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Seven Tips for Repaying Your Student Loans

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a recent college graduate, chances are you’ll have to start paying off your student loans sooner than you think. And even with the economy in a slump, don’t expect a free pass on not paying your loans. Are you starting to panic? Well, don’t! There’s a ton of advice out there to help students stay on track and courtesy of the U.S. News and World Report, here are seven tips for repaying your student loans.

  • Repay you student loans automatically. Make things easier on yourself by setting up automatic withdrawals from your bank account. This reduces the chance of late or missing payments.
  • Aim for 10 years. The traditional repayment period for student loans is 10 years and ideally you'll be able to pay off all your debt within that time period. If you end up struggling with your monthly payments, however, you could stretch out your loans to 20 or even 30 years. Your monthly payments will become more manageable but you will end up paying a lot more in interest.
  • Stay organized. Having multiple student loans can be a challenge to keep track of but with the government's National Student Loan Data System, you’ll be able to track all your federal student loans in one place.
  • Pay off the loans with the highest interest rates first. A high interest rate costs you every month and compounds that amount you owe every month you aren’t paying off the entire balance.
  • Consider IBR. The IBR is a federal Income-Based Repayment program that allows a borrower to repay his or her federal loans based on what is affordable and not what is owed.
  • Keep abreast of student loan developments. Staying informed is just as important as making your payments. Familiarize yourself with websites that are devoted to college debt issues like Project on Student Debt and the National Consumer Law Center's Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project.
  • Contact the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman. Sometimes your relationship with a lender can go belly-up. If you end up in a dispute, the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman may be able to help resolve the issue.

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Meet Scholarships.com's Virtual Interns: Radha Jhatakia

by Radha Jhatakia

Hi all! My name is Radha and I’m one of Scholarships.com’s newest virtual interns!

In high school, I was a well-rounded student – high GPA, honors classes, extracurricular activities and volunteer work...you name it, I did it – but after getting accepted by both the University of the Pacific and the University of San Francisco, limited finances and financial aid prevented me from attending either school. To save money to put toward transferring, I instead enrolled in De Anza College and Evergreen Valley College to complete my gen eds. It wasn’t easy (De Anza was a distant commute and made it difficult for me to take the classes I needed to transfer) but I amassed enough credits to transfer after two years. I didn’t get into my first choice (UCLA) and my second choice (Berkeley) did not have my intended major so I enrolled at UCSB, where I was accepted into the Honors Program and received plenty of financial aid. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as planned when my transfer status affected my major so I am back at EVC but transferring to San Jose State University in the fall. Whew!

I’ve always enjoyed writing (I hope to write a book someday) and I believe my interest in working with others – plus my excellent persuasion abilities – will lend itself to a career in public relations. Being a Scholarships.com virtual interns complements my goals perfectly: It’s an excellent opportunity to gain experience in something I enjoy doing and since I’m always looking for scholarships to pay for school, writing for a website that helps students do just that seemed ideal. Hope you’ll all enjoy reading my opinions and advice just as much as I enjoy sharing them!


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Thiel Fellowship Pays Students to Leave School, Develop Ideas

by Alexis Mattera

Here at Scholarships.com, all of our resources are geared toward helping students prepare for and afford college educations...not leave them behind. That being said, this new award probably won’t be popping up in our database any time soon.

Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and the first outside investor in Facebook, announced the inaugural recipients of the Thiel Fellowship, a program that will bestow 24 students with $100,000 each to not attend college for two years and develop business ideas instead. The driving force behind the fellowship is Thiel’s concern about the “irrational” increase in cost and demand for college educations and his belief that certain students would learn more by leaving school than continuing traditional coursework.

Not surprisingly, heated debates have erupted in academic circles – William K. Aulet, managing director at MIT's Entrepreneurship Center, believes the fellowship is sending the wrong message, stating, "To say that you're better off dropping out of school is a gross generalization." – but the fellowship winners have a different outlook: At least two recipients have expressed interest in returning to school at the end of the fellowship and one prospective winner turned down the deal entirely to enroll at MIT, which signals traditional education is still valued.

What do you think about the Thiel Fellowship? Would you be more than willing to apply and leave school if selected or would you prefer to continue your education in the classroom instead?


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Not Enough Financial Aid? You Still Have Options!

by Radha Jhatakia

There are many factors that affect where, when and if students attend college, the most important being financial aid. So what can a student do when he or she hasn’t received enough funding?

If you need financial aid to make college a reality, contact the financial aid offices at the schools you’re considering before applying. Find out the costs of tuition, room and board, and other college living expenses and defray these costs by applying for as many scholarships and grants as you can. The college will be more likely to help fill any financial gaps if you’ve shown initiative and determination.

Another method is writing formal letters to financial aid administrators. Describe your financial aid situation (including hard numbers), your home life, factors affecting your ability to pay for college and things that you could not put on the FAFSA such as a home mortgage or other payments that your parents need to make. Fax this letter, mail it by certified mail and email a copy to each school as well. If the school cannot offer you free money, they can sometimes offer an additional loan of some sort.

If all else fails, call the colleges and schedule appointments with the deans or heads of the financial aid offices. Some colleges have tuition waivers which allow students with special conditions to be exempt from paying tuition. If the school does not offer this option, you can still seek out non-school loans through banks or private companies. These loans often have higher interest rates, require co-signers or do not have grace period to pay off loans after graduating; in my opinion, however, the cost of not getting a college education is much higher than amount of these loans.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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Prepping for a Summer Abroad: Financial Edition

by Mariah Proctor

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

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

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

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

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

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


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The Haiku Ninja Facebook Scholarship

by Suada Kolovic

Are you a poetry ninja? If so, then we’ve got the scholarship for you: Scholarships.com’s Haiku Ninja Facebook Scholarship!

The Haiku Ninja Facebook Scholarship will go to the Scholarships.com fan that creates the best haiku detailing how our site is helping them combat the college admissions process and score some serious financial aid. Love our scholarship search? Tell us why! Is our financial aid section really helping you out? Send us an example! Think our college prep section is the best? Give us a shout out! The trick is you must convey your feelings in only three lines and 17 syllables – five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line and five syllables in the third line – and post it on our Facebook page. We always love hearing from our users so get creatively concise and you could earn $1,000 for college!

Step 1: “Like” Scholarships.com on Facebook.

Step 2: Post a haiku on our wall about how Scholarships.com is helping you prepare for and afford college. Once you do this, you are automatically entered to win a $1,000 scholarship.

Step 3: You may enter as many times as you want but please limit your haiku entries to a reasonable amount per day. From there, the Scholarships.com Team will determine which haiku best exemplifies what our site is all about and which applicant is using our resources most effectively. You must also adjust your privacy preferences to allow Scholarships.com to message you should you win.

This scholarship competition is offered by Scholarships.com and is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

Starts: June 1st

Ends: June 30th

Amount: $1,000 for one first-prize winner; Scholarships.com hats and t-shirts for second- and third-prize winners


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Where to Buy and Sell Textbooks

by Kara Coleman

It’s important to s-t-r-e-t-c-h your money as far as it will go when putting yourself through college and one way to do this is by exploring your options for buying and selling textbooks.

Your campus bookstore is the most obvious option but it's also the most expensive. One good thing about campus bookstores is that some will allow books and other school-related items like notebooks and calculators to be covered by grants and scholarships. Some bookstores sell both new and used textbooks and allow students to sell their books back to the store for cash at the end of each semester...but you only get back a fraction of the amount you actually paid.

Since your fellow students are in the same boat you’re in, ask around for a specific book that you need. One guy sold his $200 Spanish book to me for $100 and a girl I know let me have her $70 math book for $30. It’s also a good idea to swap books with friends if they are taking a class that you took last semester and vice versa. That way, everyone saves money.

The Internet is your friend so check around online to see what sites have the best prices on what you need. I have friends who routinely order their textbooks from Amazon.com, Half.com and Betterworld.com. (These are great places to sell your used textbooks as well.)

If you don’t want to buy, consider renting your textbooks for a semester from Chegg.com. I did this last year and I think it’s a great idea. At the end of the semester, Chegg emailed return address labels to me and there was no charge to ship my books back to them.

Kara Coleman lives in Gadsden, Alabama, where she attends Gadsden State Community College. She received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art.


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The Dos and Don’ts of Summer School

by Brittni Fitzgerald

Spring semester is finally over...feels good, right? But before you start making those summer plans, consider whether or not summer school will be part of them. Here are some dos and don’ts to help you make your decision.

Do go to summer school if you’re a transfer student. It’s likely all of your classes did not transfer over from your old school to your new one. If you take summer classes, you can catch up on credits that didn’t transfer.

Do go to summer school if you dropped or performed poorly in a class. W/F, W/P and classes that earned a C or lower hurt your GPA. This criterion can make or break a student so to help your GPA, take a summer class to make up for a less-than-stellar grade.

Don’t go to summer school if you have an internship or job for the summer. This will probably be your first time interning or working for this particular company and you want to make a good impression. Some students can balance both but teachers cram a lot of work into those six weeks. Focus on either work or class to prevent failing at one or both.

Don’t go to summer school if you have little aid or growing debt. If you took classes in fall and spring semesters, you may have used up your financial aid award for the year. If so, you will have to pay for summer classes out of your own pocket. Definitely take the class if you can afford it but if you can’t, don’t add to your debt.

Hopefully these tips will guide you in the right direction this summer and you can make the right decision for a successful summer!

Though she moved from Fremont, Calif., to Chicago at the age of five, Brittni Fitzgerald will always remember the sun and fun of California life. She is the youngest of six children and is currently attending Chicago State University. There, Brittni is an accounting major and an active member of the Student Government Association but also a published poet (in 8th grade, her work was published with the Illinois’s 2004 “Celebrate! Young Poets Speak Out”). Brittni enjoys running, swimming, dancing, singing and shopping. Her motto is “Live Life Loud.”


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Students Say "I Do" for Lower Tuition

Would You Marry to Keep College Costs Down?

June 7, 2011

Students Say "I Do" for Lower Tuition

by Alexis Mattera

In February, we read a New York Times article about students getting married to save on tuition and asked our Facebook friends and Twitter followers if they, too, would get hitched if it meant they’d pay less for school. The responses? Mixed, but the topic is still hot four months later.

State aid is down, tuition is up and students are stuck in a tough position these days. While some are continuing down the traditional paths of obtaining funding for college (filling out the FAFSA, applying for scholarships and grants, taking out loans, etc.), others are taking a different route – or should we say aisle – with a friend or another student in a similar monetary situation. Why? If a student is single and under the age of 22, their financial aid is determined by their parents’ income but if the student is married, aid is determined by the joint income of the student and their spouse – an enticing loophole for cash-strapped undergraduate and graduate students. Unlike marrying to obtain citizenship, marrying for financial aid or in-state residency benefits is legal according to WalletPop; there are even matchmaking services that help students find likeminded individuals to marry for tuition relief and divorce after graduation!

What are your thoughts on these “on-paper” marriages? Would you say “I do” if you could save thousands on tuition and fees or do you feel this practice – while legal – is too unethical to consider?


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Challenging Yourself in High School Has Vast Future Rewards

by Julius Clayborn

I began my high school career at EXCEL-Orr High School but quickly realized the school was not doing enough to prepare me for post-secondary success. At the beginning of my sophomore year, I transferred to Urban Prep Academy and though my collegiate dreams were now within reach, the transition was not easy. I was met with much opposition and had multiple run-ins with many of the students. I was torn: Here I had this great opportunity but these external factors were taking an academic and emotional toll on me. I began to regret transferring and eventually regret school altogether.

Luckily, I found solace in my extracurricular activities such as debate and youth activism club. These things helped me realize my full potential and made me believe that there was something greater in store for me. Transferring quickly went from the worst decision I had ever made to the best, especially when it came time to start applying to colleges. Initially, I saw more challenges – Will I get in? Can I afford tuition? – but my worries were put to rest just as fast: We had an entire class period dedicated to college preparation and the application process, which is where I found out about the site you’re reading right now. Not only did I get accepted to a fantastic school, I also received enough scholarships and grants to pay for it.

If you find yourself dissatisfied with your high school’s curriculum, don’t sit idly by: Challenge yourself by taking harder courses or transfer, like I did. It may be difficult at first but any struggle will be well worth it in the future.

Julius Claybron was born on Chicago’s South Side in the Harold Ickes public housing projects. At the age of five, he lost his father to diabetes and was raised by his mother and grandmother, who helped him to enroll in Urban Prep Academy, a public all-male college-preparatory high school, during his sophomore year. Julius started to read at the age of two and still enjoys escaping in books during his spare time. He will begin his freshman year at Cornell University this fall, where he plans to double major in psychology and English literature.


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