By Tori Linville
Being at college, let alone paying for college, can be a completely nerve-wracking experience. The game has changed and so have the finances. There are so many different avenues to financing a college education that it can easily be overwhelming and confusing. While there’s a never-ending amount of information about student loans and other ways to pay for college, the first step isn’t what you might think.
Organize your thoughts and prep mentally for the Financial Aid Jungle.
Doubt and assumptions are your worst enemies when looking to apply for a loan or scholarship. Believe it or not, many people assume they’re not good enough in some type of way to qualify for the various types of aid. It’s never too soon or too late for investigating which loans and scholarships you can apply for.
The best tools to use are perseverance, tenacity and self-control. Just getting started with the search for the correct aid is an extremely large step to finding the best aid possible. Taking on a controlled money-saving plan to supplement whatever aid you receive is also a big battle, as cutting corners is something that isn’t taught in a college course but picked up along the way.
Lastly, every bit counts. If that means writing a five page essay for a $50 scholarship that you won’t have to owe later plus interest, why wouldn’t you do it?
Exhaust all avenues of securing aid
To figure out what kind of funding you can secure, you need to know all the different ways to get some moolah. See rachelcruze.com for further info. about what types of aid to look out for.
· College-Specific Aid – colleges are sneaky sometimes. Scholarships aren’t always published and to see what you could be missing out on requires some dedication and legwork. While a phone call is okay, the ideal would be to visit the financial aid office to check for any and all opportunities you could be eligible for.
· Federal Aid – this is where your FAFSA comes in. While federal aid does have the largest amount of aid available, it’s mostly based on financial need that is reflected by the household income. A.k.a. don’t rely on just your FAFSA to get you to the finish line.
· State Aid – this kind of help is usually financial need + achievements = money. This is where the hard work and studying pays off.
· Military Aid – if you or a family plan on serving or have served the country, military aid is a definite possibility.
· Personal – obviously, this comes from your wallet. Last resort only.
Use loans as a last option for funding your experience and remember that debt is NOT a requirement for a college education.
Focus on Federal loans first: Known as federally guaranteed Stafford loans, these are usually offered as part of financial aid awards and have lower-than-market interest rates. Unsubsidized loans begin accruing interest immediately, while subsidized loans don’t start until you graduate.
After that, consider a PLUS Loan: Federal Direct PLUS loans are open to parents of dependent undergrads and graduate students. They’re based on your credit rating and FAFSA. The government insures the loan and sets the interest rate and benefits. Parents have to apply for this loan and an application can be found at a financial aid office. You can defer the repayment until six months after no longer being enrolled.
Finally, consider private loans as a last resort of the last resort. (College financial aid offices occasionally give private loans. These don’t have to be accepted.)
Research other secure and stable strategies to help generate funds
Look into 529 College Savings Plans: These come in two different breeds, but can help a ton.
A 529 college savings plan simply helps save for college. These are usually managed by an investment company and are state-sponsored. You can enroll in a plan from any state – eligibility isn’t determined by residency.
A 529 prepaid tuition plan cover future tuition at today’s prices.
To enroll in a 529, there are additional requirements. See collegedata.com for tons of free and useful information to get started with your financial aid journey.
Article sponsored by Belle Chambre.
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