by Mandee Heller Adler, president of International College Counselors
You can’t afford not to go to college. But, taking on too much debt and ending up living in your parent’s house after college is not the only option. You could become a Westinghouse scholar, Olympic champion, or dictator of a small country. Then you’d get a free ride.
For the less driven or genetically gifted, there’s hope for you too: you need to maximize your financial aid and minimize your costs.
1. Government Loans
The US government loans money to every student who needs it. To receive FAFSA aid, you need to fill out and file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (www.fafsa.gov). This federal application for financial aid is also used to apply for aid from other sources, such as your state or school.
The only catch to the FAFSA is it’s one long application that requires detailed information. Don’t leave it until the last minute and it’ll all be OK.
Not just for our clients in Miami, college counselors at our firm recommend that ALL students who feel they need aid fill the FAFSA out regardless of their house-hold income.
Grants are better than loans because you don’t have to pay the money back. (Free money!) But they’re not available to everyone.
Pell Grants are federal grants awarded strictly on the student’s financial need. Other federal grant programs include the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (also based on financials), and grant programs for students with good grades in competitive high-school programs or specific fields of study, such as math, nursing or teaching. States and colleges also have their own pools of grant money.
3. General and School Scholarships
Scholarships are terrific because students do not have to pay them back and many are not based on financial need.
Thousands of scholarships are available. Sources of scholarships can be national organizations, local clubs, contests, and the schools themselves. The trick is finding the ones you’re in the best position to win. If you’re not a Native American there’s no point in going for the scholarship. You’d be better off making a clever prom outfit with duct tape or becoming a champion at duck calls (both skills are scholarship worthy).
School scholarships are typically given to top athletes, national-merit finalists, and other outstanding students. In order to apply for these scholarships, you need to contact each school individually.
For students with their hearts set on an elite, expensive school, your best bet may be to attend an affordable school like a public university or a community college first. Credits earned at these less-expensive schools can often be transferred to other universities – even the priciest. For your first two years, they’re mostly core classes you’ll be taking anyway. And in the end what you’re really after is that framed diploma office décor. So it’s the last two years that really count.
Many students take a part-time job in order to pay for college and the things they will need such as books, housing and bean-bag chairs. Colleges offer thousands of work-study jobs that can be on-campus or off-campus. They are designed to allow students to study while they work. Waiting tables and taking Advanced Astrophysics never complemented each other so well.
For the foreseeable future, college grads can also cancel some or all of their federal education debt by working in public-service jobs – lower-paying professional jobs that serve low-income communities – or by volunteering.
Other tips include buying used books, living off-campus or at home when you can, and accelerating your degree – knocking off a year or even a semester by taking more courses per semester or loading up on the APs while in high school.
Getting out of college with little or no debt is hard, but not impossible, and with initiative, you don’t have to rob a bank to do it.
If you need help, contact a private college counselor at International College Counselors to help you with college admissions and finances.
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International College Counselors
International College Counselors provides expert college counseling on undergraduate and graduate college admissions, financial aid, tuition, essays, and college applications. Mandee Heller Adler, lead college admissions consultant and Founder of International College Counselors tailors her wide range of college counseling and college coaching services to address the goals, needs, and dreams of each individual student, whether Florida college or Ivy League university. Our college advising company, based in Miami-Dade, Florida, works with domestic and international students. We also work with high schools. Our college counselors are in Miami, Boca, Broward and Palm Beach. Let us help you make the best decisions choosing, getting into, and paying for college.