Paying for College
01/31/2009 04:00PM ● Published by Super Admin
First Things First: The FAFSA
“One of the biggest myths about a college education is that students can’t afford one,” says Brett Tujague, Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Coordinator at Roseville’s Woodcreek High School. He advises all his college-bound students to apply for financial aid, regardless of their family income.
Financial aid is broken down into two main categories: grants/scholarships (money you don’t have to pay back), and loans (money you do have to pay back). The gateway to all financial aid is through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students will not receive any aid, not even student loans, without filling out the FAFSA. Both parents and students need to sign up for a PIN to electronically sign the FAFSA, which is quick and easy to do at pin.ed.gov. Families should only fill out the FAFSA at fafsa.ed.gov, where the application is free. Many scam sites charge a fee to fill out the application, so don’t be fooled. The FAFSA filing period is between January 1 and March 2 each year. Once a student’s FAFSA is processed, the family will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) that states the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) number on it. This number is the amount of money a family is expected to contribute to their student’s education. A family’s EFC does not change based on the school’s price tag. In some situations, a private college or university may end up being less expensive than a public one.
Jill Lasko, Career Guidance Specialist at Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado Hills recommends starting the scholarship process as early as possible. “Obtain letters of recommendation from individuals who know [the student] well,” she says. “Prepare a resume, an educational/career goal statement, and request official transcripts from the high school’s registrar.” Because scholarships that require an essay often get fewer applicants, students should consider taking the time to write these essays to increase their chances of garnering free money for their education. Make it a goal to apply to one scholarship per week. To find scholarships, visit your high school’s counseling office, or sign up for a free online search service. A good one? fastweb.com. Grants are awarded through federal and state programs.
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