 employers, 56.5-percent made full-time offers to their interns just last year. So if you're looking for a college that makes internship participation a priority, check out U.S. News and World Report's top colleges with the highest rate of undergraduates graduating with internship experience 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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Choosing a Minor That Majorly Helps

Oct 23, 2013

by Chelsea Slaughter

A problem that many incoming freshmen face is trying to choose a major but they also need to realize the importance of relating that major to a minor that supports it and gain skills in two fields that complement each other. Give yourself a professional edge by making sure your minor will enhance your skills for you major profession.

Regardless of career plans, it is highly recommended that you take classes to build extra skills. College is place to explore new things in a safe environment – this is the time where you can try something like art or accounting and realize if you are good at it or not. You can find out what you like to do, what does not interest you and how to use these new interests to further your academics and career.

Have you ever thought of minoring in a foreign language? If you are vocational major (i.e., business, management, etc.), this is something that will give you a greater edge in the job market. With the United States being the melting pot that it is, fluency in a second (or even third) language is something that helps you stand out to potential employers. If you are a liberal arts major, think about minoring in something like technology or marketing. Once you start really do the research on what extra skills you may need to be successful post-college.

Another option is thinking about a double minor or double major. While pursuing multiple degrees is not for everyone, it sure does show you are not afraid of a challenge! You will always have a chance to take general electives for classes you may not need but are interested in to some extent. Just make sure your majors and minors relate to one another to give you the best chance to succeed in your field of choice.

Chelsea Slaughter is a senior at Jacksonville State University majoring in communications major (public relations concentration) and minoring in art. She serves as a resident assistant on campus, serves as treasurer in the Public Relations Organization and is an active member in W.I.S.E., NAACP and Omicron Delta Kappa Honors Leadership Society. She aims to work in the entertainment industry post-graduation and is well on her way thanks to an internship with a digital marketer to several music artists. Chelsea strives to achieve all of her goals and motivate others along the way.

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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Making Time for Reading Assignments

Oct 22, 2013

by Veronica Gonzalez

Stuck on a textbook or novel on your syllabus? Want to make your reading assignments much easier? Here’s an idea: JUST READ! This may sound too obvious or pointless but it just might be crazy enough to work – all you have to do is prioritize, don’t think of it as a chore and go for it.

  • Prioritizing: It’s imperative that you make time during your studying and school time to read what’s being assigned to you by your professors. If you have free time in your class schedule, dedicate it as reading time.
  • Don’t Think of Reading as a Chore: Most college students cringe at reading long chapters in a textbook, with most turning to SparkNotes or other related websites to get an understanding of the chapters that they’re supposed to read for class. However, the websites only give you summaries, which may be missing important information that would be mentioned in class by your professors. Summaries are great if you are in a pinch but if you truly want to understand the assignment and be prepared for class discussion, actually reading the text is the way to go.
  • Go for It: Here are few tips on reading chapters from your textbooks. First, take a deep breath before you start to read. Next, read slowly to better understand the subject matter. And lastly, make sure to take notes on what you’ve read so far in the chapter so that you can refer back to what you learned and review any trouble spots.

What are your tips for tackling reading assignments?

Veronica Gonzalez is a junior at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. Her current major is English and she plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in this field. She served as the vice president of the UIW chapter of Alpha Lambda Delta from 2012 to 2013 and she returns as a junior delegate in the fall of 2013. Her dreams are to publish novels and possibly go into teaching in the field of English.

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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What Do You Mean I Can’t Live Off Ramen Noodles and Netflix?

Maintaining Your Physical and Mental Health in College

Oct 3, 2013

by Abby Egan

College is a time of stimulating classes, new friendships and terrible eating habits. Many students gain weight when they enter college but what no one tells you is that if you don’t change your eating and exercising habits, that weight gain doesn’t end freshman year – it’s up to you to make sure you’re remaining healthy, physically and mentally. Here are some tips on how:

  • In the cafeteria: You may be sick of the cafeteria food but I promise there are ways to mix it up and remain healthy. As a rule of thumb, make sure your plate has an array of colors and try something new at every meal if you can. Fill up one plate with everything you want instead of using multiple plates – your eyes will see more food in one place and your stomach will feel full on less – and drink plenty of water with your meals because cafeteria food contains lots of sodium.
  • In the gym: Access to campus fitness facilities is often included in your fees so take advantage of the gym. Start out slow by doing some simple walking on the treadmill or track and work yourself up to more difficult workouts. Sweating can help you avoid germs, relieve stress and boost your energy. Most schools have clubs that involve exercising as well such as yoga, Zumba or swimming. Sometimes they even offered exercise classes for credits!
  • In your head: Getting enough sleep can improve your mood, your attention span and the quality of your work so listen to your body and always take time for yourself. Hang out with friends, create long lasting memories and make sure you’re having fun but don’t be afraid to close your door, put in your headphones and enjoy some alone time every once in a while. Make to-do lists and feel accomplished when you cross everything off...or just take a nap. Go somewhere new. Challenge yourself. And always, remember to ask for help when you need it.

What are your tips for maintaining physical and mental health in college?

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.

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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Research Papers? You Got This! Part 2

Oct 2, 2013

by Mary Steffenhagen

Last week, I wrote about research techniques and tips that I've found useful for preliminary research for a paper. Now it's time to start writing!

You have sources and a direction in which to head but you won’t go anywhere without a strong thesis. A strong thesis states your idea concisely and directly. It should be very specific but also something that is not beyond argument – your paper will be proving a point and disproving others – so starting off with “I argue” is a good way to state your thesis confidently.

Quotations from your sources, especially your primary source, are the excellent additions to strengthen your arguments. Don’t let them overpower your own voice, though; if you’re quoting every other sentence, back off a bit. You can still include that information if it’s necessary but try paraphrasing it (with attribution, of course) and injecting your own viewpoint. Use quotations to point back to the thesis and, like the thesis, make sure they are strong and not just in there to bump up the word count (although quotes are great for that if you really need it).

Assuming you have the bulk of the paper down, write your conclusion and intro. The intro is incredibly obvious once you have the body of the paper done – after all, your ideas are concise and flow together in a real format. It goes without saying that the intro is crucial: It has to seize and hold your reader’s attention and present your thesis. Your conclusion is equally important and you shouldn’t just summarize what you’ve already said. Think of these sections as your answer to “So what?” Make your reader see why your argument (and all the work you’ve done) is worthwhile.

Next come the dreaded citations. Whether it’s APA, MLA or Turabian, I’ve never known anyone to enjoy citations but they are crucial to correctly attributing your sources. (Remember, inadvertent plagiarism is still plagiarism.) The Purdue Online Writing Lab is an excellent resource when you are unsure of how to cite something and I often use Calvin College’s Knight Cite to format the source information for me.

It should come as no surprise that your next step should be proofread, proofread, proofread. Get a friend to read your paper over, too, as new eyes catch mistakes better than eyes that are used to seeing them.

Lastly, print it off, smell the fresh ink and breathe a sigh of relief. Maybe there’s even time tonight for a few hours of sleep! I hope what I have learned from writing a plethora of research papers will make your process less daunting and more worthwhile.

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.

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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Don’t Let Cost Dictate Your College Choice

Oct 1, 2013

by Mike Sheffey

Choosing your major or school based solely on price is wrong. There are not enough words in the dictionary to describe my disagreement with this logic, but I will try.

First and foremost, college students (and people in general) will fail at things they don’t care about or aren’t excited about. If people choose their school or major based on price, they will likely not be going to the place they want to go or studying what they want to study. That’s not really going to push them to succeed: College costs limit choices and ignores the idea that there are scholarships and other financial aid out there. If you qualify academically for a school, money should not (but unfortunately can) matter.

Another part of this mentality is too much parental control. Guess what, students? You’re adults now. You’re attending college and working on a presence in the real world – don’t let your parents be that invisible hand that pushes you a direction that you don’t want to go. If you choose a major or school they weren’t pushing you to go to, I’m sure your parents will get over it eventually. (If not, too bad: It’s your life.)

If money is the deciding factor, think of this: Your interests are cheapest. Why? Because if you attend school elsewhere or don't major in your preferred field, you won’t be happy and won’t do as well in classes. That could lead to not graduating on time and thus, more money spent. Even if you graduate, give it a few years and you’ll realize that wasn’t what you wanted and going back to school is not cheap. If you follow your interests from the start, you save the money spent on more school or another school. Also, look into the scholarship opportunities you qualify for because I guarantee there are more out there than you think.

My advice? Act on passion and interest, not what others tell you. The minute that money starts steering your life is the minute you risk your future. If you choose a major that you love at a school you love, you won’t regret it.

Mike Sheffey is a senior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He also works with several friends to promote concerts and shows in Greensboro, NC. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.

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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