Thursday, January 17, 2013

4 Ways to Get Free Money for College

Written By Guest Author Vivian Kerr

Who wouldn't want someone else to pay for their education? While getting a full “free ride” from a big school is getting more to be a rarity these days, it’s possible to attend even the most expensive private university with a combination of scholarships/grants, loans, work-study, and savings. Follow these 4 tips to maximize your financial aid and minimize your debt!

Make friends in the Financial Aid office. When you get your financial aid package from your school, it’s not the “final” amount. It’s just the opening offer! Remember that your financial aid package is arranged by a computer and a very few people. Those numbers can definitely change, and the people in the office do want to help you attend their institution. Don’t hesitate to contact them and ask what you could do to qualify for more money. If it’s a question of a few thousand dollars, an adjustment is highly possible.

Do extensive online research. College Board’s Scholarship Search and Fast Web are great sites which offer searchable databases of scholarships. Create an online profile and watch as scholarships are matched to you based on your gender, race, religion and field of study. There’s a number of other excellent resources on this Scholarships and Financial Aid Learnist board as well.

Get the FAFSA done early. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid ( FAFSA) is a major requirement for most schools to apply for a Financial Aid Application. The FAFSA for the current school year is available after the first of each year online (  Parents often need to estimate income for the rest of the fiscal year in order to get the FAFSA done early, so make sure you plan ahead! Students may also need to fill out the CSS Profile. CSS stands for the College Scholarship Service Profile. Schools that have Early Decision usually require the CSS Profile since the FAFSA is not available until Jan 1st.

Stay positive! While the application process will be done in January, applying for financial aid scholarships is an on-going process that will take you well into the late spring (or even into the summer). Scholarships are competitive, so you may apply for dozens before landing one. Stay organized and keep motivated. Six months of hard work might mean you’re debt-free for years after undergrad!

Remember to keep your eyes open – in recent years there are more scholarship “scams” out there as well! If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Always confirm a scholarship from multiple sources. The guidance counselors at your high school are a great resource for this!

About the Author:
Vivian Kerr: Vivian Kerr has been teaching and tutoring in the Los Angeles area since 2005.  She graduated from the University of Southern California, studied abroad in London, and has worked for several test-prep companies including Grockit & Kaplan for whom she taught ACT, SAT, GRE, GMAT, and did admissions counseling.

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