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5 Things You Need To Know About Financial Aid

If you’re a senior who has already been accepted to the school of your choice, you are eagerly pouring over your financial aid award letter. There are a few things you need to know as you evaluate your financial aid package. 
 
 
First, let us say congratulations! You are practically a college student already! You can start rocking your school tee shirt and telling everyone where you will spend the next four years of your life. The excitement is totally okay. We just want to make sure when you leave for school in the fall, you can stay in school until you graduate!  That means there are a few things you need to know about financial aid.
 
Your Award Letter Is Not Final
It might seem like your financial aid award letter is the final say in financial aid, but it’s not. Consider it a starting off point for negotiations. Schools use your expected family contribution (EFC) to calculate the amount and types of aid you will receive. Depending on your need, this is a mix of scholarships, grants, loans and work study.  You do not have to accept everything in your award letter. You can say no to loans or reduce the amount you accept. You can also inquire about additional scholarships you qualify for and find out how to apply for them. Ask questions and find out what other options you have before saying yes to your aid package.
 
The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Oil
Now is not the time to be bashful! Developing a relationship with the staff in the financial aid office can really help. Remember when we said the award letter is the starting point for negotiations? This is where you negotiate. Make sure the financial aid office knows your story. If your award letter includes too many loans, share your apprehension for taking out loans to fund your education. They might be able to increase the amount of grant money you receive and decrease the amount of loan money you need. If something in your family life changes – a parent loses a job or someone gets sick and can’t work – the financial aid office should know. It will completely change your financial need. Most important is having the inside track on new scholarships and money available. If the staff already knows you they can give you a heads up on deadlines and other things you need to do to secure more financial aid.
 
Where Do They Get Those Numbers Anyway?
Most of America’s colleges and universities use the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) formula to calculate financial need. But many private colleges and universities require another form. The CSS/Financial Aid Profile allows you to qualify for nonfederal financial aid from almost 400 colleges and scholarships programs. It is a good idea to complete both the FAFSA and the CSS/Financial Aid Profile if you intend to apply to any private schools. While the FAFSA is free to complete, the CSS/Financial Aid Profile does have a cost. There are fee waivers for up to 8 schools for low-income students who qualify. Unfortunately, you have to complete the profile to see if you qualify. For more information visit the CSS/Financial Aid Profile website!
 
We’re All In This Together
Many students on financial aid often think they are the only only student who needs financial assistance to go to school. Trust us, you are not alone! According to The College Board, more than sixty percent of college students receive financial aid in the form of grants, scholarships, loans and work study.  There is no need for you to feel sheepish about receiving financial aid. If anything, you should be excited! That award letter full of grants and scholarships means you’re gaining an opportunity to pursue your dreams and enjoy a brighter future. 
 
Apply. Accept. Repeat.
It is a good idea to get cozy with the FAFSA process because you will need to complete it every single year you are in school and need financial aid. This is not a one-time thing! Many students are not aware that a FAFSA must be completed each year to continue to receive those scholarships, grants, loans and work study. You also have to make sure your grades stay up and you are taking the correct number of credit hours each semester. Both things can drastically affect your financial aid award letter. A quick visit to the financial aid office will help you figure out what things to remember as you work your way through college.
 
Now that you know our five important tips about financial aid, share it with your friends. Financial aid can be a confusing thing and you’re not the only one with questions. Remember, we’re all in this together! Hit us up on Twitter at @GetSchooled if you have any more questions about financial aid!  
 

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College Reality Check

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How To Read Your Award Letter

You got your acceptance letter and you're all excited to start your first year in college, but first you have to find a way to pay for it. Completing the FAFSA was the first step, but getting your awards letter from school is next.
 
 
Now that you have your letter, here are few things you need to know about what it says.
 
I’ve got an award letter from my school. Which financial aid is the best to accept?
When your school financial aid office sends you an award letter, they’ll ask you to indicate which financial aid you want. Look carefully at your options and make an informed decision. The rule is: free money first (scholarships and grants), then earned money (work-study), then borrowed money (federal student loans).
 
How do I tell the school what aid I’m accepting?
Read and follow the directions in the award letter. You might have to enter the amounts you’re accepting in an online form and then submit the form. If you receive a paper award letter, you might have to sign it and mail it back to the school.
 
How and when will I get my financial aid?
Every school is a little different, so ask your school’s financial aid staff what to expect. Meanwhile, read about receiving aid for some general information. 
 
Have more questions? Give your Finanacial Aid Office a call. In the meantime, you can visit www.studentaid.gov for more tips on reading your award letter.

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Cash For College Workshops

Get the scoop on financial aid in California!

Financial Aid. Just hearing the words can send high school seniors into a panic. California Student Aid Commission wants to change the way you think, and feel, about financial aid.

 

Taking a Cash For College workshop can help you apply for thousands in financial aid dollars! One hour of your time can mean a million more dollars over your lifetime. Find the Cash For College Workshop closest to you and sign up

 

February

  • 2/1/2014  
    San Gabriel High School San Gabriel High School 
    801 Ramona Street San Gabriel 91776 Los Angeles
    8:00 AM 12:00 PM
  • 2/1/2014  
    Theodore Roosevelt High School Theodore Roosevelt High School 
    456 S Mathews St, Los Angeles 90033 Los Angeles
    9:00 AM 2:00 PM
  • 2/1/2014  
    Santee Education Complex Santee Education Complex 
    1921 Maple Ave. Los Angeles 90011 Los Angeles
    9:00 AM 2:00 PM
  • 2/4/2014  
    Narbonne High School Narbonne High School 
    24300 S Western Ave Harbor City 90710 Los Angeles
    4:00 PM 7:00 PM
  • 2/5/2014  
    San Leandro High School San Leandro High School 
    2200 Bancroft Avenue San Leandro  94577 Alameda
    6:00 PM 8:00 PM
  • 2/5/2014 
    Fresno City College Hoover High School 
    5550 North 1st Street Fresno 93710 Fresno
    6:00 PM 7:30 PM 
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    Fresno City College Fresno High School 
    1839 N. Echo Ave Fresno 93704 Fresno
    6:00 PM 8:00 PM
  • 2/7/2014 
    Animo Inglewood Charter High School Animo Inglewood Charter High School 
    3425 W Manchester Blvd Inglewood 90305 Los Angeles
    3:30 PM 4:30 PM 

 

 

Financial-aid

FAFSA FAQs

Guide to the frequently asked questions about the FAFSA.

Filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid can be stressful and confusing for both you and your parents. We want to help make this process easier for you. Here are the top 5 FAQs from FAFSA.ed.gov to help smoothen the application process.
 
 
 
What is the FAFSA?
  • To apply for federal student aid, such as federal grants, loans, and work-study, you need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Completing and submitting the FAFSA is free and easier than ever, and it gives you access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college or career school.
  • In addition, many states and colleges use your FAFSA information to determine your eligibility for state and school aid, and some private financial aid providers may use your FAFSA information to determine whether you qualify for their aid.
 
Am I eligible to receive financial aid?
  • To be eligible to receive federal student aid, you must meet the following requirements but other requirements might apply:
    • Be a citizen or eligible noncitizen of the United States.
    • Have a valid Social Security Number. (Students from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau are exempt from this requirement.)
    • Have a high school diploma or a General Education Development (GED) certificate, or have completed homeschooling. If you don’t, you may still be eligible for federal student aid if you were enrolled in college or career school prior to July 1, 2012. Go to http://studentaid.ed.gov/eligibility/basic-criteria for additional information.
    • Be enrolled in an eligible program as a regular student seeking a degree or certificate.
    • Maintain satisfactory academic progress.
    • Not owe a refund on a federal student grant or be in default on a federal student loan.
    • Register (or already be registered) with Selective Service, if you are a male and not currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces. (Students from the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau are exempt from registering; see www.sss.govfor more information.)
    • Not have a conviction for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid (such as grants, loans, or work-study). If you have such a conviction, you must complete the Student Aid Eligibility Worksheet to determine if you are eligible for aid or partially eligible for aid.
 
What types of aid are available?
  • The U.S. Department of Education awards about $150 billion every year to help millions of students pay for college. This federal student aid is awarded in the form of grants, low-interest loans, and work-study funds.

 

How do I apply for aid?

  • To apply for federal student aid, you must complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  • By completing and submitting a FAFSA, you will automatically be considered for federal student aid. In addition, your state and college may use your FAFSA information to determine your eligibility for nonfederal aid.
  • Completing the FAFSA is an easy process, and it’s completely free. We recommend that you submit your FAFSA online using FAFSA on the Web, as your application will process within 3-5 days; alternatively, you can submit a paper FAFSA, which processes within 7-10 days.
  • For help with filling out the FAFSA, you can go tohttp://studentaid.ed.gov/resources#free-application-for.
 
Will I need to fill out the FAFSA each year?
  • Yes. Because eligibility for federal student aid does not carry over from one award year to the next, you need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for each award year in which you are or plan to be a student.
  • Your eligibility for financial aid can differ from year to year for various reasons, including your family’s financial situation and the number of your family members enrolled in college.

 

If you have more questions, visit FAFSA.ed.gov.

 

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What Does College Really Cost?

Don't let the sticker prices fool you!

Don’t let the sticker prices for colleges fool you. Your total cost can change based on a lot of different factors and not everyone pays the same! Here is a quick guide from CollegeBoard to figure out how much you’ll truly be paying for college.
 
 
 
Tuition and Fees
Tuition and fees are the price you pay for taking classes at your college. This amount can change based on your academic program, the number of credit hours you take and whether you're an in-state or out-of-state student. Some colleges charge "comprehensive fees" — the total for tuition, fees, and room and board combined.
 
Room and Board
Colleges usually offer a variety of dorm-room options and meal plans to students who live on campus. The charges vary depending on what plan you choose. If you decide to live at home or off-campus, you'll have your own rent and meal costs to consider in your college costs.
 
Books and Supplies
You'll need books and other course materials. The yearly books-and-supplies estimate for the average student at a four-year public college is about $1,200. You may be able to lower these costs by buying used textbooks or renting them.
 
Personal Expenses
These include laundry, cell phone bills, eating out and anything else you normally spend money on. Figure out what you spend and add that amount to your budget.
 
Transportation
Whether you commute to campus or take the occasional trip home, you'll have transportation costs. Of course, these will vary depending on how you travel and how often. You may be able to find student discounts on travel costs. Don't forget to factor in the cost of gas if you own a car.
 

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What Kind of Spender Are You?

Take our quiz to find out!

Making wise financial decisions requires having the right information about money. Up your Money IQ with help from Get Schooled and our friends at TheMint.Org. Take our quiz to see what kind of spender you are!