College Planning

Don’t wait until high school to start planning for college; you can begin your search for the right school at any time. Whether you are a traditional or non-traditional student, or even a parent, we’ll provide everything you need to navigate the college planning process. Learn which websites offer the best college searches, where to find scholarships to finance your education, and how to avoid mistakes that could affect your financial aid. With our advice, you’ll have all the tools you need to put the pieces together and find your perfect college match.

Financial Aid Toolkit

Why I Love the New Financial Aid Toolkit

On December 1, 2013, the office of Federal Student Aid launched its new Financial Aid Toolkit for high school counselors and other college mentors. I have to admit that I didn’t pay too much attention to the website at the time, especially with classes winding down and the holidays quickly approaching; I just took a quick glance and noted that the overall look was very clean and professional. I did, however, make a note in my calendar to come back in January to give it a whirl. When I logged back onto the site, I was not disappointed. In fact, I haven’t been this excited about a college resource tool in a long time. It’s obvious the U.S. Department of Education put a lot of thought into creating this toolkit. The website is easy to use and hosts a wealth of knowledge on a variety of college planning topics. Here are just a few of the sections that I found most valuable.

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College Money

4 Steps to Getting More Financial Aid Money

If you’re the parent of a high school senior, I’m betting that you’re a bundle of nerves right about now. Not only are you anxiously awaiting college acceptance letters, but also trying to figure out how you’re going to pay for everything. Although the economy is starting to show improvement, many of you are still recovering from several years of meager wages or loss of savings, which means you are probably counting on colleges to be very generous with their financial aid offers. In fact, how much or how little a college is willing to give you may ultimately decide where your child will be attending college this fall. Unfortunately, you may not realize that there are some steps you can take that will help increase your chances of getting the most financial aid possible. If you are concerned about how you are going to pay for your child’s education, consider following these four steps.

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Death of a Parent

Scholarships for Students Who Have Lost a Parent

Trying to navigate the college admissions process is a daunting task for most students, but for those who have lost a parent it can be even more difficult. The loss of a parent can shake a family to its core, causing both financial and emotional strain. For students, it can mean additional responsibilities that may place their futures in jeopardy; caring for siblings or taking on a job to help support their families can take a toll on students, both emotionally and academically. Thankfully, many organizations understand the complex balancing act students undertake when they lose a parent, and have stepped forward to offer their support in the form of college scholarships. Here is just a sampling of some of the scholarship programs with upcoming 2014 deadlines.

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FAFSA

Get Ready for FAFSA Season!

In a few weeks, the 2014-2015 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be available. If this will be your first time completing the FAFSA, you’ll need to register for a PIN before you can begin the process. Keep in mind that your parent(s) will need a PIN, too, if you are a dependent student. Once you have that out of the way, you can start gathering the documentation you will need to complete the FAFSA, as this will make the process much easier. In general, you will need the following items.

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Full-Ride Scholarships

Chasing the Elusive Full-Ride Scholarship

Last week, I was having lunch with a friend and the subject of college came up. We both have daughters who are high school juniors, so it’s never far from our thoughts. We discussed the intensity of the International Baccalaureate program (our daughters are enrolled but at separate schools) and even planned for an upcoming college tour at the University of Florida (UF). The conversation was going smoothly until I asked how he planned to cover the tuition and other fees at UF. With a completely straight face, he replied that he expected his daughter to get a full-ride scholarship. Why wouldn’t he believe that his child, who has played softball since she could walk and carries an unweighted grade point average (GPA) of 3.5, should be able to win such a coveted award? The media is full of reports about students who are being showered with full-ride scholarship offers, so it’s only natural that he would expect it to be a viable option. Although I hated to be the bearer of bad news, I felt obligated to clue him in on the reality of his financial plan.

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