Student Loans College Scholarships and Grants
Synopsis: A college scholarship should be top of your funding and loan list since this is money which you do not have to repay.1
Author: Donald Saunders
Published: 2009-09-13 Updated: 2016-06-13
The Internet has dramatically changed the way we live and this is certainly true in the case of student loans as both students and parents can now gain access to the information and advice they need and even apply for loans from the comfort of their own homes.
Today it is easy to quickly access an enormous amount of information including interest rates, qualifying criteria, loan limits and much more. But with this ease also comes one very common problem of using the Internet for research and that is the problem of having too much information to sift through. Having so much information available, especially given the variety of loan programs and their complexity, can make analyzing all of the information available that much more difficult. As a result, you might be more comfortable turning to the old-fashioned method of simply seeking personal advice.
For students who are still in high school then turning to the school counselor is a good way to start and school counselors are there to help you to sort through the bewildering array of choices and to point out some of the advantages and potential pitfalls these choices present you with. You do have to be careful though as the quality of the advice given will vary quite a lot from one school counselor to the next.
Another alternative is to turn to a professional loan counselor who will generally not only be up on the latest information, but will also usually go through regular courses each year to keep up-to-date and maintain his professional standing. But, the downside is that he usually charges for his services and, while an initial few minutes of advice on the phone or in person is typically free, any detailed advice will come at a price.
Nowadays it is also possible to seek advice from professional loan counselors online and this can be an excellent route to take, although you do have to be careful to ensure the quality of the advice you are getting. A face to face meeting gives you the opportunity to judge the individual you are talking to but this is clearly missing when you seek advice online and the counselor is able to hide behind his computer. This is not however necessarily such a big problem as the social networking and blogs which have grown so rapidly in the past few years have certainly gone a long way towards clearing out most of those people who were formerly able to get away with providing poor quality advice.
Nowadays it is possible to get reliable recommendations and one good plan is simply to watch a number of the bigger and more active forums. At first you will not know what is good and not quite so good advice but if you simply follow the forum postings for a while you will soon begin to spot the threads to follow for sound and high quality information and advice. Before too long you will find that you have a short list of professionals who you can then approach for the specific information and advice which you are looking for.
The secret is simply to start your search early and take the time that you need to put together a funding plan which best suits you. This probably means beginning your search about a year or so ahead of starting college which will mean that you are getting information which will be up-to-date when you are actually starting to apply for your loans and will also have time to get everything in place for that all important first day of college.
Using the Internet to Locate College Scholarships and Grants
The Internet has changed millions of lives as it brings the world of research right into our own homes and places millions of pages of valuable information and advice at our fingertips. So, when it comes to researching colleges it is not surprising that many prospective college students use the Internet to check out possible colleges so that they know as much as they can about a college before applying.
But research doesn't stop there and you can go on to research just what you need to do to ensure that your application has the best possible chance of success and can then go on to look for the funding you are going to need. And it is here in the world of scholarships and grants that the Internet really comes into its own.
The first thing you need to do is to check out the finance pages of the website for the college that you are applying to as there may well be a number of scholarships and grants available which are specifically aimed at students of that college. Here you should find not only details of what is available but also advice and guidance on how to go about applying and, even if the details here are a little scant, you will normally find details of just who you need to contact for further information. Remember too that you do not always need to wait until you are accepted to make an application and the worse that will probably happen is that your application will simply be held until you are accepted. If you wait however you may find that you are too late and that any money available has already been allocated to other students. So, get to the front of the queue and give yourself the best possible opportunity.
If the college website doesn't yield any joy then there are a number of other places you can look and two of the very best resource sites are FastWeb.com and CollegeAid.com. Both of these sites will give you a huge amount of information about both scholarships and grants. In most cases you will also find details of how to go about writing a grant letter and applying for a scholarship. It is important too that you read through these very carefully as each grant and scholarship will have its own set of application requirements and you do not want to have your application rejected without even being read simply because you failed to follow the application procedure.
Indeed, when it comes to putting together your application you will also find that the Internet provides a wealth of information on just what you should include and what you should leave out to give yourself the best possible chance of success. And do not limit yourself simply to websites dealing specifically with college scholarships and grants as many general websites aimed at providing advice in for teenagers or at giving career advice will also have a wealth of valuable information.
Finally, don't be afraid to approach the granter directly if you cannot find sufficient information and ask for more information about a specific grant or scholarship and just what they require by way of an application.
Are you Looking for a College Scholarship
If you are trying to put together a funding package for college then a college scholarship should be top of your list since this is money which you do not have to repay.
Scholarships come in all shapes and sizes and are not simply for academic high-flyers or students with exceptional sporting talents, but are available to just about everyone in any circumstances from children from specific geographic locations to the children of local widows. The big problem with scholarships is simply finding them.
Now it is true that the majority of scholarships are aimed at academic high-flyers with good grades but this is often simply the starting point for selection and, in order to beat others competing for these scholarships with similar grade point averages and SAT scores, you will often need to produce something else to set yourself apart such as an award or achievement or a record of community service.
At this point it is therefore often a good idea to talk to your school counselor who should be able to point you in the right direction. However, do not simply take his or her word for it and, armed with the basic information which they provide, hop onto your computer and search around yourself for the latest up-to-date information.
Two excellent places to start your search are www.CollegeAid.com and www.FastWeb.com both of which will provide you with long lists of scholarship programs, together with the amount of each award and brief details of each scheme including the application requirements. You will find that you can narrow your search quite quickly here and reduce your list to manageable proportions as, while some schemes will simply require you to be a US citizen or to have (or be about to obtain) a high school diploma, others will have much more specific and narrower requirements.
You will find some amazing categories of scholarships including those for male students who are residents of western Pennsylvania, students on active military duty in the pay grades of E-4 through E-6 who are studying in an information technology related specialty and the children of an eligible Alabama veterans who are attending college in Alabama. In short, there are scholarships available for a very wide variety of different applicants.
Some scholarships will simply require you to meet particular criteria while others will require you to compete for the scholarship, for example by writing an essay of anywhere between 250 and 5,000 words detailing your personal achievements and outlining why the granters should award you a scholarship.
One important point to note is that while all scholarships are free in the sense that they do not need to be repaid, some are taxable. The general rule is that a scholarship will not be taxable as long as you are a candidate for a degree at a recognized educational institution and all monies received are used to pay for tuition and other fees directly associated with your enrollment as a student, including payment for such things as books, supplies and other equipment required by your course.
So, whatever your circumstances, there is a good chance that you may be eligible for disability scholarship funding and the only way to find out is to do your research and ask around.
Obtaining College Funding with no Co-signer
As education costs continue to rise each year it is becoming increasingly difficult to source the funds necessary for college and a lot of students spend more time worrying about raising the money needed than they do concentrating on their studies. As if this was not bad enough far too many students discover that once they have left college they are saddled with so much loan debt that it quite simply drags them down and will probably take years to repay. Now, if this paints a grim picture then for far too many students the problem of financing their education is compounded by a requirement to raise the money needed without having a cosigner for their loans.
College funding nowadays is not simply a matter of looking to a single source of finance for the majority of students but is a matter of creating a portfolio of funds from a range of different sources.
The first action for all students must be to try to find scholarships and grants. Many students ignore this source of effectively free money altogether and yet you would be surprised at just how many scholarships and grants are on offer nowadays. In many cases of course the sums of money in question are relatively small but nonetheless can be very useful as one part of your total funding plan.
The next port of call should be federal loans through schemes such as Perkins and Stafford loans which are offered as both unsubsidized and subsidized loans. Perkins loans especially useful because of their low interest rate but are also the hardest loans to obtain and need students to show particular financial need.
Unhappily at this point despite the fact that you will have begun to create your portfolio it is unlikely that it will give you sufficient funds and you will need to start casting your net wider and will have two paths to follow.
If you can get the assistance and support of a guardian or parent then they may apply for a federal student PLUS loan to cover the shortfall between the money which you have been able to find yourself and the actual cost of attending college. Student PLUS loans are subject to your guardian or parent having a reasonable credit history but the requirements are generally not as stringent as those applied by private lenders.
If you do not have a guardian or parent to whom you can turn or decide to go it alone then you will need to obtain a loan from a private lender and exactly how easy this will be will depend very much on your personal credit history. In the majority of cases lenders will be quite happy to offer you a loan as long as you have a good credit history and will ask for a cosigner if you have no credit history on which they can base their lending decision or have a bad credit history. Nonetheless, with more and more people with a bad credit history these days there is also an increasing number of lenders who are prepared to offer loans without the requirement for a cosigner so it is simply a matter of shopping around.
A poor credit loan without a need for a cosigner will naturally cost you more than a normal good credit loan but if you take your time and shop around carefully you will obtain a loan at a reasonable rather than extortionate interest rate.
Paying For College Without Running Up Loan Debt
The vast majority of students take out a series of loans to see them through college and often end up with a huge debt which then takes them many years to pay off. So, is it possible to pay for a college education without having to burden yourself with loan debt
The simple answer is yes, but it does take a little bit of planning.
If you start thinking about college far enough in advance then you can begin putting money aside into a college fund and perhaps even enlist the help of parents and other relatives to make regular contributions to your fund. Now this is almost certainly not going to be enough to see you through college, but it can help a great deal.
The next excellent source of money for many students is scholarships and grants. Your own college can be a good place to start as many colleges will have grants and scholarships available just for their own students. Beyond this there are thousands of different sources of grant and scholarship funding available both locally and nationally and it is simply a matter of hopping online and searching for those which you are eligible to apply for.
Having got your pool of free money it is then time to start thinking about earning the money you need to meet your college fees and living expenses and, despite the fact that many people will tell you that you will not have time to fit in a job and that it will detract from your studies, evidence shows that the opposite is true. Most students who work a regular part-time job in college have to organize their time well to fit everything in and the result is that they usually end up carrying their work discipline across to their studies and frequently end up with better grades as a result. Another great benefit is that it also teaches you the true value of money and having to work for an hour to earn just a few dollars makes you far more careful about how you spend that money.
Think carefully however about just what sort of job you want and try to pick a job that you are interested in and that is going to pay well. There is nothing wrong of course with serving burgers in a local fast food restaurant, but if you have some skills then it is far better to put these to use if you can. Remember too that many companies in the area will probably be very happy to employ part-time students and the Internet also provides an excellent source of income, which also has the advantage of normally allowing you to work when it suits you.
Finally, do not forget that some colleges are a lot more expensive than others and will not necessarily provide you with a better education than a cheaper alternative. It might be thought that attending a particular college will provide you with better earning potential but this really is not true. In the vast majority of cases your future prospects have much more to do with how hard you work at college and beyond than they do with the name of the college you attend.
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