College financing beyond FAFSA
It’s college application time. Seniors in high schools all over the U.S. are gathering paperwork, grades and writing essays. They’re doing loads of online research to find and/or confirm their top schools for their applications. You’re looking at how to pay for it all. Here’s a handy guide to help you find more about other types of financial aid that FAFSA doesn’t include.
If this is the first time going through the process, we feel you. You’re getting that feeling of trepidation, wondering where your kids will be six months from now. Will they get into their school of choice? Will they be able to foot the bill on their own? Or with some help from you? If not, do you think they will still be able to attend that school of their choice, with financial aid, grants and scholarships?
It’s hard to keep a calm facing all of it. Here are some things you need to know.
About the FAFSA
When your teen applies to the universities of his or her choice, they’ll have to fill out a Federal Assistance for Student Aid, or FAFSA form. It’s valid for United States citizens and permanent residents.
This form is really about you: your earnings, your savings, how much you pay in taxes and well, how much you can afford to help your kid. It will also examine any student-oriented savings plans that you have in place, and any trust funds in place to help your child through college.
They ask for a whole lot of information, and FAFSA will be the ones forwarding your kids (your) financial information to any school where your child applies. This way, universities, colleges and specialized schools can see whether the student can afford their education; and, if the application is approved, provide her/him with financial assistance if they qualify.
After that, you’ll be informed of what kind of aid you can expect for each college listed as one of your child’s choices.
Following is basic information about the different types of assistance available for higher education.
Grants are gifts to specific students for their education. They have specific requirements, which can vary widely: some are for students under financial hardship, others for specific familial situations, and some others even for intent or field of study. An example of these is the
When your child’s FAFSA is evaluated, he or she will qualify for a variety of federal grants, and you’ll receive information soon after filing it.
Your child will qualify for a certain amount of student aid in the form of loans. While we don’t advocate of teens mortgaging their lives away for their education, these federal loans have the lowest available rates around. It also helps that students need not start to pay them until after they’ve completed or stopped their studies. Plus, the federal government works with them after they finish studying and start working, to determine suitable payments that work for everyone.
Financial institutions, like the Credit Union, also offer student loans for U.S. citizens and residents intending to attend higher education institutions in the United States. The terms, fees and rates vary, and they can help cover some of the expenses.
Scholarships are also free gifts from many different kinds of organizations and governments. Some of them are merit-based (academic scholarships) while others help specific groups; for example, some scholarships are for seniors, or people going back to school later in life. Of course, the vast majority of scholarships are for young students.
FAFSA will not provide you any scholarship results, and you must find them on your own. In the days before internet, this was both a nightmare and a blessing; you had to either trust your child’s high school advisor to suggest likely scholarships. Or you had to go to a college library and look through a huge book that listed all scholarships available in the United States. In those days, not so many people applied for each scholarship, and they were easier to get. Nowadays the blessing is backwards: every single scholarship is available online, but that means that they are available to you and everyone else, too.
This means that you and your teen have to wise up and get going ASAP, as many of the application periods for scholarships are soon expiring.
The best grant and scholarship sites
Here are the best and most trusted sites on which to find scholarships based on a myriad of qualifying factors. Note that all of these offer complete privacy and are free to use by students:
CollegeNet: A company that organizes online systems for education both for colleges and students They provide access to a very intuitive scholarship engine, and a student forum where students can create topics, discuss them and vote. The voting part is the reason we recommend this site above others. That open forum allows users to select the person leading the most interesting conversation every single week; the student with the most votes each week earns a grant for their education! There’s also a quarterly award. So, if your student is a good debater, go for it.
CollegeBoard: We speak of THE College Board of the United States, founded in 1900 to help students. They run checks all year round for every single grant and scholarship available in the United States, and update the list monthly. And because this is in the institution behind the standard of education (the SATs, etcetera), they provide well-documented information on scholarships from trusted sponsors.
FastWeb: it has provided actual scholarships to over 50 million students in the 20 years since it started. Their system is updated daily with new scholarships, and it works on a matching system; that is, they match students to scholarships for which they would qualify. Not only that: when new scholarships are added to the system, they email every qualifying student so that they may apply.
Finally, for those reading this article from abroad and who are not United States citizens or residents: there are grant and scholarship programs for foreign students who want to come to the United States to study. Here’s a comprehensive list of the main ones.
We all want the best for our kids, so we hope that this information will be of use to you and your future college student. Best of luck to both of you!
Are you reading this, but your children aren’t in their college years yet? You may benefit from reading about college funding ideas to get you started on a plan for when they do get there. Here’s an article from our previous blog, directed to both grandparents and parents on that very subject.