Tagged: financial aid

Intro to Finding Scholarships

Lets face it, by the time senior year rolls around you’re too busy starting the transition to college, writing essays and attending Home Coming to spend much time looking for scholarships.

Once you turn 13 you can earn scholarships that will be held until you need them. By that standard, if you’re 15 you’ve lost 2 years in the free money hunt. No time like the present to get started.

The first thing on your agenda is to have a serious and frank discussion with your parents about what they can afford to pay for you to attend college. Remember that over the 4-6 years that you will be a student the costs will only go up, at least slightly. Keep in mind that your siblings will need college money, too. The conversation may be uncomfortable but it is a necessary step.

The very worst thing you can do is “just get in and we’ll figure it out”. That is completely backwards. Here are a few facts about college costs.

1. When a college lists average student debt on their website they refer to loans in the student’s name without including debt in a parent’s name.  The number is almost always just above $30,000.

2. Most Loans your parents take to finance your education must be paid beginning immediately and be paid every month like a mortgage or car loan.

3. Your financial aid package will have loans built into it that don’t cover the Expected Family Contribution for which many families must also borrow.

Now that I’ve convinced you to be serious about what you can afford, here’s a story about one student who made earning scholarships a priority and a job. The story comes from Susan Smith in the Philadelphia Inquirer on 6/15/13.

Christopher Gray of Birmingham Alabama, wanted to attend a college in the Northeast. To finance his education he spent 3 months in the library researching scholarships. Ultimately, he applied for more than 70 scholarships, of which he received 34, for a total of $1.3million, enough to pay for his Bachelors, Masters and Ph.D, living expenses and some to invest.

$1.3 million, yes your read that correctly. He is not the only student who has scored big by investing time and effort in searching for financial resources.

How to start your own search. Step One : Get Organized

You will need a filing system. Put it on your computer and consider a box you where you can put material mailed to you by colleges. You will need tabs for:

1. your resume, transcripts, test scores, and other official documents; tax records

2. informal records that you keep of community service, honors/awards, employment hours and responsibilities, leadership accomplishments.

3. scholarship information and a separate page or file for those applied for

4. articles you want to keep and leads

5. correspondence related to scholarships including from your school

6. college marketing material

The files can be used jointly by parents and students.

Christopher Gray created an app for android and iphones called scholly that sells for $.99. When you’ve set up your organization tools and downloaded the app, read the next post to see where to begin looking for free college money.

Read the next post for what to do next.

Current Financial Information for Students: Get Help, Loan Info, Stimulus Payments, More

Raise.me, a scholarship program that helps first year college students, has posted valuable information to help students find or keep money during the Covid crisis (https://www.raise.me/blog/students/financial-wellness-during-covid-19/). Raise.me is addressing concerns of current college attendees, and is not a prediction of what the money landscape will look like for today’s high school seniors or juniors.

For those who aren’t familiar with Raise.me, the basis of their scholarships is a student’s high school record. $$ are awarded for each A or B, activities, and leadership. The program offers a one-time scholarship that can be applied to first year college expenses.

There are 2 downsides to this bounty. It is only available based on high school experiences so there is no follow up for the rest of one’s college expenses. The money dispersed is considered income when the financial aid package for year two is calculated. The money has been spent on expenses for year 1 and now can reduce the amount of aid given to pay for year 2. If you have earned a large sum for year 1, get help calculating the difference it will make in year 2 and if you will have to borrow .

Every Little Bit Helps!

Rising Discount Rate Means Lower College Tuition

The cost of a college education can be daunting to say the least. Many college hopefuls are deferring applying or, once enrolled, find the costs overwhelming.

Each year the demographics of the applicant pool change and one current trend is favoring applicants. We are in a period in which the size of high school classes is decreasing so that the number of potential college students is also declining.

Colleges need to fill seats and beds in order to have enough income to keep the lights on and the professors paid. Competition for students who will enroll has increased substantially in the last couple of years. The discount rate is the difference between the published Cost of Attendance or tuition and what students are actually asked to pay. Many students are finding that the discount can be up to 50%.

To attract students, financial aid packages have been beefed up and other perks are being offered. Some colleges have frozen tuition. In addition to not raising tuition for this year, some guarantee keeping tuition the same until a student graduates.

In the past it has been difficult to get one of your colleges to increase the merit aid in your package but that may be changing. If you have a better offer from College B but want to attend College G, you can try by showing the award letter from B and asking if G can match.

Prepare to apply to multiple colleges, looking for those where you will be highly desirable. Choose those where your credentials are in the top 25% of the applicant pool or where they need your tuba, experience, your interest in an under-subscribed major or to fill a demographic slot.

Until the number of high school students begins to increase again, college applicants will have more leverage: take advantage of all of your options.

How To Get The Most Affordable College Loans

You’ve read about students who graduate with mountains of debt and struggle to pay off their loans.  Borrowing money may be the only way to pay for some of the cost of higher education but being smart can make the pay back less painful.

According to Nerdwallet, borrowers should choose federal loans first.  Students are eligible because they don’t require the borrower to have previously established credit.  Federally backed loans have income-based repayment plans and for those in public service jobs there may be loan forgiveness.

If the federal loans aren’t enough, go first to the bank or credit union where your family does business for a private loan.  At a local bank, rather than a large national chain, you will be able to sit down with a bank official and discuss your needs where large chains may require you to do your loan shopping by phone.

Before you approach the loan officer, think about some options that may be important to you when its time to payback the loans.  Being able to release a co-signer, usually a parent or grandparent, from the loan upon your graduation is a courtesy to the co-signer and a solid business decision on your part. You may be find private loans with options to begin repaying later, or  the ability to stop paying temporarily if you hit a rough patch.

Forbearance is the term for a temporary halt to loan repayment while interest continues to accrue (adding to the total debt. Typically, forbearance is granted for 3 months at a time for up to a year.  Choose a bank with a clear forbearance policy.

In the matter of interest, a fixed rate is a better choice because you will know what the payments will be for the duration of the loan.  Variable rate loans usually have a low rate at the beginning but the rate is morel likely to go up than to go down before you pay off the loan and can change on a fixed schedule or whenever the prime rate changes.

Compare interest rates.  The lower it is, the less  your total payout will be. Borrowing $10,000 at 6.5% will make the total you repay 13,600.  at 5.5% the total will be $13,000.  Three ways to get the  lowest interest rate are to have excellent credit or have a co-signer with excellent credit; choose the shortest term for the loan you think you will be able to manage; sign up for autopay that deducts the payment automatically from a checking or savings account.

Look for discounts.  One common discount is paying the interest during the term of the loan while you are still in college.  Making interest payments can drop your rate by a while per cent. Sallie Mae offers this discount.

In addition to the interest rate, look at all the fees.  Some banks charge disbursement fees (for writing the check to you), origination fees (for processing the application), various administrative fees.  Any or all of these fees can be added to the loan amount or deducted from the amount of the check they write.   Be certain to compare late payment fees and penalties when you shop for a loan.

Keep in mind that you are likely to borrow a similar amount for each year you attend college.  Your repayment schedule should be comfortable when loans for 4 or more years are being repaid at the same time.

Parents, financial aid letters arrive with an offer of admission but are often written in ways that make comparison difficult.  Lets talk about how colleges put together an aid package and how to compare the difficult to understand aid offers.  610-212-6679 or stephanie@accessguidance.com

Tips To Help With FAFSA

The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) can be intimidating but with preparation and patience you will be able to complete the form with little difficulty.

Its important to apply for financial aid as early as possible.  Families submit the FAFSA to a computer at the Department of Education which uses a formula to determine how much federal aid a student is eligible for.  Colleges use the report to determine a student’s aid package.   Colleges may not have enough aid for late applicants so the earlier you get the aid requirements to the college, the better chance you have of being awarded what you need.

If you file the FAFSA early you are likely to receive a projection of your aid package when your receive your acceptance.

Many colleges have  priority deadlines: be sure you know what they are.  The earlier you file the FAFSA the better.  It goes live in October so get ready!

First, you will need a FSA ID (Federal Student Aid) which you get on the FAFSA.gov website.  If you are a dependent student both you and a parent will need a separate ID and password.  The student’s name must exactly match the Social Security Administration’s records.  It can take 3 days to get the ID so plan accordingly.

While you wait, create a list of the colleges you plan to apply to.  You can have the SAR (Student Aid Report) sent to late additions to your list but its up to you to make certain that happens.

Now its time to gather the documents you will need.  First, you need a copy of your tax return for 2 years prior to the September you will matriculate.  For the 2018-19 school year that would be the 2016 tax return.

You also need the current balance of checking and saving accounts and other assets.  Your home and retirement accounts are excluded.

As you fill out the FAFSA form you may encounter terms that are unfamiliar or that need to be defined for your particular situation.  Explanations are available on the FAFSA or elsewhere on the website.

If you would like a copy of my Documents Needed For FAFSA and Documents Needed For CSS, send me an email at stephanie@accessguidance.com, fill in the contact form on my website, www.accessguidance.com, or call me, 610-212-6679.


Inside Scoop On Playing College Sports

A huge number of high school students are involved in competitive sports programs, at some, more than half of the student body.    Although there are many athletes who are outstanding, only a mere handful make it to college teams with scholarships.

If you are one of the hopefuls, look at this website for information on your specific sport: www.schorarshipstats.com.

Here’s what you can learn about football, for instance.   There are over 1 million high school football players.  Of those, 8.2% go on to play college ball at any level and only 1.3% are on NCAA Division 1 teams.  D1 schools carry 117 players.  The average athletic scholarship across all teams in all sports at a given institution is %19,000.  Football has lots of scholarships divided among the team: some get a full scholarship, others get a partial and many get nothing at all.

The odds of playing college football are 1 in 41 and the odds of going pro are 1 in 603.

Beach Volleyball is one of the fastest growing college sport.  Across all governing authorities, there are 72 colleges with teams, 47 are NCAA D1.  The D1 scholarships, across all teams, all sports is %17,000.   Athletic scholarships can be full, partial or none offered.

Because this is a growing sport and colleges may be recruiting, college admission may be easier and financial aid packages more generous.

The website list all the schools with programs in each sport, admission data and scholarship averages.

If you are an athlete or parent of an athlete, get the facts before you plan your approach to financing your son or daughter’s education.

For more information on sports, college admission and financial aid give Stephanie a call. 610-212-6679 or stephanie@accessguidance.com.




Raise.me Financial Incentives For Good Scholarship

Dear Students and Parents,

grade-156087_640I know that many of you have concerns about how to make a college education more affordable.
Through a new program called Raise.me, students can guarantee scholarships from 200+ colleges as early as 9th grade, making it easier to plan financially for school. Raise.me has proven to be a great tool to motivate students in high schools throughout the U.S., as the site immediately rewards students with scholarships for their hard work in and outside of high school. As an example:

Get an A in a course ($100 – $1,000)
Get a B in a course ($50 – $600)
Participate in a school club or sport ($25 – $250)
And much more!

Many colleges are  among the first in the country to take advantage of this opportunity, which was launched with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and U.S. colleges. Here are a couple of easy ways to support your students in using this unique tool:

1) Ensure that your student creates an account at www.raise.me.
2) Encourage your student to regularly add good grades, community service, extracurricular activities, and other achievements to his or her raise.me “Portfolio” to earn “Micro-Scholarships” from colleges.
3) Visit www.raise.me/parents for more information.

We hope using Raise.me will make your student’s path to college both more fun and affordable.
If you have questions,  contact me at stephanie@accessguidance.com, 610-212-6679, or send an email to support@raise.me.


Stephanie Welder

Access College and Career Consultants, LLC

Best Explanation of Financial Aid In Less Than 150 Pages

Why It Makes Good Sense to Save for College Now

Franklin College: $4000 for Out of State Students

Franklin College,  is a hidden gems among liberal arts colleges.  Franklin is part of the fabric of the town, Franklin, Indiana.  Many of the faculty and staff walk to work from the lovely residential neighborhood that surrounds the campus.

Franklin College
Franklin College

Students can choose among 55 majors, 41 minors and a masters degree in athletic training. There are  50 student run  organizations and 450 activities are hosted by the activities board annually.  Franklin reports that it is a DIII NCAA “powerhouse” in the Heartland Conference.  Check out www.franklincollege.edu.

The student body numbers 1,000 of whom about 20% have parents without a college background.  Everyone I met on this friendly and engaged campus works to ensure the success of all students.  The breakdown of men:women is 50:50 (most colleges are 60% women or more).

First generation college students and their families are invited to Franklin for an orientation weekend before formal orientation.  Families are helped to feel part of the college experience and are better able to support their student.  Including families is unique to Franklin.  Each first generation student also receives a mentor from among the first generation upper classmen.

Students who become involved with organizations in the first 6 weeks of freshman year are 10 times more likely to graduate. On weekends Franklin offers immersive experiences with faculty, 10-15 on-campus events plus theater and sports.  About 40% of the students join Greek organizations but not doing so isn’t a barrier to participating fully in activities.

Franklin College
Franklin College

Another key to student success is financial aid.  Students who live outside of Indiana begin with a $4000 grant and other generous aid is stacked on top.  For Pell-eligible students, Franklin College will cover tuition.

Teaching is individualized and experiential.  Lots of internships are offered with the top people in the field.

Lets talk!  To learn more about Franklin College or any other institution, call or text 610-212-6679; stephanie@accessguidance.com



You Thought I was Kidding About These Scholarships

Remember that I told you to find out about the many unusual scholarships that few students apply for?  Read this article that lists 7 or the hundreds available.


No Quirk Left behind: 7 Oddball Scholarships for Students

As a financial aid professional, you’re probably used to sharing information about Pell Grants, athletic or academic scholarships and other monetary help from the usual sources. But what about those students who aren’t particularly gifted academically or athletically, but who do have unusual talents, interests or abilities?

Maybe there’s an animal lover who wants to be a leader in promoting animal welfare, or a set of twins who want to attend college together for the price of one.

Whatever their talents or interests, somewhere out there is a scholarship for the ‘square peg’ students in your life.


If your students live in New England, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) cat-hang in thereoffers the Shaw-Worth Memorial Scholarship. It awards $2,500 tuition assistance to the college or university where the student will be attending. The HSUS considers having a humane attitude and desire to be of service more important than academic record or monetary need.


For those planning on majoring in pastry culinary arts or food sciences, the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA) offers a $1000 scholarship per academic year to member-employees for skill development, professional certifications and other work-related training.


Twins can get ‘two for the price of one’ funding if they both attend Lake Erie College, of Painesville, Ohio. The full-tuition Lake Erie Twins Scholarship pays for up to 18 hours each semester and is awarded on a 50-50 basis provided both twins are students at Lake Erie and are full-time students, as well as on cumulative GPAs and SAT or ACT scores.


The field of cinematography offers very well-paying jobs for those with the right training and an eye for camera work. Student filmmakers may be interested in applying for the KODAK Student Cinematography Scholarship Award, where they will be judged solely on their film-making skills. Nomination of potential candidates is done by the student’s school and includes cash prizes as well as KODAK Film Product grants for future cinematic projects.

Outside the Box

Outside the Boxes
Outside the Boxes

The Davidson Institute for Talent Development offers Davidson Fellows scholarships in the amounts of $10,000, $25,000 and $50,000 for extremely gifted students in the fields of Engineering, Science, Technology, Mathematics, Literature, Music or Philosophy plus an intriguing category: Outside the Box. Visit the links to learn more about application and requirements.


Top Shelf

Are any of your prospective students tall? If so, then Tall Clubs International offers up to $1,000 in annual scholarship money for students who meet height requirements (minimum height of 5’10” for women and 6”2” for men) as well as under age 21 when first beginning college in the fall.

Trivia Masters

A student who knows a little bit about everything may qualify for a scholarship from the Common Knowledge Scholarship Foundation. What’s noteworthy is that the awards, which can range from $250 to $2,500, aren’t limited to high schoolers and no high GPA is necessary.

Let your parents know that there’s more than one way to find the money for school expenses beyond what federal and state aid might bring. Keeping track of all the choices and ensuring students get the help needed isn’t easy, however. Find out about better ways to track and improve your financial aid department’s compliance rates while saving money (and your staff’s sanity) as you march to their own drummer.

Need help finding scholarships?  I have a bank of places to look!  stephanie@accessguidance.com; 610-212-6679.