Money Matters

Where to find the funds to foot the college bill

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So you’re narrowing your list of prospective colleges, studying to pump up your ACT scores and taking the campus tours. But then there’s that one little glitch that seems to always crop up: money. You keep hearing that there are all kinds of scholarships and grants out there to help foot the bill for college. But how do you find them?

We’ll be honest with you here: You do have invest a little time and effort to locate what’s out there. But chill out! It’s not that hard.

The Internet puts scholarship research right at your fingertips. And you don’t always have to compete against students from all over the country. Many scholarships are state-, local- or even high school-specific. Your counselor will have plenty of material on hand to get you started.

You can also check out Affording Higher Education, published by the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, which lists more than 3,500 financial aid sources available to Kentucky students. There are scholarships for musicians, athletes, farmers, left-handed people, animal lovers – the list goes on and on.

Although many scholarship rewards may seem rather small, the number of scholarships you can apply for is unlimited! By the time you piece them all together, you’ll be surprised at how much of your education is covered – maybe even all of it!
 

Check It Out…

For more information about financial aid consultants, scholarships, and the college application process, check out the following Web sites:

Princetonreview.com
Scholarshipexperts.com
FastWeb.com
FinancialAidSuperSite.com
NextStudent.com
Collegeboard.com
Finaid.org
fafsa.com
 

Know Your Vocabulary!

• Grants are usually given based on need and – this is important – do not require repayment.
• Scholarships are typically awarded based on academic achievement, skill, ability, or community service. Like grants, scholarship money does not need to be repaid.
• A student loan is money borrowed from a bank, the government, or educational institution that must be repaid. However, low-interest loans are available and you don’t have to begin repaying the loan until after you graduate or leave school. 
• Work-study programs enable students to earn money to offset the cost of their education.
 

Your How-To Guide for Landing a Great Scholarship

• Treat looking for scholarships as if it were your job. Put in the time and you will get paid.
• Do as many scholarship searches as you can. Finding them is half the battle. 
• Being involved in school, church and community activities is the best way to make an application stand out.
• Study hard and get good grades. SAT/ACT scores   do count. 
• Treat every scholarship application like a jewel. Make the application perfect.
• Do some volunteer work.
• Check all of the local chapters of national organizations. Rotary, Lions, Elks, etc. Ask them if they offer any scholarships to local students; a lot do.
• Select the right people to write your recommendations.
• Don’t shy away from scholarships based on difficult essays. If everyone is afraid of them, less people apply.
• Above all, BE HONEST. Don’t lie about finances, grades, work experience, or anything!
 

Still confused?

Here are some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:
 
Who provides financial aid?
Financial aid is available through schools, state and federal governments, and private organizations. The Commonwealth of Kentucky has several financial aid programs, including the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship, the College Access Program Grant, the Kentucky Tuition Grant and the KHEAA Teacher Scholarship.
 
How do you qualify for financial aid?
Financial aid is awarded based on need or for academic achievement, athletic ability, or other skills and talents. Aid packages are typically handled by the school’s financial aid office according to program guidelines and regulations. Aid packages are often a combination of grants, scholarships, loans and/or a work-study program.
 
How can I apply for financial aid?
In order to be considered for financial aid, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is available from either your high school guidance counselor or through the financial aid offices of colleges, universities, and technical schools.  Also, check with the school in which you’re interested to see if additional application forms for financial aid are required.
 
When do I need to apply in order to get financial aid?
High school seniors need to send in their FAFSA after January 1, as soon as your family has received its tax preparation information. Students who file by March 15 have the best chance of receiving financial aid. However, application deadlines will vary from school to school. Your best bet is to check with the school’s financial aid office.
 
 

Financial Consultants: Are They Worth It?

What with college applications, entrance exams, financial aid and scholarship forms and application essays, many students and their families feel completely overwhelmed by the entire college process, especially when they begin trying to figure out how they are going to cover the expenses of higher education. In an effort to sort through the maze of paperwork, some college-bound students and their families begin looking to financial aid consultant aids to try to make some sense of it all.

Financial aid consultations come in many different forms and many different price ranges. There are online services that offer advice, send information about scholarships for which you may qualify, and give you tips to help you prepare your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

Local consulting groups, a more costly but personalized alternative to Web-based services, can set you up with an advisor who will give you strategies on how to lower your family’s EFC (Expected Family Contribution) and help you find scholarships you are eligible for. Some in-depth counselors will actually coach you through the college application process and essay writing for scholarships and financial aid paperwork for your school.

Prices range from about $25 for a simple online notification service to several thousand dollars for extensive college preparations with a personal advisor. Consultants not only help a student find private scholarships but can also make sure that the FAFSA and institutional financial aid forms are filled out properly, avoiding mistakes that might cost the family thousands of dollars in government and institutional-awarded aid. According to FinancialAidSuperSite.com, one of every seven FAFSA forms are processed incorrectly. Consultants can also save you the time and the stress of meeting deadlines and can advise you on whether or not the financial aid offers you receive are fair or if you should appeal them.

But are financial aid consultants helpful enough to students to be worth it? According to finaid.org, “If you decide to use a financial aid consultant, you should do so with the knowledge that you can complete the financial aid applications on your own, at no cost.” And a financial consultant is not someone who is going to do all of the work for you. They help you fill out tedious paperwork and give you tips to ease the whole financial aid process, but there is still a great deal of involvement on your part.

Most of what they offer is basic guidance and reminders of approaching deadlines. They help you find scholarships, but you still have to write the essays. Many times, the information that they give about private scholarships can be found elsewhere for free! High school guidance counselors are often aware of these scholarships or, at least, can steer you towards free online databases that have information about thousands of available scholarships you might qualify for.

Still, many college-bound students and their parents are left feeling overwhelmed at the prospects of doing all of the paperwork – without making costly mistakes – in addition to finding available scholarships and meeting all of those deadlines on their own. Some find that a financial aid consulting service is beneficial to them – if not monetarily, at least for the peace of mind.

Financial Aid Resources

By Phone
Federal Student Aid Information Center: 1-800-433-3243
Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA):1-800-928-8926
 
On the Web
Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corp.: www.studentloanpeople.com
Go Higher KY:www.gohigherky.org
Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority: www.kheaa.com
Online financial aid form:www.fafsa.ed.gov
FinAid! The Smart Student Guide: www.finaid.org
Calculating financial need and advice: www.collegeboard.com
US Department of Education: studentaid.ed.gov/students/publications/student_guide/index.html
 

The Competitive Advantage

There’s plenty of talk that surrounds high-profile high school athletes, but don’t automatically count yourself out of the running just because you’re not a superstar or you don’t participate in a major sport (such as football, baseball or basketball).

There are scholarships out there for a wide variety of sports. Kentucky might well be the basketball capital of the world, but Kentucky colleges offer athletic scholarships in rodeo, field hockey, lacrosse, cycling, wrestling (for both men and women), gymnastics and more. And don’t forget cheerleading. You can even get a scholarship for wearing a mascot’s uniform. But remember: You have to let the colleges know you’re there.

If you’re interested in pursuing an athletic scholarship, here are some tips to get you going:

Start by exploring different colleges and the types of scholarships they offer. (The Internet is an invaluable resource and nearly every school now has a Web site.)

Ask your coaches about which schools might be a good fit for you.

Collect news clippings and videos that highlight your achievements and abilities.

Get the name of the head coach at the colleges in which you are interested and send a letter directly to him/her. State your interest in their program and include information about yourself (such as honors, athletic statistics, press clippings, etc.).

If you are truly serious about a particular program, submit an application. Schools will be much more interested in you if they see you are genuinely interested in them.

After you apply, stay in touch with the coach to keep your name in the running.

Last – but not least – keep your grades up! You won’t get anywhere if you don’t remain eligible!
 
For more information on college athletics, check out the following websites:

National Collegiate Athletic Association: www2.ncaa.org 
National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics: www.naia.org  
National Junior College Athletic Association: www.njcaa.org 
 

Play for Cash

If you’ve been a part of your chorus, band or orchestra during high school, don’t forget that you can put those talents to work to earn money for your college education.

Many schools provide music scholarships to students with musical talents – even if they don’t plan to pursue a music degree.
For example, the University of Louisville Marching Band rewards each new member with a $900 scholarship toward tuition for the spring semester if they participate in band during the previous fall football season.

At the University of Kentucky, financial aid is available for participation in the University Bands regardless of academic major. Many of these awards are full tuition grants, which are renewable each year, and can be worth several thousand dollars.
Other schools in the state offer similar programs.

As a rule, most music programs that award scholarships require an audition. Criteria varies from school to school; some schools consider academics more heavily while others give more weight to talent and need.

But don’t let the audition process scare you away. Go ahead and toot your own – and earn some money along the way!
 

Sound Advice

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