While preparing for your first (or subsequent) year of college is often an exciting journey, the process of planning, researching, and figuring out how to pay for college can turn it into a stressful one.
In this post, I will take you through the most common questions and answers pertaining to the FAFSA and applying for financial aid, and include some bonus resources to help you get ahead and stay on track.
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Once you have filled out this form, your college or university will take your information and use it to determine your eligibility for receiving financial aid to help you pay for school.
The FAFSA form is available on or around October 1st of each year, and you fill it out for the first time as a senior in high school.
Here is a link that will show you information on the various FAFSA deadlines (there are deadlines by college, by state, and more!).
In order to maximize your chances of getting aid (some schools operate on a first-come, first-serve basis), I recommend that you complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after the application opens.
The process of submitting your FAFSA may seem daunting, but if you follow these steps, it doesn’t have to be!
Your FSA ID is a username and password that allows you to easily access your FAFSA form, the myStudentAid app, and more. Creating your FSA ID takes just a couple of minutes, and we highly recommend you create your ID before you sit down to fill out the FAFSA, as this will cut down on potential delays in the process.
*Important note* If you are a dependent student, one of your parents will also need to create his or her own FSA ID (the parent who creates the ID should be the one whose information is reported on the FAFSA form) in order to be able to sign your application once you have finished filling it out.
According to Studentaid.gov, the following documents or information may be helpful to have on hand as you fill out the FAFSA:
-Your SSN (Social Security number) AND your parents’ SSN if you are a dependent student.
-Your driver’s license number, if applicable.
-Your Alien Registration number if you are not a U.S. citizen
-Tax information or returns for both you AND your parents (parental tax information needed for dependent students only). This includes the IRS W-2 and 1040, and possibly other information depending on the state and country you live in.
-Money and banking information such as:
It is crucial to make sure that you have all of this information on hand and organized for when you go to fill out the FAFSA.
*Tip from me: Print out all necessary documents and information, label them, and store them in a folder that you can both easily access and keep somewhere safe so it won’t get lost or damaged. If you want to save some trees, consider organizing everything into a folder on Google Drive that you can easily share with your parents.
Students have four options when it comes to filling out the FAFSA:
I recommend either applying online at fafsa.gov or using the mobile app.
When you are filling out the FAFSA, you will see that you must list at least one school to receive your information. Each school you list on your form will use your information to determine how much and what types of aid you are eligible to receive.
When you fill out the form online or in the mobile app, you can list up to 10 schools, but be aware that if you fill out the form via PDF, you may only list up to 4.
Simply put, you should list any school that you are planning on applying to on your FAFSA form, regardless of whether or not you have been accepted.
Quick tips for filling out the FAFSA:
-Double and triple-check that your name and SSN match what is listed on your Social Security card
-Make sure you enable pop-ups from fafsa.ed.gov to ensure that the application functions properly
-Create a save key at the beginning of the application, which you can use if you want to complete the form in multiple sittings while still saving your information as you go. Make sure you write your save key down!
Make sure that you sign in with your FSA ID when you go to sign and submit your FAFSA, as this will ensure that the form is processed correctly and quickly.
Once you have submitted your form, you should automatically receive a confirmation email (check your spam/junk mail too!).
*Tip from me: If you have a sibling who also needs a FAFSA form filled out, check your confirmation page for the option to have the parent information transferred to the other student’s application.
Once you have submitted your FAFSA, you can log into your account at fafsa.gov (with your FSA ID username and password) to check on the status of your application.
Within a few weeks of submitting your application, you should receive your Student Aid Report (SAR), which is essentially a summary of all of the information you submitted in your FAFSA. It is your job to go through your SAR and make sure all of the information is 100% correct!
Once you have been accepted to a college or university that was listed on your FAFSA, that school will send you either an electronic or paper offer (aka award letter) which will tell you how much aid you are eligible to receive.
*Tip from me: Once you have received your award letter, it is important to go through it and understand exactly what types of aid are being offered (loans vs grants/scholarships), what aid you really need, and then decide what you are going to accept.
Since we’re still out here celebrating financial aid February and all of its ~greatness~, I figured now is as good of a time as any to discuss all the ways you can pay for your higher education.
When I was in high school, if you asked me the difference between a scholarship and a loan, I could most likely tell you that. However, any more detailed talk of the various forms of financial aid/paying for school definitely got me confused.
Now, I want you all to learn from my mistakes! I think it is super important (and I want to ensure) that YOU are fully knowledgeable and aware of all the options and resources that you have at your disposal.
If you’re reading this and you are currently enrolled in college or grad school, you may be thinking, how is this even relevant to me if I’m already there?!
My answer for you is, learning more about the different ways you can fund your education is crucial, no matter what stage in the process you’re at. Maybe you’re a freshman or a sophomore in college, and you’ll learn something that might cause you to rethink your financial strategy going forward.
So, without further ado, here is my quick guide on all the ways you can pay for higher education, in the format of an emoji hierarchy! As a disclaimer, all of these methods and strategies for pay for school are very common, so despite the fact that I may list one as being higher than another in terms of my "emoji hierarchy", it by no means means that you should only focus on one and avoid another!
All the Ways You Can Pay for Higher Education:
Scholarships, a term which is interchangeable with grants, are awards that you can receive on the basis of merit (academic performance), financial need, or other components. Money that you earn from scholarships can be a “gamechanger” because that money does not ever need to be repaid. So, once you’ve earned it, it’s yours to put towards your education.
Thousands of private organizations and businesses (think: Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Google on a large scale) offer scholarship opportunities for students to apply for. Applying for private scholarships can be a great way to earn some extra cash to help you pay for school. These scholarships can range from a few hundred dollars to full-ride opportunities, so definitely don’t underestimate the potential earnings here.
If you’re just starting out in the scholarships world and you have little or no idea where to start, I recommend heading over to my search engine! Additionally, I have created tons of blog posts to highlight scholarships in different categories, such as no essay scholarships, STEM scholarships, and scholarships for women. Head to my blog to check out more posts like these!
If you’re in high school, then in addition to being considered for federal grants through the FAFSA process, you will also find out once you hear back from the colleges you’ve applied to about whether or not you have qualified for any of their specific scholarships.
College-specific scholarships often take into account your standardized test scores, grade point average, and other components of your academic performance. These scholarships can range from a few thousand dollars each year to $20,000+ per year (some students might even qualify for a full-ride!).
If you’re still in the process of looking at schools or even applying for college and you are trying to be as cost-efficient as possible (who isn’t?!) I recommend you do some research on the approximate costs of each school that you are interested in attending.
Each school likely has what’s called a net price calculator on their website somewhere (probably in the financial aid section) that will allow you to calculate a more accurate overall cost after scholarships and grants are subtracted from the equation.
Most US colleges and universities participate in what is called federal work-study programs. These programs provide part-time jobs (on and off campus) to both undergrads and grads who have financial need. The cool thing about federal work-study programs is that they encourage students to pursue part-time employment in an area that is related to their area of study.
You are guaranteed to earn at least the federal minimum wage in any job you hold, however, you can definitely be paid more depending on your experience and level of financial need.
Income from any part-time jobs or internships you might secure near campus or over the summer break will most likely not be enough to fully cover your college costs (especially due to the fact that college costs are rising to crazy high amounts these days).
However, it can certainly be a great help in covering some of the additional expenses that you will probably encounter during your time in school, such as textbooks, supplies, technology, etc. As a bonus, work experience can be a great way to help prepare you for the "real world" and give you a better idea of what you're interested in pursuing for a career!
Throughout my four years of college, I was able to make some extra cash mostly through summer internships, but I also had a part-time job at an event center one semester that was helpful for offsetting some of the costs for my following semester abroad.
If you’re interested in working a part-time job during the school year, I highly recommend you head over to your school’s online job board (most universities have them) and check out some of the options that might be open and available near you.
If you’re looking for internship opportunities, I suggest creating an account on LinkedIn (if you don’t have one already) and looking at the internships (summer, winter, and spring) that many companies have for students.
A great option for families to take advantage of when it comes to saving money for college is the 529 plan. 529 plans are beneficial because they “provide tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals for qualified education expenses, such as tuition, room, board, fees, and books”.
Despite all of their benefits, surveys show that back in 2017, only roughly 17% of students under the age of 18 had 529 plans. If you’re prepping for college and haven’t already had the financing college conversation with your family members or other relevant people, I suggest you do so ASAP, and ask them if you have a 529!
Even if you don’t have a 529 plan, family savings and income are a common method of paying some of the costs of college or graduate school. If you have the means to pay off any of your higher ed costs through yours or your family’s income, it is a better alternative to taking out loans that have to be repaid with interest.
Due to the unfortunate fact that any money you borrow through loans needs to be paid back (with interest), I have placed loans at the way bottom of the emoji hierarchy here. Despite their place in the hierarchy, loans are, for the majority of students, an essential piece of the paying for college puzzle, especially because not everyone can earn thousands of dollars through grants and scholarships!
To start, the federal government offers a few different student loan options. If you file the FAFSA (which you ABSOLUTELY SHOULD!!), you will probably find that your financial aid package will include loans that you are qualified to receive.
There are a few different types of federal loans, and to be honest, no one can outline them all better than the Student Aid website itself. So, head over to this page if you want to learn more about the different types of federal loans that are available.
The amount that you are eligible to receive through federal loans varies depending on your level of financial need, if you are going for your undergraduate or graduate degree, dependency status, and other factors.
When you take out money through federal loans, you do not need to start paying back the money you borrowed until you graduate or drop down to below part-time enrollment.
The other common form of loan that you might take out to help you pay for your higher education is private loans.
You should only really revert to applying for private student loans if you have maxed out in terms of what you are able to receive through federal loans and you still have outstanding college costs that cannot be covered through any of the other aforementioned methods.
One thing to note about private loans is that they often have fewer benefits for students than federal loans, which usually have lower interest rates and the possibility for student loan forgiveness down the line. So, if you have to go down the path of taking out loans, which is totally normal, consider federal loans before private.
Although it is not considered an actual method of paying for school, another strategy that is becoming increasingly popular (especially amid this pandemic) is students enrolling in community college for a year or two and later on transferring to a four-year college or university.
The benefits of doing this can be huge. Oftentimes at a traditional four-year college or university, the majority of your first and even second years can consist of those “gen-ed” classes that all students have to take.
If you are looking to be cost-conscious, the general consensus is that it really doesn’t matter if you take those general classes at a community college and later on transfer to a four-year college or university to finish out your degree. So, if you’re in high school and you’re worried about paying for your higher education, consider looking into this as an option for reducing some of those costs.
This “quick guide” ended up being longer than I intended but at the end of the day, I hope you have found it helpful in terms of highlighting all the ways you can pay for your higher education! Happy Financial Aid February, y’all!
Other blog posts/resources you might be interested in!
Listen up! I, Ayden, will be the first person to tell you that private scholarships can be of great help when it comes to paying for your higher education, given that you have your strategy and put in the time and effort.
However, it is super important to also be aware of the other various forms of aid that you might be eligible to receive so you don’t miss out on any opportunities to lessen your college costs. So, in this post, I am going to discuss another common form of aid that tends to get overlooked: State-based aid!
Every state within the US offers its eligible residents at least one, if not multiple, opportunities to get some help in paying for school. While the majority of these state-run programs only require you to have filed your FAFSA in order to be considered, there are some that have additional application requirements and guidelines, or may even ask you to complete a separate application altogether.
Speaking of the FAFSA, have I mentioned the importance of filing early? As I mentioned, a lot of these state-based aid programs require you to have filled out the FAFSA in order to be considered.
In addition to this, state programs sometimes also operate on a first-come, first-serve basis. This essentially means that it is of the utmost importance to complete your FAFSA on time, if not as early as possible, in order to maximize the amount of aid you can possibly receive.
Below, I have outlined most, if not all, of the state-based aid programs and resources that are available to students all across the US. Simply search for your state, and click around to read more on the various forms of aid that you might be eligible to receive.
The COVID-19 pandemic has successfully inserted itself into essentially every aspect of our lives at this point, and unfortunately, it has mostly not been for the better, although any optimist will likely be quick to highlight those few gold nuggets and silver linings.
One particular area of the population that has been struggling to navigate these turbulent times is the area containing prospective, current, and recently graduated college students. With the costs of higher education only on the rise and the rough circumstances of the pandemic leaving millions of people jobless or furloughed until further notice, families are struggling to come up with the funds to pay for or pay off college-related expenses.
Enter all the news on newly-elected president Joe Biden’s plans and proposals to both provide some much-needed relief to those being weighed down by the burden of thousands in student loans while also lowering the costs of tuition for many current and future college students.
In this post, I will highlight several areas of Biden’s currently enacted and proposed plans as they relate to student loans, college tuition, and higher education in general. Keep reading for the tea!
During his first day in office, President Joe Biden made the move of extending student loan payment forbearance to September 30, 2021, a decision made primarily due to the pandemic and its detrimental impact on millions of Americans.
Essentially, this means that the majority of federal student loan payments are on pause, and any new interest on loan balances will be waived.
In addition to this push back on the date, Biden and his team are also pushing for an immediate canceling of $10,000 of student loan debt for all, a move which would “wipe out debt completely for nearly 15 million borrowers who owe $10,000 or less” (Nerd Wallet).
Along with the immediate $10,000 cancellation, Biden has also recommended that federal student debt should be completely canceled for borrowers who attended a public college or university and currently earn less than $125,000.
One important thing to note about this recommendation is that it does not apply to graduate school tuition.
Essentially, Biden’s revised plan proposes that borrowers would not have to start paying back their loans until they earn an annual income of over $25,000.
Once borrowers earn over this number, their repayment plan would then cap at 5% of disposable income, a much more reasonable number than the current options, in which the minimum is set at 10% of disposable income.
Not only is Biden proposing to make monthly student loan payments more reasonable, but he is also pushing to make it so the remainder of your student loan balance will be automatically forgiven after 20 years of payments.
This is in comparison to current repayment plans, which offer forgiveness after 20-25 years of payments.
Students whose family incomes are less than $60,000 per year are eligible for either some or all of a Federal Pell Grant, which is currently worth $6,345.
While this is a great help, it still leaves quite a bit of tuition and expenses on the table for the majority of students attending four-year colleges.
Biden hopes to increase this number while simultaneously loosening the eligibility rules so that Pell Grants can be given out to more “middle-class” students.
Perhaps the most noteworthy part of Biden’s plan is his proposal to make undergraduate tuition-free for students who fall into the following areas:
1) if you attend a public college or university and your family income is below $125,000 (4 years tuition-free)
2) if you attend a community college (2 years tuition-free), and
3) if you attend an HBCU or a tribal college or university (2 years tuition-free).
Students should note that these free college tuition plans do not include non-tuition expenses such as room and board, textbooks, and other fees.
So, I’ve covered quite a bit of information regarding Biden’s current and potential future plans of action as they relate to student loans and college tuition.
I’d be remiss to end this post without quickly elaborating on exactly how these current and future plans can actually impact you! Here’s the lowdown…
If you are a college graduate and you have debt - congrats! Well, not about the debt, but because Biden’s extension of student loan payment forbearance means that if you are not currently in the position to be paying off your student loans, then you can put that worry on the back burner for a few more months.
Lots of people have been asking questions along the lines of “If I am still in a position to be paying off some of my student loans during these difficult times, should I be doing so?”.
Since I am very admittedly no financial expert, here is a little nugget of advice that I found while perusing Student Aid’s section on Student Loan Payment Forbearance:
“Continuing to make payments during the payment suspension could help you pay down your loan balance more quickly because the full amount of a payment will be applied to principal once all interest accrued prior to March 13, 2020, is paid.
You may either leave your loans in the “administrative forbearance” status (meaning the requirement to make payments is suspended) and make payments anyway, or opt out of the administrative forbearance/suspension of payments and continue to make payments.”
If you’re looking for a more in-depth answer, I highly suggest clicking the hyperlink above and reading through all of the Q & A’s on COVID Forbearance and how it all works. If you have any other questions that Student Aid has not covered, be sure to reach out to your specific student loan servicing company to get those clarified.
If you are a current college student - Now, if you are still enrolled as an undergraduate student at a college or university, unfortunately, Biden’s current plans and hopeful proposals in relation to paying off student loans don’t quite impact you just yet.
Usually, you are not required to start paying off student loans until an average of 6 months after you have actually graduated, so even if you’re a college senior graduating this May, Biden’s extension likely won’t impact you too much either, unless it gets extended again of course!
If you are a future college student - Pay close attention to the latest news and updates on Biden’s plans to hopefully expand the eligibility rules for students qualifying for federal Pell Grants as well as information on actually transitioning to making college tuition-free for students under certain circumstances.
So, quite a bit of information has been unpacked here! At the end of the day, it is crucial to ensure that you are keeping up to date with these plans (both ones that are in effect and future ones) and how they might impact you, on an immediate level but also for months and years to come.
Back in December (which already feels like months ago somehow) I teamed up with my friends over at Hallo to put together a series of events to help y'all Level Up Your Lifestyle in the new year. One of those events was all about financial fitness. We also had social media influencer and content creator Natalie Barbu join us to talk about her own personal journey with finances and learning about how to be financially fit.
So, without further ado, here is the abridged rundown of key terms and takeaways from our financial fitness event!
There, you have it. The quickest of quick event takeaways! This run-through on financial fitness is just a scratch on the surface. Head here if you want to take a look at the full presentation from the workshop itself.
Finally, here are some additional resources to help you become more financially literate and fit in 2021!
Whether you’re just starting college this year or you’re already an upperclassman, it is likely that you have already acknowledged at least once (if not many more times!) how expensive college can be. Between buying textbooks, covering tuition and room & board, and paying for food, we know how it feels to be on the struggle bus when it comes to having money in college. Luckily, there are many possibilities for making money while you’re in school, even if you are a full-time student. Read on to learn more about how you can earn a few extra bucks to help you fund your education (to complement all of your scholarship winnings, we hope ????)!!
Looking at the resources offered on your school’s website is perhaps the easiest place to start your search for earning money. Most colleges and universities have a section of their website dedicated to student resources.
While this page may look different across each school, its general goal is to allow students to browse on-campus jobs, to learn more about work-study programs available, and to read about job placement opportunities. A few of the most common jobs we’ve found on these student job boards are for Teacher’s Assistants, Tutors, RA’s (Resident Advisors), Campus Tour Guides, and various positions in campus buildings.
You may also be wondering about work-study programs and where they fit into the equation here. Federal work-study is a way for undergraduate and graduate school students with financial need to earn money to put towards paying for their education. The work-study section of your school’s website is likely to be separate on the page from the normal job board (and may even be in a different location altogether), so be on the lookout for that resource!
Aside from on-campus jobs and opportunities, one popular way that many students choose to earn cash for college is through working for a delivery service. These jobs are often great for college students because they allow you to work flexible hours. You may have access to different opportunities depending on where your school is located, however, it is likely that at least one of the most popular companies operates in your area. The majority of these positions require you to have a car, bike, or scooter to make deliveries but depending on where you live, you may be able to deliver on foot. Check out the opportunities listed below if a food delivery job sounds interesting to you!
Another option for earning money while you’re in college (that you can even do from your couch!) is taking surveys. Each website offers different payouts for certain types of surveys; a shorter survey might pay $.50 or a few bucks, whereas a longer and more intensive survey could put $50 in your pocket on the spot. Popular survey websites include Vindale, Survey Junkie, and Swagbucks.
Last, but certainly not least, there are a bunch of other options that students can pursue to make some extra cash, such as:
It’s no secret that the world of higher education (think: universities, professors, and students) is going through a rollercoaster of tough times due to the unforeseen circumstances of COVID-19.
On a daily basis through my role here with Access Scholarships, I have had the opportunity to interact with high school and college students (maybe even you!) from across the country. I have been able to listen to the feelings, stories, and lately, worries of those students about what the future of higher education looks like.
Aside from fears surrounding navigating college during COVID-19, the other prevailing topic of discussion revolves around everything related to paying for college. To provide some unique insight, tips, and words of wisdom to our students, I thought who better to turn to discuss these topics than US News paying for college reporter Emma Kerr. So, without further ado, here are Emma’s top tips and pieces of advice for all students on paying for college, navigating college during COVID-19, and more.
As Emma highlighted in our interview, there are two different “buckets” when it comes to paying for college: federal financial aid options (FAFSA, pell grants, federal work-study) and options outside of that (think: scholarships, 529 plans, working part-time jobs, support from parents, etc).
Bucket one, which features the federal financial aid options, includes things such as the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), Pell Grants, and federal (paid) work-study programs. These options are crucial for students to be taking advantage of since there is no penalty or fee for applying for them and the money-saving potential is high.
Perhaps the largest component of bucket two is the 529 college savings plan. The 529 plan, which is generally started by the parents, is likely one of the earliest actions taken to help plan ahead for paying for the costs of college. According to the Sallie Mae annual study on How Americans Pay for College, (a great resource for students to read and be aware of!) 44% of student college costs are covered by parents income and savings, and more than ⅓ of families used a college savings account such as a 529 plan in 2020.
In addition to the 529 plan, we have scholarships, which, according to the Sallie Mae study, were the second-largest source of funding for college in 2020 (utilized by 58% of families). Scholarship money, similar to grants, is money that does not have to be repaid, which means it should be another essential starting point for students entering the world of paying for college.
As you can see, there are a lot of options out there when it comes to funding your higher education. To learn more on this tip, Emma highly recommends reading through the Sallie Mae study to get a better idea of your available options and what breakdown will work best for you!
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) opens on October 1st. As Emma puts it, the FAFSA “opens doors to federal, state, and in many cases, institutional financial aid, so it is probably the most important step you can take when you are thinking about paying for college”.
Potential scholarship and grant aid that can come from filling out the FAFSA is huge. So many students leave that money on the table by completing the FAFSA by the deadline. Some colleges have earlier deadlines than others so students must identify those deadlines and be cognizant of them.
Also, in terms of state aid, depending on which state you live in, the aid can run out, which means it is crucial for students to apply for the FAFSA as early as possible, to ensure that they receive the maximum possible amount.
This is a tip that I myself have mentioned countless times in the past, but it is one that is certainly important enough to be repeated and emphasized time and time again!
As Emma pointed out during our discussion, there are so many scholarships out there that only receive a handful of applicants each cycle, making them low in competitiveness for students who are looking to earn some extra cash. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance for students to diversify the sources that they use to search and apply for scholarships. Aside from our scholarship directory, US News also has its own robust database of scholarship opportunities for students to search through, and there are dozens of other great online resources for students to use.
In addition to these online resources, it is also important for students to be searching for scholarship opportunities within their local community (for example, your high school website) as well as through their college or university once they arrive on campus. So, make sure you are covering all possible bases when applying for scholarships to give yourself the greatest chance for success.
Emma elaborated on this tip by stating, “We often hear from sources about the issue of parents and students not communicating and being on the same page about what can be afforded. So, it must start from the place of knowing what you want to get out of college and how much money you have available to achieve that, and then moving on from there,”.
With the increasing costs of attending college these days, Emma is certainly correct in her statement. Students must ask themselves some tough, but important questions such as “Is college worth the cost?” and “How much can I afford?”. While the answers to them may be more clear for some students than for others, regardless, asking and solidifying these answers (and making sure all key players are on the same page about them), is crucial before getting too far down the pipeline.
There’s no other way to say it other than that college is expensive. Emma put the process of attending college into perspective when she told me, “You are mortgaging your future”. On the topic of loans specifically (which, as you hopefully already know, must be paid back!), Emma advises students to make sure that they are fully informed in these key areas: what that loan is, how long it is going to take to repay it, what kind of salary you would want to ideally have to carry that loan, and what your goals are for the future beyond higher education.
It is also worth mentioning that most private loans don’t have forbearance (paying less than normal) or forgiveness (no longer being expected to repay), so it is always suggested to go the federal route first.
Students have a tendency to go with the flow when it comes to navigating the college process, understanding costs and benefits, and pinpointing options for paying for college along with identifying long-term goals associated with attending.
Oftentimes, federal aid packages can be confusing to read or misleading in terms of what is being offered and what you are expected to pay back later on. Therefore, starting early with educating yourself on what your options are and what the fine print means will only benefit you later on!
As I have touched on in previous tips, it is definitely important to identify what you hope to get out of attending college before stepping foot on campus. This doesn’t mean that you need to have your major, long-term career, and full life plan solidified by any means, but it does mean that all students should think long and hard about the major options that are available to them and make the decision that they believe will 1) be a return on the college investment, and 2) lead them to a happy and satisfying career.
Emma expanded on this tip by saying: “Students should never have a dream school and feel like they cannot access it due to financial constraints. A lot of times, a student or their family will see a huge number on the university’s website and this can be very intimidating. I would suggest that students utilize the net price calculator, which will help to give students a more accurate sense of what they will pay, based on their family’s income level and financial need.”
Although this last tip is not quite related to paying for college, it is certainly an important one that all students of all ages should keep in mind. The pandemic has made so many aspects of our lives more complicated and difficult, so setting aside the time to identify what your needs are and what works best for you (not only in school but in life in general) is crucial. Take this as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and work on doing the things that will maintain and improve your mental health rather than deteriorate it.
In conclusion, my interview with Emma certainly hit on a wide variety of important topics related to higher education, paying for college, and more. I hope you learned a thing or two while reading this piece, and a big shoutout to Emma for providing such great tips and advice!
Emma Kerr is a paying for college reporter at US News and World Report.
So, you’re heading off to college (or already there) or thinking about going to grad school. One of the most loaded questions that students must confront once they make the decision to pursue higher education is “How in the HECK am I going to afford this?!”. We’ve pretty much all been there, so if this is you right now, fear not! In this article, we are going to do a deep-dive into Income Share Agreements, discussing the many pros, the few cons, and everything in between. We’ve also partnered with Stride Funding (an ISA provider) to create the $500 Hitting Your Stride Scholarship, designed to help you learn more about ISA’s and decide if they’re a good fit for you - keep reading for more info!
Income Share Agreements are programs that work with students to help them fund their higher education by providing them with a certain amount of money each year, which varies depending on each student’s specific criteria. Once you graduate from college or graduate school and secure a job, a percentage of your income goes towards paying off that ISA.
Essentially, ISA’s are a type of loan. However, you are not required to start paying back the money you have borrowed until you secure a job post-graduation. The terms of each ISA (percentage and term length) and are unique to each student because they take your area of study into consideration. Also, you only have to start paying back once you are earning above a certain amount of money, which, for current and recently graduated students, is great because it means less added stress when it comes to navigating the “real world” upon graduation.
With Stride Funding ISA’s, students can receive a maximum of $25,000 each year, and the percentage of your future post-graduation salary that you must pay back is anywhere between 3-9%.
Here are some of the major comparisons between Stride Funding ISA’s and traditional student loans:
At the end of the day, each person and their payments are unique, so you will have to sit down and do the math to determine if your quoted ISA is the smartest money move for you.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, we have partnered with Stride Funding to encourage students to explore the options available for using Income Share Agreements to fund your college or graduate school education. The first step in the learning process is requesting a free quote. Two good things will come from requesting your quote:
You will be able to learn more about if an ISA is a good fit for you, and you will automatically be entered to win our $500 scholarship!
Happily! Essentially, any student who is eligible for an ISA is eligible to win the scholarship. How do you know if you’re eligible?
Eligible students include:
If you're eligible, get going and request your free quote, so you can learn more about Stride Funding ISA’s, and automatically be entered to win our $500 Hitting Your Stride scholarship. Happy days (and good luck!!).
One of the biggest (and possibly best) perks of being a student is the fact that discounts and deals for students are extremely abundant. Being aware of these student deals is super important because it means you will (hopefully) save lots of money on your purchases, which is an important piece of the pie if you are trying to work on your financial fitness and budgeting.
Luckily, lots of big companies offer student deals. Below, you will find my list of about 30 of them! However, remember that just because a company or shop is not on this list, does not mean that they don't offer student deals! So, when you are doing your shopping online or in-person, always be sure to inquire if the store has a discount for students (hint: they usually do!).
Ultimately, whether you’re on campus this semester or not, you won’t want to miss out on these student deals.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of Pell Grants, let’s first clarify some of the basics. What is a Pell Grant, anyways? Pell Grants are subsidies given out by the U.S. federal government to help students from lower-income families pay for college. Unlike normal loans, Pell Grants usually do not have to be repaid. However, there are a few reasons why your Pell Grant may have to be repaid, such as if you withdraw from your program early or if you receive outside scholarships or grants that reduce your need for federal student aid.
The purpose of the Pell Grant is to ensure that “higher education remains accessible to all”; therefore, Pell Grant recipients must prove that they fall into a specified level of financial need. To determine your level of financial need, you will be required to fill out the FAFSA (free application for student financial aid). The process of filling out the FAFSA will then determine your eligibility for the grant. Generally, the majority of Pell Grant recipients come from households with total incomes of less than $25,000 per year.
The amount of the grant can vary from year to year; for the 2020-2021 year (July 1, 2020 - June 30, 2021), the maximum amount any student can receive is $6,345. According to Studentaid.gov, the amount you can expect to receive depends on a number of factors, such as:
For more information on how the amounts are determined, visit this link to view the tables for the 2020-2021 award year (calculated by the U.S. Department of Education).
Once you receive a Pell Grant, in order to maintain it (aka, keep the money!), you must maintain your enrollment in a U.S. undergraduate program. Additionally, you must make sure to fill out the FAFSA form each year you are in school, which ensures that you are still eligible for federal student aid. More information on the FAFSA is available here.
Now that you know everything there is to know about the Pell Grant, if you believe you may be eligible, follow the steps below to apply!
With that, we'll leave it to you. Happy applying!