College Financial Aid Handbook. 62 nd Edition NEED A LIFT? The American Legion

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1 62 nd Edition College Financial Aid Handbook NEED A LIFT? 2013 The American Legion

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3 NEED A LIFT? Roadmap To Your After-High-School Education A guide to choosing a career, selecting a school, learning who offers scholarships, finding ways to pay, and more. 62nd Edition ~ 2013 Issue Published annually by THE AMERICAN LEGION

4 Copyright 2012, The American Legion All Rights Reserved. Charles W. Graybiel, Editor NEED A LIFT? Assistant Director for Education & Scholarship Programs The American Legion National Headquarters The American Legion wishes to thank McGlinn & Associates, Nokesville, Virginia, for its valuable assistance in the preparation of NEED A LIFT? ~ 62nd Edition

5 TABLE OF CONTENTS INTRODUCTION Who is The American Legion?...v In This Edition...v GETTING IN & PAYING FOR SCHOOL The Basics Get Organized Choose Your Career Select Your School Apply to Schools Sources of Student Financial Aid Qualify for Federal Student Aid Apply for Student Financial Aid Compare Award Letters Receive Funding Apply for Scholarships! Understand Student Loans Financial Literacy Frequently Asked Questions FAFSA Worksheet & Checklists FEDERAL EDUCATION SOURCES Grants Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program Student Loans Loan Forgiveness Tax Benefits for Education STATE EDUCATION SOURCES Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP) Program Vocational Rehabilitation Programs Plans State Residency Basics THE AMERICAN LEGION: STUDENT AID FOR EDUCATION National Sources State Sources MILITARY SOURCES: PROGRAMS & FUNDING FOR EDUCATION Military Service Branches Join the Military Federal Sources Troops to Teachers (TTT) State Sources All Services U.S. Air Force U.S. Army U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, or Marines PRIVATE SOURCES: FREE MONEY PROGRAMS Undergraduate Assistance Undergraduate & Graduate Assistance Graduate Assistance Cooperative Education FOUR-YEAR SCHOOL PROFILES Field Descriptions Profiles BOOKS Saving for College Planning for College Researching Careers Choosing a College Major Entrance Tests Selecting a School Applying to College Paying for College College Advice For Parents ACRONYMS, GLOSSARY, ETC. Acronyms Glossary Websites Phone Numbers iii

6 NEED A LIFT? is available on the Web. The American Legion also offers an easy-to-navigate, searchable version of this publication. Plus, you can download chapters or the entire book in PDF. Visit (Information is continually updated.) iv

7 INTRODUCTION This guide is created by The American Legion filled with scholarships, grants, fee waivers, student loans, military assistance, tax incentives, checklists, and a wealth of resources and information to help you further your education. Everyone can benefit from this publication featuring valuable assistance to veterans (and children and spouses of disabled and deceased veterans) to pursue higher education. NEED A LIFT? can help to ensure your future success by assisting you to: Choose a career direction. Select a school that fits your needs. Discover ways to save and pay for college. Learn how to get accepted into college. Understand the student financial aid process. Find federal, state, and military education assistance and funding programs. Plus, an entire chapter is dedicated to scholarships and programs offered by The American Legion. WHO IS THE AMERICAN LEGION? The American Legion is the nation s largest veterans service organization, committed to mentoring and sponsorship of youth programs in various communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting a strong national security, and continued devotion to their fellow servicemembers and veterans. The American Legion s success depends entirely on active membership, participation, and volunteerism. The organization belongs to the people it serves and the communities in which it thrives. IN THIS EDITION > CHAPTER 1: GETTING IN & PAYING FOR SCHOOL Helps you learn how to plan and pay for your after-high-school education. Topics covered include: choosing a school, applying for student financial aid, finding scholarships, and understanding student loans. > CHAPTER 2: FEDERAL EDUCATION SOURCES Lists student loans, grants, scholarships, work-study, loan forgiveness, tax benefits, and education IRAs offered by federal agencies. > CHAPTER 3: STATE EDUCATION SOURCES Lists higher education departments, veteran affairs agencies, residency requirements, and 529 plans provided at the state level. > CHAPTER 4: THE AMERICAN LEGION: STUDENT AID FOR EDUCATION Lists scholarships, grants, and student loans for veterans and their dependents offered by the Legion at the national and state levels. > CHAPTER 5: MILITARY SOURCES: PROGRAMS & FUNDING FOR EDUCATION Contains valuable information for anyone considering military service. Lists educational benefits for veterans and their dependents offered by various military organizations. > CHAPTER 6: PRIVATE ORGANIZATIONS: FREE MONEY Discusses scholarships and financial aid offered to students by various private organizations. > CHAPTER 7: FOUR-YEAR SCHOOL PROFILES Provides basic information on four-year colleges and universities located in the U.S. (data provided by the College Board). > CHAPTER 8: BOOKS Lists useful publications from saving and paying for college to preparing for campus life. Also, contains a section specifically for parents. > CHAPTER 9: ACRONYMS, GLOSSARY, ETC. Offers a glossary, acronyms, and important contact information. v

8 NEED A LIFT? NOTES vi

9 Chapter 1 GETTING IN & PAYING FOR SCHOOL This chapter discusses getting organized for your education, choosing a career, selecting a school, completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), applying for scholarships, deciphering financial aid award letters, and understanding student loans. FAFSA on the Web worksheet and helpful checklists are also included. How will you pay for your after-high-school education? Student financial aid is available to help pay the bill, but what does that really mean? Are you eligible? How much could you get? Review the basics about student financial aid: Expenses covered School expenses Tuition and fees Room and board Books and supplies Travel Types of aid Scholarships Grants Work-study Student loans THE BASICS WHAT IS STUDENT FINANCIAL AID? Oh, what a boring term! However, it could provide the money you need for your education. Definition: Student financial aid is money given or loaned to you to help pay for college. Financial aid can come from federal and state governments, colleges, and private and social organizations. Organizations that offer student financial aid College and universities Federal, state, and local governments The American Legion Military branches Employers Private organizations Religious groups Individuals As you begin your college planning, if you commit to being organized and staying focused on your goal, the process will be easier to manage and less stressful. These tips will help: Create one folder per each school on your list to file brochures, catalogs, correspondence, forms, and notes. Create a folder for scholarships you apply for and file scholarship requirements, correspondence, and applications. Organize your folders in a box, or cabinet (something that will keep file folders upright). TIP GET ORGANIZED Keep copies of correspondence, applications, letters of recommendation... basically everything you submit. Also, back up related computer files. Designate a calendar for noting important dates and deadlines relating to admissions, financial aid, scholarships, etc. Note everything clearly. File copies of documents used to complete forms (such as driver s license, recent bank statements, latest federal tax forms, W-2s, etc.). Keep copies of your student loan application(s), contact information, and correspondence relating to your lender. TIP Bottom line: If you think a document may be important file it. 1-1

10 NEED A LIFT? It s a good idea to purchase some supplies, too. Items that may be helpful: Colored markers, highlighters, self-stick notes in different colors, envelopes, return address labels, thank you notes, and stamps. These items will be useful when you start applying. CHOOSE YOUR CAREER One of the first steps in deciding what to do after high school is talk with your school s guidance counselor and ask for advice. Learn about aptitude tests and interest inventories to determine your strengths, weaknesses, and interests to discover potential career options right for you. Learn about yourself. Values: What is important to you? Interests: What appeals to you? Aptitude: What are you good at? Talk to people. Once you ve narrowed your career choices, talk to individuals working in those jobs or, if possible, find a part-time job or volunteer in that field. Many sources of career requirements and job outlook information are offered on the Net. Graduate degree: College professor, doctor, dentist, lawyer, veterinarian, architect, etc. COLLEGE INFORMATION REQUEST LETTER Date Director of Admissions USA University Collegetown, USA Dear Sir or Madam: I am entering my senior year at ABC High School in Mytown, State, and will graduate in May Please send me an application, current catalog, and any other descriptive materials which will be helpful in planning and paying for my education after high school. I would appreciate receiving information and applications for general scholarships and financial aid as well. I am also interested in special scholarships or grants available to students planning to study. Please let me know if a representative of USA University will be visiting my area in the near future, as I would be very interested in speaking with them about your institution. Sincerely, Charles A. College, Jr. Charles A. College, Jr. 322 Main Street Mytown, VA WEB ASSESSMENT TOOLS ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) Career Exploration Program CareerOneStop MBTI Personality Test Occupational Outlook Handbook SELECT YOUR SCHOOL It s important to carefully research schools that interest you. Understand their requirements, what majors are offered, and the cost to attend. Start a folder for schools you are considering. The more information you collect, the more likely you ll choose the school right for you. Consider how much training is needed for careers that interest you. High school diploma: Cashier, receptionist, retail salesperson, security guard, waiter, waitress, etc. Special career training: Auto service technician, cosmetologist, police officer, truck driver, etc. College degree: Accountant, engineer, forensic science technician, graphic designer, nurse, pilot, teacher, public relations specialist, etc. SEE Chapter 7: School Profiles offers important details on four-year schools in the U.S. During your research, make note of conversations, interviews, and individuals you meet who might be a resource in the future. File copies of correspondence with the school, applications, and financial aid information. Attend college fairs and talk to college representatives. 1-2

11 CHAPTER 1: GETTING IN & PAYING FOR SCHOOL Sources of school information: Visit school websites and view a wealth of information about the school. Consider taking a virtual campus tour and complete the college application online. College online catalogs contain detailed information about admissions, student life, degree requirements, academic programs, costs, deadlines, and student financial aid. WEB SCHOOL SEARCH TOOLS College Board COLLEGE Navigator Petersons College student newspapers contain news coverage, editorials, campus activities, college issues, and student concerns. College students or recent grads in your area can be a great resource. Often, the admissions office can help you get in touch with these individuals. Like the school on Facebook to follow happenings on campus. TYPES OF SCHOOLS Colleges offer four-year bachelor of arts (BA) or bachelor of science (BS) degrees. Some also offer a two-year associate of arts (AA) degree. Colleges can be specialized (for example, in nursing) or can offer a broad curriculum, like liberal arts which focus on the humanities and sciences. College class size tends to be smaller than those of universities. This may provide more personal attention and better access to the faculty. Universities can be quite large and usually include a liberal arts college, some professional colleges, and graduate programs. Meaning they may offer two- and four-year degrees as well as graduate degrees in advanced studies beyond four years. Universities offer a vast course selection and may have extensive resources. Class size varies, depending on the size of the university, the subject area, and the course level. University professors may be involved in research projects. Graduate students, rather than professors may teach some classes. HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR YEAR TIMELINE September Register to take the SAT, ACT, SAT subject tests. If you have difficulty paying the registration fee, contact your guidance counselor for a fee waiver. Schedule a time to meet with your high school guidance counselor. Counselors are a great resource to help with your college planning. Contact the admissions office of schools that interest you. Look for private scholarships sponsored by community organizations, school and civic scholarships, government grants, government-assisted loans, work-study programs. October & November Attend college fairs to meet school reps and ask questions. Return your admissions applications. Choose individuals to write your letters of recommendation. Be considerate and give them plenty of time. Begin completing applications and working on essays. Arrange campus visits. Narrow college list to only your top choices; then request financial aid information from these schools. Run free scholarship searches via the Web. December & January Contact school financial aid offices regarding their deadlines. Collect family tax information. Submit the FAFSA as soon after January 1 as possible. Continue to search for scholarships. February & March Stay on top of financial aid and college deadlines. Promptly respond to requests from college admissions and financial aid offices. April & May Finalize your college decision. Notify financial aid offices where you ve applied about your decision. Promptly respond to all requests from the college admissions or financial aid offices. June August Get a summer job and save money for school. Apply for student loans, if necessary. Verify that your high school transcripts have been sent. Complete final documents received from your college. Attend orientation. Make a list and start packing for college. Take care of final details (travel arrangements, checking accounts, cell phone calling plans, renter s insurance, etc). Your calendar may differ depending on the type of education pursued. 1-3

12 NEED A LIFT? QUESTIONS TO ASK ADMISSIONS Does the school offer the courses/majors I want? TIP Many schools have limited institutional aid. Funds are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Apply early! Do I meet the admissions requirements? Does the school offer quality education at a reasonable price? Are scholarships offered by the school? Is federal student aid available at the school? Does the school offer special services I might need? What measures are taken to ensure campus safety? Does the school offer extracurricular activities that interest me? Is housing available on- and off-campus? What is the student loan default rate? How many graduates go on to successful careers? What is the graduation rate? Colleges and universities can be classified as either public or private. Public: These schools are usually less expensive as they are tax-supported. As a general rule, students seldom pay more than 30% of the actual cost of their education with the state paying the balance. Also, public colleges have two fee structures: - Lower fees for tax-paying, state residents - Higher fees nonresidents Private: Often these colleges are more innovative in creating attractive college financing plans and tuition assistance programs. They are not tax-supported and provide their own funding, allowing flexibility to customize financial aid award packages. Community colleges offer two-year liberal arts programs or specific career training. After completing their studies, students receive a certificate or an associate degree. To save money, many students start their education at a community college then transfer to a four-year college or university to complete their education. Most community colleges have affordable price tags. Vocational, technical, professional, and trade schools offer study programs to prepare students for specific careers and may last weeks, months, or years, depending on the career requirements. At these schools, students can receive a license, a certificate, or an associate degree. CAMPUS VISITS School visits are the best way to learn about a school. While you re on campus, talk to as many students as you can, attend classes, arrange an overnight stay in a dorm, pick up the course catalog and college newspapers, and to take pictures. SEE Track Campus Visits checklist on page During your campus visit: Make notes to jog your memory at decision time. Take pictures and/or videos. Pay attention to how you feel, especially your first impression. Inquiry about campus security. Drive through surrounding neighborhoods and get a feel for the community. Bottom line: Is this where you want to live and attend school for the next two or four years? TIP If you have a wacky address that some might find questionable, change it or set up an account just for your school correspondence. You don t want to make a bad first impression. 1-4

13 CHAPTER 1: GETTING IN & PAYING FOR SCHOOL APPLY TO SCHOOLS The first step is to submit the school s official admissions application. Read the application instructions carefully and include just the information the school requests on or before their deadline. Most schools offer their applications on their website. SEE Track School Inquiries checklist on page The application may include a form for your high school guidance office to complete along with a request that you include a transcript of your courses, grades, and test scores. You may be required to take a standardized assessment test such as the SAT or ACT. If you ve already taken these tests, you ll only need to provide your scores. If you can t locate your test scores, contact your high school guidance counselor or access your scores via the Net. WEB ENTRANCE TESTS SAT ACT TOFEL Some schools may require letters of recommendation (from teachers, clergymen, members of the community, etc.), an essay, and/or a school interview. Keep copies of everything and make notes from the interview and conversations. Send documents by registered mail, with a return receipt requested. That way, you ll know your paperwork was received, when, and by whom. The school you select may require a deposit to reserve your spot. Once you made your decision on which school to attend, notify the other schools immediately. This could free up an opening for another anxious student. challenge facing most families today. Check with each school on your list to learn which financial aid forms are required and note important deadlines. Financial aid comes from a variety of sources. The most notable sources of funding are: Federal government State governments Colleges and universities Private sources Military resources FEDERAL GOVERNMENT The federal student aid programs are the largest source of student aid in America. If you are interested in financial aid for college or a career school, these programs provide over $150 billion a year in grants, loans, and work-study assistance. Federal student financial aid means: Grants (you do not pay back) Loans (you do pay back) Work-study (you earn and do not pay back) This aid can help pay for most types of education after high school. It s available if you attend a college, professional, vocational, or technical school. Programs include both need-based and non-need-based aid. Many of these federal programs are administered through colleges. Here are the largest, most popular federal student aid programs: Federal Pell Grants Federal Stafford Loans PLUS Loans (for parents and graduate students) FSEOG Federal Perkins Loans Federal Work-Study SEE Track Admissions Progress checklist on page SEE Chapter 2: Federal Sources offers additional information about federal programs. SOURCES OF STUDENT FINANCIAL AID The search for student financial aid to meet the rising cost of a college education is without a doubt a major STATE GOVERNMENTS States generally allocate portions of their budgets for public colleges and universities. This support lowers tuition for students attending these schools. Some states 1-5

14 NEED A LIFT? also offer financial assistance directly to students, which can be need-based or merit-based. Eligibility is usually restricted to state residents or students attending state institutions. Contact your guidance counselor for eligibility. SEE Chapter 5: Military Sources provides funding and programs offered to individuals interested in military service (active and retired military) and their families. SEE COLLEGES & UNIVERSITIES Colleges often offer their own scholarship, grant, and loan programs to supplement federal and state aid. Most of this institutional aid is in the form of scholarships or grants. Some is need-based and some merit-based. Higher cost private colleges are more likely to have additional financial aid available. Contact the college financial aid office to learn which programs are offered. PRIVATE SOURCES Organizations, such as corporations, professional associations, religious affiliations, labor unions, and credit unions may award financial aid. Learn about the availability of such scholarships by contacting someone at the organization or contacting its main headquarters. TIP Many companies offer loans or educational allowances to employees and their families (check with the Human Resource department). Financial organizations (such as banks, credit unions, and savings and loan associations) offer various loan products to pay for college. SEE Chapter 3: State Sources offers additional information about state programs. Some schools offer free or reduced tuition to children of employees or military personnel. Chapter 6: Private Sources offers details funding offered by private organizations. MILITARY SOURCES Military student aid, such as the Montgomery GI Bill, is a popular reason many enlist in the armed forces. There are numerous funding and program opportunities available for students entering the military, veterans who have completed their service, and children and spouses of veterans. WEB MILITARY RESOURCES The American Legion Montgomery GI Bill Department of Veterans Affairs QUALIFY FOR FEDERAL STUDENT AID STUDENT ELIGIBILITY Basically to qualify to receive federal SFA, you must: Demonstrate financial need (for most programs). Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen. Have a valid Social Security number, register (if you haven t already) with Selective Service if you re a male between the ages of 18 and 25. Maintain satisfactory academic progress in college, and show you re qualified to obtain a postsecondary education by - Having a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) certificate; - Passing an approved ability-to-benefit test (if you don t have a diploma or GED certificate, a school can administer a test to determine whether you can benefit from the education offered at that school); - Completing six credit hours or equivalent course work toward a degree or certificate; - Meeting other federally approved standards your state establishes; or - Completing a high school education in a homeschool setting approved under state law. When you apply for aid, the U.S. Department of Education may verify your information with these federal agencies: Social Security Administration (verifies Social Security numbers and U.S. citizenship status). 1-6

15 CHAPTER 1: GETTING IN & PAYING FOR SCHOOL Selective Service System (verifies Selective Service registration status, if applicable). Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Service (BCIS) formerly Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) (verifies eligible noncitizen status, if applicable). U.S. Department of Justice (verifies that an applicant has not been denied federal student aid by the courts as the result of a drug-related conviction). U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (verifies veteran status, if applicable). DEPENDENCY STATUS Most students entering college or a career school straight from high school are considered dependent. Dependent students will report their and their parents financial information on the FAFSA. This information will be used to determine eligibility for student financial aid. Independent students report only their financial information (and spouse s, if married). In special or unusual circumstances, a school s financial aid administrator (FAA) may determine that an otherwise dependent student should be considered independent. However, a parent s refusal to provide financial assistance or the required FAFSA information is not a valid reason for such a determination. COST OF ATTENDANCE (COA) COA, the total cost to attend a school, usually expressed as a yearly figure is the sum of: Cost of books and supplies Tuition and fees Cost of room and board (or living expenses for students who do not contract with the school for room and board) Allowance for travel Allowance for miscellaneous expenses Costs unrelated to completion of a student s course of study are excluded in calculating a student s COA. For students attending less-than-half-time, the COA does not include room and board. If you (or your family) have any unusual expenses or circumstances (e.g., parent job loss, high medical bills, etc.) that might affect your COA, talk to the FAA at the school you re planning to attend. Your FAA may adjust your COA, if they believe your special circumstance warrants it based on documentation you provide. The FAA is not required to make such an adjustment. TIP The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is your starting point for applying to most student financial assistance programs. Many states and schools also use the FAFSA as part of their application process to award student financial aid. TIP You must be accepted at a college or university before it can offer you financial aid. APPLY FOR STUDENT FINANCIAL AID Applying for federal student aid is FREE. Everyone should complete the FAFSA. What is the FAFSA? A comprehensive form. Be prepared to provide extensive information about your family s income and income tax return from the previous year, assets, family size, number of family members attending college, and more. Don t shy away from submitting your FAFSA it s not as overwhelming as it sounds. And could reward you with money to help pay for your college education! Once you have been accepted by a college, the FAA will review the information from your FAFSA to determine your eligibility for financial aid and send you a financial aid award letter. This letter will list the amounts and types of aid you are eligible to receive for one academic year. The aid listed in the award letter could include scholarships, grants, student loans, work-study, etc. FAFSA4CASTER By using FAFSA4caster, you and your family can receive an early estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid. When you re ready to apply for aid, much of the information you entered in the FAFSA4caster will populate your FAFSA on the Web application, making the experience of applying for federal student aid easier. 1-7

16 NEED A LIFT? REQUEST A PIN Visit pin.ed.gov to obtain your PIN. This is an electronic access code number that serves as your personal identifier. Your PIN allows you to: Apply online using FAFSA on the Web. Sign your application electronically and complete the student aid process entirely online. If you re a dependent student and one of your parents has a PIN, they can sign the application electronically online. Make online corrections to your FAFSA. Access your Student Aid Report (SAR) and make online corrections. Sign a master promissory note for a federal student loan. TIP COMPLETE THE FAFSA To determine your eligibility for federal student financial assistance, you must complete the FAFSA. Although you may be required to complete an additional application to be considered for financial aid from your state or the school you re interested in attending (for example, the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE), most states and schools use FAFSA information to award nonfederal student aid. Applying online is faster and easier than the paper FAFSA. You can download a FAFSA on the Web worksheet at fafsa.ed.gov, call FED-AID ( ), or turn to page The FAFSA on the Web worksheet is available in Spanish. SEE You and your parent must each request a PIN. You may not share a PIN. The U.S. Department of Education s official FAFSA on the Web Worksheet can be found starting on page APPLY ONLINE The benefits of applying via FAFSA on the Web: FAFSA on the Web identifies potential errors immediately and prompts you to make on-the-spot corrections. Online instructions are offered for each question, and you can access free live online help with a customer service representative, if you have additional questions. Once you submit your application, your information goes immediately into the U.S. Department of Education s Central Processing System (CPS). You ll receive a confirmation notice after clicking Submit My FAFSA Now. The CPS will process your application quickly, usually in three to five days, if you (and your parents, if applicable) provided electronic signatures using the PIN. PAPER FAFSA You could submit a paper version of the FAFSA, if you choose not to go online. You can request a paper FAFSA (in English or Spanish) by calling FED-AID ( ). AFTER SUBMITTING THE FAFSA Whether you applied online or by paper, the Department of Education will automatically send your data electronically to the schools you listed on your FAFSA for free. You ll receive the results of your FAFSA via a Student Aid Report (SAR). If you filed: Using FAFSA on the Web: You will receive your results by within a few days after your FAFSA has been submitted, if you provided an address when you applied. This will contain a secure link so you can access your SAR online. A paper FAFSA: You will receive a paper SAR by mail in a few weeks. Review your SAR carefully to make sure your information is correct and complete. If it is, and if it contains your official EFC, the school(s) you ve selected to receive your SAR will use this information to determine your eligibility for federal and possibly nonfederal student financial aid. TIP EXPECTED FAMILY CONTRIBUTION (EFC) Your EFC: Your cost of attendance at each college may vary, but your EFC will not change. Reflects the amount your family will be expected to contribute toward the annual cost of any school you plan to attend. 1-8

17 CHAPTER 1: GETTING IN & PAYING FOR SCHOOL Helps determine your family s eligibility for any federal financial aid. Your EFC is determined by several factors such as the size of your family, how many family members are in college, and your family s income and savings. WEB EFC CALCULATORS College Board https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college/ paying-your-share/expected-family-contribution-c alculator Citizens Bank spx FinAid FAFSA4caster SELECTED FOR VERIFICATION? No worries. Save your records and materials used in completing the FAFSA as you may need to prove the information you reported is correct. This process is known as verification. The U.S. Department of Education uses verification to ensure the information families report is accurate. This ensures that eligible students receive all the aid they qualify for and prevents ineligible students from receiving aid by reporting false information. Schools are only require to verify the data selected by CPS. However, some schools prefer to verify all FAFSA applications they receive. FINANCIAL AID ADMINISTRATOR (FAA) The FAA makes the final decision regarding how much a family must contribute to school costs, how much aid the school has to offer, and what type of aid the family will receive. Your FAA may adjust your COA or the information used to calculate your EFC to take into account special circumstances that might affect the amount your family is expected to pay toward your education. These circumstances could include a family s unusually high medical or dental expenses, loss of a job, or tuition expenses for children attending a private elementary or secondary school. If conditions such as these apply to you, contact your FAA. Very good reasons must exist for the FAA to make an adjustment, and you must provide adequate proof to support those adjustments. COMPARE AWARD LETTERS Along with the acceptance letter, schools will send a financial aid award letter or award package. The term package is used to show the school s determination of the amount and type of aid you could receive. SEE Compare Financial Aid Award Letters checklist on page The package can contain one or more of the following types of aid: Grants from the school, federal, or state government that do not have to be repaid. Scholarships that do not have to be repaid. Student loans that must be paid back with interest. Part-time employment that pays students a wage for performing a job on- or off-campus. AWARD PACKAGE COMPARISON This chart compares two aid packages showing how different aid packages can make even a high-cost school affordable. College A College B School Costs $ 9,000 $ 19,000 Expected Family Contribution 1,400 1,400 (EFC) NEED $ 7,600 $ 17,600 Federal Pell Grant State Grant 850 1,675 Recommended Stafford Loan 2,625 2,625 Institutional Grant 1,800 6,800 Federal Work-Study 1,335 1,000 UNMET NEED $ 0 $ 4,510 In some cases, you can negotiate your financial aid package. FAAs are there to help, be honest when explaining your situation and have valid reasons why you need a better package. Once you finish negotiating your award package, remember to sign your award letter and return to the school. 1-9

18 NEED A LIFT? WEB AWARD LETTER COMPARISON TOOL FinAid RECEIVE FUNDING Student aid will be paid to you by the school by the semester, quarter, or other payment period. Typically, the school will first use the aid to pay any tuition and fee charges (and room and board, if provided by the school). The remainder will be paid to you for your other living expenses. Aid funds may not be credited for books, supplies, or other school charges unless you have authorized this in writing. NEED-BASED VS. NON-NEED-BASED AID Need is the difference between the student s cost to attend a school and how much their family is expected to pay. TIPS FOR GETTING SCHOLARSHIP RESULTS 1. Review the scholarship requirements carefully and select only the scholarships you could qualify for. 2. Use one calendar to track your scholarship application requests and deadlines. 3. Send letters or s to request application information to sponsoring agencies. 4. If needed, include a self-addressed, stamped envelope to expedite your request don t send a postcard. 5. If you do not hear from the sponsor regarding your request, send another request. Be polite; you aren t the only one requesting an application. Being rude will get you notice, but not in a good way. 6. Create a file for each scholarship you apply for. Keep copies of all correspondence and applications. 7. Pay close attention to application deadlines. Try to apply early. Late applications are usually ignored. APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIPS! SEE Track Scholarship Requests checklist on page Scholarships are the one of the best ways to pay for college as they don t need to be repaid (known as free money ). There are thousands and thousands of them, offered by the government, schools, employers, individuals, private companies, nonprofits, religious groups, professional and social organizations. Some scholarships are merit based. You earn them by meeting or exceeding certain standards set by the scholarship provider. They may be awarded based on academic achievement, or a combination of academics and a special talent, trait, or interest. Other scholarships are based on financial need. 8. Comply with all application requirements, including essays, transcripts, references, photos, etc. Give them what they want, don t over do it. 9. Neatness, correct spelling, writing skills, and proper grammar often influence decisions. Proofread, proofread, proof some more before sending! 10. Be honest about your grades, experience, memberships, qualifications, and family s finances. 11. Send a thank you note even if you don t win the scholarship remember there s always next year. SEE Need A Lift? lists hundreds of scholarships, fee waivers, grants, student loans, and educational opportunities. Begin your search early (start in late summer/early fall, one year before you need the money). The effort spent on this research will be well worth it. TIP Remember to apply for scholarships every year you plan to continue your education. WEB SCHOLARSHIP SEARCHES College Answer FastWeb Scholarship Experts SuperCollege 1-10

19 CHAPTER 1: GETTING IN & PAYING FOR SCHOOL If student loans are listed on the award letter you accepted, it s your responsibility to apply for them. Also, if your family doesn t have enough money to cover your EFC, a student loan could cover that expense as well. FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS If you don t receive enough scholarships or grants to cover your costs, don t give up. The federal government and nearly every college or vocational school has student loan funds available. Many private organizations also offer loans. Most loans provide for repayment following your graduation. Direct Loans are low-interest loans for students and parents to help pay for the cost of a student s education after high school. The lender is the U.S. Department of Education rather than a bank or other financial institution. SEE UNDERSTAND STUDENT LOANS Chapter 2: Federal Sources offers additional information about federal student loan programs. PRIVATE LOANS Private loans are designed to supplement federal loan programs and are available from schools, banks, and education loan organizations. Other loan sources include home equity loans, lines of credit, and retirement plans. Also, under current tax laws, interest paid on some home equity loans may be deductible. Be conservative. If you must borrow, accept only what is necessary to cover your college costs (tuition and fees, housing, meals, books, personal expenses, and transportation). When it s time to repay, you ll have other financial obligations such as living expenses, rent, and/or car payments. TIP Students! Borrow only what you absolutely need to cover your education costs because you ll be required to pay the loan back with interest. CHOOSE A PRIVATE LENDER Choose your lender carefully; the lender you choose today may be with you for years to come. Managing your loans is easier if you have one lender: One bill with all your loan payments compiled. One place to send your payments. One lender to update. One source for customer assistance. In addition to consulting your school s preferred lender list, what else should you consider when selecting a lender? Compare, compare, compare! Compare interest rates and terms. Compare borrower benefits, include those for paying on time and making loan payments electronically. Compare repayment options. Compare the loan application processes. Compare levels of customer service. Ability to access and update your account online. WEB STUDENT LOAN PRIVATE LENDERS Citi Citizens Bank Discover Student Loan PNC Bank Sallie Mae Wells Fargo TIP Parents! You could borrow from your retirement plan to pay for your child s education; however, you can t borrow for your retirement. FINANCIAL LITERACY Financial literacy (education on the management of personal finances) is an essential part of planning and paying for your after-high-school education. Decisions you make about handling your money before and during college can have a huge impact on your future. Before making major financial decisions, educate yourself about options and be consistent in making informed financial decisions. Learning good 1-11

20 NEED A LIFT? personal finance skills now can help you reach your education goals. FINANCIAL PLANNING When you want something in life, it s best to have a plan for how you will obtain it. Everyone wants a life of financial security the ability to save and invest so that your money is working for you in a way that enables you to fulfill your life s goals. To achieve financial security, you need to create a financial plan. A financial plan is simply a roadmap for how you will manage your money on an ongoing basis. Basically, a financial plan involves defining your money goals, identifying the steps it will take to reach those goals then following through with those steps. PRACTICE GOOD CREDIT HABITS Even if you don t need loans to pay for college, sooner or later you will need to borrow money. Your borrowing and repayment history is tracked by the financial industry to create your credit score, which helps lenders gauge whether you are a good credit risk. of. If you feel you need a credit card or you want to start building your credit history, apply for one credit card with the lowest interest rate available then charge only what you can afford to repay. Also, pay the balance in full to avoid interest charges. BASIC FINANCIAL TIPS FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS Organize your files. Creating a paper and/or electronic filing system will make paying your bills on time and meeting deadlines easier. Record keeping also helps avoid potential disputes- disagreements regarding whether the terms you agreed to with banks, stores, or friends have been upheld including timing of payment and amounts. You ll also want to keep records for tax purposes. Make a budget and stick to it. A budget is just a self-imposed guideline for how much money you can spend and what you can spend it on. You will be amazed how much farther your money goes when you have a budget. TIP The better your credit score, the easier for you to borrow money offering better loan terms. TIP Life is unpredictable, so remember to set aside money for unexpected expenses in your budget. A good credit score can save you thousands of dollars over your lifetime. Here are some ways to build and maintain a good credit score (typically a score of 700 or higher) and avoid financial headaches: Always pay your bills and loan installments on time. To avoid late fees, note the due dates for bills, and installments when you receive them. Don t bounce checks. Bouncing a check means writing a check for more money than you have in your account. Aside from damaging your credit score, banks usually charge a fee for every bounced check. The fees are automatically charged to your account, which can cause subsequent checks to bounce, leading to more fees, more bounced checks, etc. Avoid credit cards. In college, you ll get tons of credit card offers. Don t sign up for a credit card just to get something free. As attractive as easy credit might seem, credit card interest can put you in a very deep financial hole that could take years to dig out Buy used books. Many students and their parents are shocked to learn how much textbooks cost. They can average $1,000 a year. Most campus bookstores sell used books that can help reduce this cost. You might also save money by buying or renting textbooks online. Use student discounts to your advantage. It s common for movie theaters, concert halls, restaurants, insurance, and travel companies to offer discounts with a student I.D. Just ask! Watch ATM fees. They can add up quickly. Look for a bank with free ATMs near your school. Choose the right meal plan. An unlimited plan may be tempting, but you might be satisfied with a less expensive plan. Also, if you ve paid for a meal plan, be sure to use it! You re just paying twice, if you eat out somewhere else. Save on snacks. If you can, avoid buying snacks at vending 1-12

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