Pell Grant: What it is, Find Out if You're Eligible, and How to Apply

Introduction to Pell Grants

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.   

Am I eligible for a Pell Grant?

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). For reference, the FAFSA should get filled out the first time when you are a high school senior, and you must reapply for every year you are enrolled in college in order to receive funds. 

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.   

How much can I expect to receive from my Pell Grant?

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:

  1. Expected family contribution
  2. Cost of attendance for your particular college/university 
  3. Whether you are a full-time or part-time student
  4. How long you plan to attend school for

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). 

How can I maintain my Pell Grant?

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

Apply for the Pell Grant in Three Easy Steps

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!

  1. Fill out the FAFSA, either online or download the PDF and send it by mail. 
  2. Once your FAFSA is complete and received, you can expect to receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) within 1-2 weeks.
    1. This report will summarize the aid programs for which you have been deemed eligible. The SAR will also outline the award amounts for each program.
    2. (IMPORTANT: if you do not claim your Pell Grant in a timely manner, you risk losing the award for the given year)
  3. Once you have claimed your Pell Grant, you can expect the grant to apply directly to your college or university approximately 2-4 weeks before the start of the semester.

With that, I'll leave it to you. Happy applying!

Looking for additional ways to earn money for college?

Luckily, you've come to the right place!

In addition to the resources on my blog about all things financial aid and paying for college, I also have a great scholarship search engine tool that you can use to find awesome opportunities to apply for.

There are scholarships out there of all kinds (ranging from easy to competitive), for students of all years (think: high school juniors to graduate students), and for all amounts (from $500 awards to full-rides).

Also, if you want to stay updated on the latest scholarship opportunities, I recommend you check out and throw me a follow on Instagram, where I post about awesome scholarships on the reg!

A Fundraising Update from Access Scholarships!

Hello! I can’t believe that it is almost the middle of March as I write this (time just feels like it has been flying by during COVID) but I do have a timely announcement and news to report!

If you keep regularly up to date with my posts on the gram, you might probably already know what I’m about to announce.

But, if you don’t, then, as I said, I have news!

Over the past few months, I have had the chance to speak with dozens, if not a few hundred, students who have expressed concern over not being able to pay for their higher education tuition.

Throughout these chats, I was also doing my own research to see if I could find any concrete numbers that echoed the claims of the students I was speaking to. I was both saddened and shocked to find out that this survey of over 10,000 students across US colleges and universities published last June by OneClass revealed that 56% of students can no longer afford their higher education tuition.

56% Of course I wish that this percentage would be 0, but as far as numbers go, 56% is far too high for my liking.

This led me to the conclusion that in addition to my free website, my own two scholarships that are currently running ($500 Self-Reflection Scholarship and the normal $1,000 no essay scholarship), and the resources I provide, as a player in the higher ed space, I need to go even further in supporting students on their quest to receiving a higher education.

To do this, I decided to do what any newly-born startup would do...to fundraise!

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Tell me more about this fundraiser...

For the entire month of March, I am asking businesses, family, friends, and the larger community to consider making contributions or sharing my fundraiser to help students fund their higher education.

Every penny of the money donated will go directly towards providing crucial financial support to less-privileged students, who have been working hard at trying to find alternate sources of income in addition to applying to scholarships (an endeavor which, as we all know, unfortunately does not guarantee success).

If you’re a student, and you’re currently reading this, you are probably wondering about some of the logistics of this fundraiser, such as

  • Who does the money go to? How can I get involved?
  • How does it get decided?
  • When will the winners be announced?

These are all extremely valid questions, which I am now going to answer!

To answer your questions...

I decided that I wanted to make it super easy for students to be able to sign up to be considered for. So, as a student, all you need to do is enter for my $1,000 Too Cool to Pay for School scholarship in order to be automatically considered.

As a reminder, the Too Cool scholarship is open to all high school, college, and graduate school students in the US, including permanent residents and students with DACA status. If you are an international student studying in the US, you are also eligible to apply, as long as you have a current home address in the US.

If you’ve read the details of my $1,000 scholarship, you already know that the quarterly winner is chosen by random drawing. While that is fine for our quarterly scholarship, my intention with this fundraiser is to ensure that the money we raise goes out to students who need it the most.

So, in order to decide the winners of the GoFundMe fundraiser money, we will be picking students by random generator. Once we have randomly picked a group of students, we will then reach out via email and ask for a copy of your FAFSA Student Aid Report, along with a written response of up to 250 words explaining your current circumstances and why winning the money from this fundraiser is important to you. In order to make the final decisions, we will be considering both your FAFSA EFC and your written response.

With that, I think that pretty much explains all of the details of my fundraiser for Higher Education.

We will be raising money until March 31st, which is the last day for students to enter for our scholarship. I am super excited to say that we recently broke $1,000, which is enough to give out two $500 scholarships! My ultimate goal is to raise $3,000, which would be enough provide some help to 6 students who need the support.

However, we still have quite a long way to go in order to reach our goal.

One final request

That’s why I would LOVE it if you would help me out, and share this link with your friends, family, larger community, and anyone who you think might be interested in helping out students in need.

Thanks so much, and be sure to keep an eye out on the Access Scholarships website and social media channels, where I will continue to document our fundraising progress, and eventually, announce the winners!

Everything You Need to Know About the FAFSA

Jump Ahead To...

    Introduction

    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. 

    Common FAFSA Questions / The Process

    • Question 1: What is the FAFSA?

      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.

    • Question 2: How does it work?

      The process of submitting your FAFSA may seem daunting, but if you follow these steps, it doesn’t have to be!

      Step 1: Create your FSA ID.

      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.

      Step 2: Gather the necessary documents to apply.

      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: 

      1. Checking and savings account balances.
      2. Investments (stocks, bonds, real estate)
      3. Business assets for you and your parents if you are a dependent student

      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.

      Step 3: Fill it out! 

      Students have four options when it comes to filling out the FAFSA:

      1. Apply online
      2. Apply via the myStudentAid mobile app
      3. Apply via PDF
      4. Apply via print-out of the PDF (must be mailed in)

      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. 

    • Question 3: Which schools should I list on my FAFSA?

      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!

      Step 4: Sign and submit. 

      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.

    • Question 4: What do I do once I’ve submitted my FAFSA?

      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! 

    • Question 5: When and how do I find out how much aid I am eligible to receive?

      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

    Conclusion & More Resources

    Now, you should be fully versed on what the FAFSA is, how to fill it out, and what to do once you have received your aid offer. For more information on the FAFSA, check out our bonus resources below!

    How to transfer tax information into your FAFSA

    “After the FAFSA: What Happens Next?” Video

    Other Recommended Reading

    All the Ways You Can Pay for Higher Education: A Quick Guide

    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.

    All the Ways You Can Pay for Higher Education:

    Scholarships/Grants

    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!  

    There are several scholarships and grants that you might automatically be eligible for receiving when you file your FAFSA each year, such as the Federal Pell Grant.  

    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.

    Federal Work-Study Programs

    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. 

    Student Income/Savings

    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.

    Family Income/Savings

    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. 

    Loans

    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. 

    Concluding Thoughts

    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! 

    State-Based Aid and Resources 

    Scholarship Search Engine 

    Scholarships for High School Seniors

    State-Based Aid

    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.

    What Biden’s Student Loan and College Tuition Plans Entail and How You Could Be Impacted

    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!

    student-loan-forbearance

    To start, an extension of student loan payment forbearance 

    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.

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    Student loan debt is getting wiped out for almost 15 million borrowers 

    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.

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    A revised income-driven repayment plan 

    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.

    More money from Federal Pell Grants

    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.

    Source: Student Aid

    Free college tuition, say what?!

    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.

    How do Biden's current and proposed plans might impact YOU?

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    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.”

    - (Studentaid.gov)

    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.

    In Conclusion...

    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. 

    Let's Talk About...Financial Fitness!

    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!

     

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    • Financial Fitness = the ability to manage your money in a way to meet your short and long term needs, can efficiently handle your expenses while living a quality life

     

    • A budget is a financial plan for a defined period of time that allows you to track revenues and expenses

     

    • Why is having a budget important?
      • You can see exactly where your money is going → hold yourself accountable!
      • Allows you to plan and prioritize finances
      • No surprises when looking at your bank balance
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    • Budgeting tips & tricks:
      • Consider creating a buffer in your budget to account for any emergencies
      • Remember that not every month will be the same in terms of spending (holidays, months with vacations, etc) so plan accordingly
      • Set aside time to regularly reassess your budget

     

    TIP: Free resources for budgeting include Mint and Napkin Finance Money 101 course

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    • A few reasons why you should save your money include:
      • Can lead to long-term security which means less stress
      • Can help you pay for large purchases (house, car) when the time comes 
      • More financial freedom
    • Ways to get started with saving:
      • Create a savings account that is separate from your everyday bank account
      • Try the 50-30-20 rule (50% of income to necessities, 30% to discretionary items, 20% to saving)
      • Take advantage of discounts where you can, consider “A” and “B” options when making purchases

    INVESTING YOUR MONEY

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    • Investing some of your savings can be a great way to help your income multiply
    • Common investment mistakes:
      • Mistake - putting all your eggs in one basket.
        • Solution - Consider investments with varying levels of risk, and rebalance your portfolio regularly
      • Mistake - buying and selling based on emotion
        • Solution - Before you make a move, assess the situation based on logic and planning
      • Mistake - too much turnover with stocks leads to more fees
        • Solution - Perform substantial research before diving in and investing so you can be confident in your decisions

    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!

    How to Make Money While You're Still in College

    Financial Literacy for College Students, by US News

    30 Fab Student Deals

    How to Make Money While You're Still in College

    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 ????)!! 

    University/College Resources

    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!  

    Food Delivery

    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! 

    Postmates 

    Uber Eats

    DoorDash 

    Taking Surveys

    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.   

    Other Ideas

    Last, but certainly not least, there are a bunch of other options that students can pursue to make some extra cash, such as:  

    • Become someone's virtual assistant → This is a great opportunity nowadays given that the pandemic has made a lot of in-person jobs more difficult to obtain. While I haven't tried this myself, it seems like a solid option for making money, considering you will mostly be doing basic administrative tasks AND you can work from your bed (or your couch)! Some websites to check out for these types of jobs include Remote.co and Indeed.
    • Petsit or become a dog walker → Check out apps like Rover and Wag
    • Become a brand ambassador for a company or organization that you care about →  Many companies (such as Rent the Runway, Asics, and Pura Vida, to name a few) hire students to promote their brands around campus through tabling events, wearing their products, and posting on social media to influence the way others view their brands.
    • Start your own blog, vlog, or become an influencer → If you have an interesting life story, are savvy with social media, or have a niche interest that not many people know about, one of these options might be a good fit for you! While one downside of these options is that they often take a few months or longer to start making money, when they do make money, the potential return could be well into the thousands of dollars.
    • Get a job off-campus at a cafe, restaurant, bar, clothing store, etc. → Depending on where your school is located, the possibilities with this one are endless. Generally, stores and restaurants located in or near colleges and universities that hire students are flexible with scheduling hours, which can be a big plus if you have a packed schedule of classes. Plus, the potential for earning tips in addition to the standard wage (if you work at a bar or restaurant) can be a very nice bonus!

    Income Share Agreements: The Student Loan Alternative Rising in Popularity

    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! 

    ISA’s: What are they?

    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. 

    Tell me more…

    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%.   

    How do they compare to traditional student loans?

    Here are some of the major comparisons between Stride Funding ISA’s and traditional student loans:

    • Stride Funding ISA's have a 5-year duration, compared to traditional loans which can last anywhere between 10 and 25 years in duration
    • Stride Funding ISA's have a $40k minimum income threshold, so you don't make payments if you make less than this amount for the entire duration of your ISA, compared to traditional student loans which have no minimum
    • Stride Funding ISA's have a 2x payment cap, so you will never pay back more than 2x the original Funding amount, compared to traditional student loans which do not cap
    • With Stride ISA's, you have a 3-month grace period after graduation before you start paying back, compared to traditional student loans which have no grace period

    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. 

    Speaking of your quoted ISA…

    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! 

    Tell me more about this 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:

    • Undergraduate juniors and seniors in the following majors: Engineering, STEM, Computer Science, Nursing (nursing can include RN/BSN)
    • Graduate/masters students in the following study areas:
      • Healthcare: Physician Assistant, Physical Therapy, Healthcare Administration, Occupational Therapy, Pharmacy, Health Informatics, Medical Dosimetry, Nursing (RN/BSN/MSN/DNP – Graduate or 2nd Bachelor)
      • Business: Masters of Accounting, Masters of Finance, MBA
      • STEM: Mechanical Engineering, Information Technology (IT), Industrial Engineering, Computer Science, Civil Engineering, Chemistry, Biomedical, Biostatistics, Biomedical Engineering, Biomedical Sciences, Biology, Data Science

    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!!).  

    30 Student Deals You Can Take Advantage Of (Yes, Even From Home)!

    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.

    Deals on Technology 

    Acer 

    • Extra 10% student discount + free shipping when you register with Student Beans (which verifies your student status) 
    • 35% off the Swift 7 

    Adobe 

    • Students save 65% on Adobe Creative Cloud - $19.99/month or $239.88 for the first year 

    Apple 

    • Save $200 on an eligible Mac with education pricing 
    • Buy a Mac or iPad for college with education pricing and get a free pair of AirPods 
    • Students enrolled in degree-granting universities and colleges can join Apple Music at a discounted monthly rate for up to 48 months - click here for details 

    JBL 

    • Get 20% off all orders when you verify your student status with Unidays here 

    Lenovo 

    • Save an extra 8% sitewide when you verify your ID.me eligibility after adding products to your shopping cart - check it out here 

    Samsung

    • Add a 10% education discount to most other Samsung offers to save up to 30% on smartphones, laptops, tablets, and more. Students can get additional consumer electronics and home appliance discounts by verifying their identity at the time of purchase

    Wix 

    Lifestyle Student Deals 

    Amazon

    Evernote

    • Students get 50% off a full year of Evernote Premium  

    Graze

    Grubhub

    • With a Grubhub+ Student Membership, college students who are affiliated with certain universities have access to the following benefits:
      • Free delivery on orders of $12+ at select off-campus restaurants 
      • Premium support from Grubhub+ elite Care 
      • Matched Donate the Change donations from Grubhub+ restaurants 

    Headspace

    • Students pay only $9.99 per year by signing up for a Student Plan here 

    Hello Fresh

    Nike

    • Nike offers a 20% discount to eligible high school, college and university students within the US - must verify your student status with SheerID 

    NY Times

    • Basic subscription: Students can enjoy unlimited NYT articles on any device for $1/week (billed as $4 every 4 weeks)  
    • All-access subscription: Students can enjoy unlimited articles, NYT Cooking and the Crossword on any device for $1.50/week (billed as $6 every 4 weeks) 
    • All-access + print subscription: Students can get The New York Times paper delivered, plus the full digital experience for $5/week (billed as $20 every 4 weeks)

    Spotify

    • Students get 50% off Spotify Premium for up to 4 years after verification through SheerID - must renew every 12 months
      • Comes with access to Hulu’s ad-supported plan and SHOWTIME at no extra cost  

    Sunglass Hut

    The Economist

    • Students get 50% off their first 12 weeks  
      • Digital subscription - 12 weeks for $19 
      • Print + Digital subscription - 12 weeks for $24

    Wall Street Journal 

    Travel & Transportation Student Deals

    Amtrak 

    • Enjoy student discount savings on train rides in California, select Midwest trains, New York state trains, and between Virginia and Washington, DC. 

    Coach USA 

    • ShortLine/Coach USA offers college students discounts with valid IDs discounts on scheduled routes - click here for information on which schools they service

    Student Universe

    • Student Universe sends promo codes and discounts for travel directly to your inbox so you can enjoy discounted airfare (between $10 and $150 extra off of already discounted flights) 

    Student Deals on Clothing & Home 

    American Eagle

    • Students get 20% off online and in-store when they join Unidays here  

    ASOS

    J Crew

    • College students get 15% off online when they verify their eligibility here

    Madewell 

    Muji

    PB Teen

    • Students get 15% off their order when they sign up using a .edu email address or a valid college ID  

    Topshop

    Urban Outfitters

    • Students get 10% off through Unidays when they shop online