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Top 5 Things This Financial Aid Counselor Wants You to Know

13 Apr

 

Whether you are an incoming freshman or a returning senior, financial aid can be confusing. As financial aid counselors, there are things we really want all students to know. Here are the top five things this financial aid counselor wants you to know.

There is a limit to how much financial aid you can receive.

Every school will give you something along the lines of an “Estimated Cost of Attendance” or “Budget.” This is your limit on financial aid at your university and students cannot have financial aid over this amount. This amount will vary at different universities because it takes into account your tuition, room and board, and other estimated expenses that are specific to each university.5 Fin Aid things.jpg

There is a difference between your Estimated Cost of Attendance and your bill.

Your Cost of Attendance is a term that is interchangeable with ‘budget.’ It will include estimated costs for expenses like books and supplies, transportation, housing and food, miscellaneous costs, etc. . (Consider either using all double quotations or single quotations. Double quotations are used above for “Estimated Cost of Attendance” and “Budget” – which is also capitalized – but single quotations are used here for ‘budget’ – which is also lowercase in this instance.)

The university is not going to bill you for estimated miscellaneous costs. If you’re not living on campus, you will not be billed the amount for ‘room and board’ (quotes) on your Estimated Cost of Attendance. Your budget is a list of estimated expenses you may have for the year. Your bill is what you will actually owe. Your budget doubles as your financial aid limit, as mentioned previously, but it’s also a way for you to “budget” (quotes) for expenses that may pop up during the year.  In actuality, your bill will only be tuition and fees (and housing and food if you stay in a dormitory).

Financial aid counselors want you to understand this difference because we often see students taking out loans to cover their entire budget. In reality, these students could have saved themselves thousands of dollars had they known they wouldn’t be billed for their entire Cost of Attendance.

You can get a refund.

So why does your Cost of Attendance/budget even bother to include expenses you won’t be directly billed for? The answer is simple. It’s so you can get financial aid to help cover extra expenses, and this is done with a refund.

Since your budget includes costs like miscellaneous expenses, you may find that you have a budget of $20,000 when you only have a bill of $17,000. This means you potentially have financial aid $3,000 in excess of what you need to cover your bill. In a situation like this, the Bursar’s Office will issue you a refund check. This refund can be used to help cover any of your academic expenses that you won’t be automatically billed for such as: books, supplies, transportation, and miscellaneous expenses. If you are staying off campus in an apartment, fraternity, or sorority, instead of living in a dormitory, this refund can also be used to help cover your off-campus rent.

Your grades really matter.

Believe it or not, grades actually matter when it comes to financial aid. Students must meet Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) in order to remain eligible for financial aid. SAP is measured at the end of every semester, even if you didn’t take classes, and Purdue notifies you by email of your new SAP status. Purdue’s SAP Policy can be found online on the Division of Financial Aid website.

There are no dumb questions.

We are here to help! We understand that financial aid is very confusing, especially if you are brand new student. It’s our job to answer any financial aid questions or help explain things that may seem confusing. Above all, we hate seeing a little issue turn into a big issue just because a student was scared or embarrassed to ask us a question. We’ll be excited that you are seeking more information, and you’ll never know unless you ask.

Are you a student at Purdue who has questions about financial aid? Please feel free to contact the Division of Financial Aid via email or phone.

Understanding Your Financial Aid Award Letter

28 Mar

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Did receiving your financial aid award letter raise more questions than answers? Take some time to check out the slideshow above for a little bit more information. Keep in mind that you can pause it to read more thoroughly, or view it in PDF format with clickable links by clicking here.

If you have any questions about your financial aid, remember that you can contact the Division of Financial Aid a few different ways: stopping by in-person, giving us a phone call, or sending us an email.

Typically the quickest way to get answers to questions or solve problems is to stop by our office in-person. We always accept walk-ins as long as we are open Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.! Our office is in room 305 in Schleman Hall.

If stopping in-person isn’t an option, phoning in is usually a good choice too! Just call (765) 494-5050 during our open hours (Monday-Friday, 8-5) and we will be glad to help you out whether it’s just a quick question or fully advising you on your aid!

If you can’t stop or call in during our open hours, you can always send us an email to facontact@purdue.edu. While you won’t get the immediate assistance you might otherwise by visiting or calling, this works best if your schedule doesn’t match up with our open hours.

Financial Aid February: Choosing a Loan Repayment Plan

28 Feb

All information on repayment plans is from this article by David Evans, Ph.D.
Additional info added by Casey Doten, Purdue Financial Aid Administrator

There are two main types of repayment plans you can choose from: traditional and income-driven. For borrowers that will qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), income-driven plans may be the better option. Income-driven plans will require an annual verification of income. This fact sheet describes each of the repayment plans as well as pros and cons of each. For more information about each of the repayment plans visit the Federal Student Aid website.

Traditional Plansstudent-loan-repayment-plans

Standard Repayment Plan

The Standard Repayment plan consist of equal monthly payments over a 10-year period of time. This repayment plan is good for those who can handle making their monthly payments and make enough money to afford them. This payment plan is best for those who have minimal other debts and start working right out of school.

The Pros: You’ll pay off your loan faster compared to other plans, and pay less interest as a result.

The Cons: Your monthly payments will be higher than those made through other plans.

Graduated Repayment Plan

The Graduated and Extended Repayment plans could be an option for you if your income is low when you graduate but will increase quickly. Under a graduated plan, payments start out low and increase during the repayment period, usually every two years. This is a good plan if you can’t afford your current payments but know you will make more money in the years to come.

The Pros: Your loan is still paid off within 10 years.

The Cons: You’ll pay more interest over the lifetime of your loan compared to the Standard Plan.

Extended Repayment Plan

An Extended Repayment Plan is an option if your loan amount is more than $30,000 and you want to stretch your repayment to 25 years.

The Pros: Smaller monthly payments (since they’re spread out over as many as 25 years) and more time to pay off your loan.

The Cons: You’ll be saddled with payments for a longer period of time as well as pay more interest.

Income-Driven Plans

If you qualify for an Income-Driven plan, these are often the most attractive options if you’re willing to recertify your payment each year (it’s not very difficult). However, some of these are contingent on when you took out loans! If you’re interested in student loan forgiveness*, you’ll need to be enrolled in any one of these plans.

Income Based Repayment Plan

If you’re not making enough money to cover all of your monthly expenses the Income Based Repayment (IBR) Plan would be a good option. There are two separate calculations for IBR which are dependent upon when you took out your student loans.

The Pros: The IBR plan takes into account your annual income as well as your family size. Your payment will be 10% of your discretionary income** if you were a new borrower on or after July 1, 2014. Otherwise it will be 15%. Any outstanding balance on your loan will be forgiven after 20 (for undergraduate loans) or 25 (for graduate loans) years.

The Cons: You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF (this is true for all loan forgiveness).

Income Contingent Repayment Plan

If you have a federal Direct Loan (other than a PLUS loan), you could opt for the Income Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan. Your payments could be as low $5 or even $0.

The Pros: Your monthly payment will be the lesser of 20% of your discretionary income or on a repayment plan with a fixed payment over 12 years. You can have your remaining loan balance forgiven after 25 years of regular payments.

The Cons: You’ll pay more over the lifetime of your loan than you would with a 10-year plan, your payment could be lower than the monthly accrued interest and your loan principal will grow. You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF.

Income Sensitive Repayment (ISR) Plan

The Income Sensitive Repayment (ISR) Plan is only available for those with Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program. Payments are based on your annual income, family size, and total loan amount. You would pay the loan off in fifteen years.

The Pros: Each lender has their own calculation, but generally it is between 4% and 25% of your monthly gross income, although your payment must be greater than or equal to the interest that accrues.

The Cons: It’s only available for up to five years. After that time, you must switch to another repayment plan. You must reapply annually, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll have continued enrollment in the plan.

Pay as You Earn Repayment Plan

The Pay as You Earn Repayment (PAYE) Plan is another option for those not able to afford their current monthly payments.

The Pros: The PAYE plan takes into account your annual income as well as your family size. Your payment will be 10% of your discretionary income. Any outstanding balance on your loan will be forgiven after 20 years.

The Cons: PAYE is only eligible to those who were new borrowers on or after October 1, 2007 and must have received a disbursement of a Direct Loan on or after October 1, 2011. You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF.

Revised Pay as You Earn Repayment Plan

The Revised Pay as You Earn Repayment (REPAYE) Plan is very similar to PAYE. This plan was created to allow more borrowers the opportunity to have their payments lowered to 10% of discretionary income.

The Pros: Not dependent upon when you took out your student loan, the payment will be 10% of your discretionary income. Any outstanding balance on your loan will be forgiven after 20 (for undergraduate loans) or 25 (for graduate loans) years.

The Cons: If you are married, your spouse’s income will be considered whether taxes are filed jointly or separately. You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF.

Summary

Federal student loans offer various ways for repayment. If you are in a situation (like so many others who have taken out student loans) that is not ideal for standard repayment of your loan, consider these options. There is a lot to consider when you are trying to decide which repayment plan to choose. Using the Federal Student Loan Repayment Estimator can help you make your decision by showing you what your payments would be under each of the plans described above.

*A note about loan forgiveness: There are two different kinds of loan forgiveness, Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and loan forgiveness from your income-driven repayment plan ending. While both plans require you to be enrolled in an income-driven plan to reap the benefits there are some key differences:
-PSLF requires being employed at a qualifying employer in public service (non-profits, government, etc.) for 10 years/ 120 qualifying payments before forgiveness takes place. Standard forgiveness is after 20 or 25 years depending on your repayment plan.

-Any loan amounts forgiven under PSLF are tax-free, but not under standard forgiveness! So if you still have a balance on your loans after 20 (or 25) years, you will owe taxes on it as if it is income. While it’s still better than paying the amount back, it’s important to know it will have ramifications.

**Discretionary income = Your income – 150% of the poverty level in your state for your family size

Financial Aid February: How to Accept Your Aid

13 Feb

After reviewing your award notice, all that’s left to do is to accept or reject your offers for the award year. The majority of grants — free money that does not need to be paid back — are automatically accepted on your behalf. However any loans offered will require your decision, and at this point you will need to report any private scholarships you received.

While no official deadline for accepting aid exists, keep in mind that financial aid will not credit to your Purdue invoice until aid is accepted. The Division of Financial Aid recommends you accept aid no less than four weeks before the start of the semester. Each type of aid has unique requirements for acceptance.

 

Federal Loans, Purdue Loans, and Work-Study

  1. Accept the offered aid on myPurdue under the “Financial” tab > “Award for Aid Year” > “Accept Award Offer.”
  2. Follow the directions based on type of aid below.

Subsidized/Unsubsidized Stafford Loans

You will need to complete a Master Promissory Note (MPN) and Loan Entrance Counseling at www.StudentLoans.gov. Sign into the website with the student information and click “Complete MPN” or “Complete Counseling.”

Purdue Loans

Complete a promissory note at ECSI — a third-party servicer Purdue uses for this loan. This is done each year you borrow a Purdue loan.

Federal Work-Study

  • Find a Work-Study job by searching through job postings for student life or other on-campus departments and contacting listed employers for the application process.
  • Once you have secured a Work-Study job, visit the Financial Aid office on campus for a Payroll Authorization Form (PAF). Give this form to your employer when you begin your job. Remember you can only work during the semesters you are enrolled and can pick up the PAF no earlier than the first day of the semester.

Parent PLUS Loans

  1. One parent needs to submit a Parent PLUS Loan application at www.StudentLoans.gov. Sign into the website with the parent information and click “Request PLUS Loan.”
  2. Once credit approved, the same parent, if a first-time Parent PLUS borrower, will complete a Master Promissory Note (MPN) at www.StudentLoans.gov. Sign into the website with the same parent information and click “Complete MPN.”
  3. If credit denied, the parent has several options: replace the Parent PLUS loan with $4,000-$5,000 Unsubsidized Stafford Loan and/or private loan up to the remaining cost, reapply for the Parent PLUS Loan with a co-signer, or reapply with a different parent borrower.

Graduate PLUS Loans

You will need to complete a PLUS Loan application at www.StudentLoans.gov. Sign into the website with the student information and click “Request PLUS Loan.”

Once credit approved, the student, if a first-time Grad PLUS borrower, will complete a Master Promissory Note (MPN) at www.StudentLoans.gov. Sign into the website with the student information and click “Complete MPN.”

Private Loans

  • Research your private loan options. Review our private loan information and search online for lenders. Complete a loan application with your lender. Most lenders have applications available on their website.
  • Once credit approved, contact your lender for the next steps necessary.
  • Your lender will contact the Division of Financial Aid for certification of your loan. Once certified, the loan will appear in your financial aid package on your myPurdue account.

Note that the private loan application process typically takes at least 30 days. Apply as early as you can so that funds arrive in time for the bill due date.

Private Scholarships

Report your private scholarship to the DFA on your myPurdue:

  1. Log in to your myPurdue account.
  2. Under the “Financial” tab > “Award for Aid Year” select current aid year from the drop down box.
  3. Select the “Resources/Additional Information” tab and report your private scholarships.
  4. Don’t forget to give your donor the Bursar address to send a paper check.

Financial Aid February: Understanding your Award Notice

9 Feb

If you — as a newly accepted student — applied for financial aid and submitted all verification information that was requested you should expect to receive an award notice from Purdue Division of Financial Aid (DFA) in late February.

This will be sent to your Purdue.edu email address, which you gain access to by activating your career account. The email notification directs students to view their financial aid offer online in their myPurdue system under the Financial tab. Notifications will also be sent to parents who supplied a parent email address on the FAFSA.

First-time students at Purdue will receive an award letter through postal mail. Families can review the recorded Paying for Purdue Award Notice Webinar online as an additional resource.

Award letter example

While the first place that your eyes will look is undoubtedly the Free Money section, a better place to start is by looking at the estimated Cost of Attendance (COA) on the right side. The COA is not your bill! Rather, it is an estimate of the costs of being a full-time student and living in West Lafayette for the school year. It also shows the maximum amount of aid you are allowed to receive for the year, not what you ought to be taking. Your actual bill will come later once you’ve signed up for courses. The only costs you will owe Purdue directly are for tuition/ fees, a meal plan (if you have one), and housing costs if you live on campus.

Now that you know that maximum amount of aid you can receive, the free money awaits. If you have any grants or scholarships, they will appear here. If you have an outside scholarship and have not reported it yet , you can do that via your myPurdue. Grants and scholarships are the ideal form of aid since you do not have to pay them back!

If you subtract your gift aid from the Cost of Attendance, you are left with your remaining “Net Cost”. You can look to cover this amount with the “self-help aid”, using money you already have, or a combination of the two. This is the amount you must cover with money you either have now or in the future.

The self-help aid section is where your offered loans and work study will show up. While these options aren’t as preferable as free money they are a better option for many than trying to pay out of pocket.Fin Aid Feb Award Notice.jpg

It’s important to know that while work study is a form of financial aid, it does not credit your account like the other forms of aid do! Having work study opens up many employers on and around campus who will only hire work study students. The student still needs to find a job and earn the money which is paid via a bi-weekly paycheck. If you don’t work enough hours to receive your entire work study amount, you don’t receive it. Work study is a good way to be able to supply yourself with spending money throughout the year, but it is not a reliable way to pay your Purdue bill since you receive it after the bill is already due.

The other type of self-help aid is the loan. Every loan is slightly different, both in interest and in the steps you need to take to receive it. Federal loans typically are preferable to private loans and often offer more flexible repayment options as well.

As you review the award notice and look up different Financial Aid Terms, keep in mind that grants and scholarships are types of gift aid that do not need to be repaid. Loans and work-study are types of self-help financial aid that must be repaid either in money or labor.fin_need.png

One question that often comes up is where the FAFSA fits into all of this? The FAFSA’s primary job is to create the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) number, which reflects a family’s anticipated financial strength. The formula for financial need is made by subtracting the EFC from the Cost of Attendance. The remaining amount is the maximum amount of need-based aid a student is eligible for. This can be scholarships/ grants with a need requirement, subsidized loans, or Federal Work Study. It is not guaranteed that your financial need will be filled with need-based aid.

Remember that even if you don’t think you will be eligible for need-based aid, you should still file the FAFSA as some scholarships have it as one of their requirements!

Financial Aid February: Applying for More Aid

7 Feb

The FAFSA registers you to be considered for aid from Purdue and the federal/state government. To be considered for additional Purdue/private scholarships or private loans, you need to take a few extra steps, such as completing a separate application. Additional information about eligibility and steps to apply for each type of resource are listed below:

finaical aid february 2 - applying for more aid.jpg

Purdue Departmental Scholarships

Incoming freshmen need to have a complete admissions application submitted by November 1 to be considered for Purdue’s merit scholarships.

In addition to having a complete admissions application by November 1, new students enrolling in one of the following colleges or schools should also complete the Purdue Supplemental Scholarship Application by January 1, 2017.

  • Agriculture
  • Health & Human Sciences
  • Krannert School of Management
  • Polytechnic Institute

The deadline for incoming freshmen to complete the Purdue Supplemental Scholarship Application is January 1st of the year they intend to enroll. The deadline for the 2017-18 school year closed on January 1st, 2017.

Scholarships awarded through the supplemental scholarship application are based on merit, need, or a combination of the two. If you wish to be considered for those scholarships with a need component you will need to file your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by the January 1 deadline as well.

Current Students: There are different deadlines for different programs:

  • Agriculture — February 1
  • Chemical Engineering — April 1
  • Health and Human Sciences — January 1
  • Liberal Arts — February 15
  • Management — March 2
  • Polytechnic Institute* — March 1

*Polytechnic Institute Statewide students should complete the Supplement Scholarship Application and select Purdue Polytechnic as their school. Polytechnic Institute Statewide students may complete the application through August. 

What You’ll Do:

Go to the Purdue Supplemental Scholarship Application and follow the directions.

Other Purdue Departmental Scholarships

Some schools and departments use applications other than the Purdue Supplemental Scholarship Application. Find your department below to see if you qualify, and also check to see if you qualify for any other scholarships offered at Purdue.

Click here or on the chart below for access to clickable links!1page-0

Private Scholarships

There are many private scholarships available — especially for incoming freshmen — and you should definitely be applying for these as early as possible. Scholarship opportunities can be found in your local community and nationwide and will have different application processes. However, it is important to be wary of scholarship scams. You should not pay a fee to an organization to find scholarship opportunities for you or to complete an application for a scholarship that is offered.

We recommend talking to a guidance counselor or checking out free resources like FastWeb or scholarships.com to learn about opportunities you may be eligible for.

The Bursar’s Office provides details about mailing checks from donors, how they are applied to your bill, and other processing information for private scholarships that you receive.

Remember to thank the sponsor of your scholarship. Learn more here.

Parent PLUS Loans

A Federal Parent PLUS Loan can be taken out by a parent in the parent’s name to help their dependent undergraduate student help pay for college. This loan has the same interest rate for everyone regardless of credit. For more details and information read about Parent PLUS Loans here.

Private Loans

A large number of private education loan options are available to assist you and your family in meeting college costs. Loan applications are completed with your lender of choice and require good credit or a co-signer with good credit. We recommend applying at least 30 days prior to the date you need the funds and complying quickly to information requests from your lender. Read more about student loans.

How to Fill Out the FAFSA When You Have More Than One Child in College

18 Jan

Got 2 or more kids attending college

Having one child who is heading to college can be stressful, but having to help multiple children at the same time can feel like too much to manage. While I can’t save you from a forgotten application deadline or the “how to do your own laundry” lessons, hopefully, I can help make the financial aid part of the process run more smoothly with these tips:

How many FSA IDs will my children and I need? How many FAFSAs do we have to complete?

An FSA ID is a username and password combination that serves as your legal electronic signature throughout the financial aid process—from the first time your children fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid ( FAFSA®) until the time their loans are paid off. You AND each of your children will need your own FSA ID. Parents and students can create their FSA IDs here.

Each of your children will need to fill out a FAFSA. Your children will also need to provide your (parent) information on their 2017–18 FAFSA unless they are going to graduate school, were born before January 1, 1994, or can answer “yes” to any of these questions.

Example: You have three children who are going to or who are in college. You’ll need four FSA IDs—one for you as the parent (only one parent needs an FSA ID) and one for each child. You’ll need to fill out three FAFSAs, one for each child.

Can I transfer my information from one child’s FAFSA to another so I don’t have to re-enter it?

Yes! Once your first child’s FAFSA is complete, you’ll get to a confirmation page. On the confirmation page, you’ll see a hyperlink that says, “transfer your parents’ information into a new FAFSA.” Make sure you have your pop-up blocker turned off and click that link.

TIP: If you want the process to go as smoothly as possible, your second child should have his/her FSA ID handy so you’re ready for the next step.

FAFSA 2017-18 confirmation-transfer sibling info

You’ll then see the alert below confirming that you want to transfer your information to another FAFSA.

FAFSA 2017-18 confirmation-transfer sibling info pop-up

Once you click “OK,” a new window will open allowing your other child to start his or her FAFSA. We recommend that your child starts the FAFSA by entering his or her FSA ID (not your FSA ID) using the option on the left in the image below. However, if you are starting your child’s FAFSA, choose the option on the right and enter your child’s information.


IMPORTANT:  Regardless of who starts the application from this screen, the FAFSA remains the student’s application; so when the FAFSA says “you” it means the student. If the FAFSA is asking for parent information, it will specify that. When in doubt, refer to the left side of the screen. It will indicate whether you’re on a student page (blue) or a parent page (purple).


2017-18 FAFSA Login Page Student or Parent

After you select the FAFSA you’d like to complete and create a save key, you’ll be brought to the introduction page, which will indicate that parental data was copied into your second child’s FAFSA.

FAFSA 2017-18 confirmation transfer sibling info success

Once you reach the parent information page, you will see your information pre-populated. Verify this info, proceed to sign and submit the FAFSA, and you’re done!

NOTE: If you have a third (or fourth, fifth, etc.) child who needs to fill out the FAFSA and provide your information, repeat this process until you’ve finished all your children’s FAFSAs.

I have education savings accounts (529 plan, etc.) for my children. How do I report those on the FAFSA?

You report the value of all education savings accounts owned by you, your child, or any other dependent children in your household as a parent investment. (Read “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?” for more information.) If you have education savings accounts for multiple children, you must report the combined current value of those accounts, even if some of those children are not in college yet or are not completing a FAFSA.

Example: Child 1 and 2 are filling out the FAFSA. Child 3 is in 8th grade. They each have 529 college savings plan accounts in their names.

  • Child 1 account balance: $20,000
  • Child 2 account balance: $13,000
  • Child 3 account balance: $8,000

You would add $41,000 to any other parent investments you’re required to report and input it when asked, “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?” on each of your children’s FAFSAs.

How does having more than one child in college impact the amount of financial aid my children qualify for?

Having multiple children enrolled in college at the same time could have an impact on your children’s eligibility for need-based federal financial aid.


TIP: We often hear about families who choose not to fill out the FAFSA again because they believe that they won’t qualify for grants or scholarships, especially if they did not qualify the previous year. This is a huge mistake, especially if you will have additional children entering college. Read on to learn why.


Schools use the following formula to determine a student’s eligibility for need-based financial aid:

Cost of attendance (COA) – Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = financial need

Let’s break down this formula:

Cost of attendance: This will vary by school, so if you have two children attending different schools with different costs, their financial need may be different, even if their EFC is the same.

Expected Family Contribution: The information you provide on the FAFSA is used to calculate your child’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is a combination of how much a parent and student are expected to contribute towards the student’s cost to attend college. The EFC is not necessarily the amount of money your family will have to pay for college, nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It is a number used by your child’s school to calculate how much financial aid he or she is eligible to receive. Since we recognize that a parent’s annual ability to pay doesn’t change as you have more children enroll in college, we divide the expected parent contribution portion by the number of children you expect to have in college.

Example: Let’s assume that all of your dependent children have identical financial information and that the calculated EFC assuming one child in college would be $10,000. Here’s how each child’s EFC would change depending on the number of family members attending college full-time.

Number of dependent children in college full-time Each child’s EFC
1 $10,000
2 $5,000
3 $3,333
4 $2,500

Financial need: Please note that schools differ (sometimes greatly) in their ability to meet each student’s financial need. To compare average school costs schools based on family income, visit the CollegeScorecard.ed.gov.


Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

Photo by Getty Images

Black Friday Shopping (without hating yourself)

22 Nov

Black Friday.jpg

Black Friday is one of the strangest times of the year. Steep discounts on electronics and other items have people lining up and camping out for these “doorbuster” deals for hours before opening. So, how do you take fullest advantage of the Black Friday savings without regretting the missed hours of sleep? Depending on what you’re looking for, you may be able to save money without all the hassle.

If after scouring the various Black Friday ads, you have found a doorbuster deal that you can’t miss out on you’ll want to be prepared. Find out what time the stores you’re interested in open and plan to be in line well before that depending on the location. At places like Target or Wal-Mart expect people to be setting up shop well ahead of time. Some stores are also open on Thanksgiving for those of you who are willing to forsake their second helping of turkey. In the event you’re going to be part of a (hopefully civilized) mob storming a store, knowing where your desired item is beforehand will probably be the difference in getting it or not.

Remember to keep your receipts from your Black Friday deals that you buy for yourself and to get gift receipts if you’re getting a gift for someone else. It’s an easy details that you can lose in the chaos, but extremely important in the event you need to return it.

The doorbuster deals and people lining up for hours may get all of the attention but there are much easier ways to get those great deals without wasting your Thanksgiving evening or sleep. Aside from a few deals, almost everything will be available online for the same prices. A nice kicker? Many places offer free shipping with their deals as well. You can do this all from the comfort of your own home without waiting in the cold for hours. Additionally, you can wait a few days to check out the Cyber Monday deals as well as comparing with other stores online to see who has the best offers! Overall, you are likely going to get just as great of a deal by shopping online and comparing prices as you are with joining the crazies.

An often overlooked, yet easy, method to get great discounts is by giving into the store’s attempts to connect with you. Follow them on social media, download their apps, register an account on their website, etc. These are all great ways to get exclusive coupons that can add up quickly helping you save big without wading through the crowds.

The experience of joining the pack for the crazy openings may appeal to some, but to many others it is a hassle not even worth contemplating. If you’ve tried it and never want to see that craziness again, or just don’t even want to see it, don’t feel like you can’t get great deals too. Just like any time you are shopping for big-ticket items you just need to compare prices, amass coupons and other discounts and you can come out hundreds of dollars ahead. The work you put in to shop intelligently is well worth the minimal effort it takes.

Create Your FSA ID Today!

24 Oct

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October is the first month you can begin the FAFSA for the 2017-2018 school year! An important part of the FAFSA is creating your FSA ID.

This video by Federal Student Aid walks you through the creation of your FSA ID, which you will use annually to file for federal student aid.

https://videopress.com/embed/RMxM3v1R?hd=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=0&loop=0

Now that you know how to create your FSA ID, click here to get started!

Which Jobs Should You Be Applying For?

15 Jul

Searching for your first job out of college can be a daunting task. While it may seem like graduation is forever away, it’s actually right around the corner. Not only do you have to learn how to apply for your first real job, you have to figure out which jobs you even want to apply for. Between tweaking your resume and creating cover letters, you’ll quickly realize you can’t apply for every opening. With your limited time, you have to choose which jobs to apply for and what jobs end up being passed over. So here are five tips on figuring out which jobs you should be applying for.first job search post college advice.jpg

#1. Pick your priority

Figure out what your priority is when job searching. Many people won’t even consider job searching outside of the area in which they live, while others are looking for an escape. There are a lot of factors that go into figuring out which job you’ll want, and if you know what your #1 priority is, deciding whether or not to apply for a job makes it that much easier. Here are some different factors to help you find your priority:

  • Location – Many people are tied to one area due to family or their significant others. To them, relocating isn’t an option. Others would like nothing more than a change of scenery; therefore, relocating isn’t a problem.
  • Pay/ Salary – We all need money, but for some people the desire for high pay trumps all other potential priorities.
  • Opportunity for Advancement – Especially if it’s your first job, potential advancement opportunities can make a big difference, as you don’t have to switch employers for upward mobility.
  • Specific Job Field – This may seem like a given for your search, but if you found a job outside of your field that meet all your other requirements, would the field matter?
  • Benefits Package – Typically not the #1 priority, but flexibility, vacation time, healthcare, dental, daycare, or even student loan repayment vary greatly from one employer to the next.
  • Making a Difference – Not all jobs pay well monetarily, but instead rely more on the feeling of making a positive difference in the world.
  • Employer Size – Working at a major company has a lot of exciting benefits to some people. Or maybe you’d feel more comfortable in a smaller, more intimate type of setting?
  • Job Security – Getting that first job is no good if you are laid off right away. If this is your priority, you may be willing to compromise for a job with decent security.

#2 Remember, it’s your first job, not your dream job

If your first job happens to end up being your dream job, congratulations! For the rest of us who make an average of seven career changes in our working lives, the key to a successful first job is using it as a launching pad. Look for jobs that have advancement opportunities or marketable skills to help you propel yourself throughout your career.

You don’t want to end up in a job you hate, but it’s important to remember that this job can be a valuable experience to help land you your dream job down the road. This is especially true if you are leaving college without a lot of experience in your field.

Keep in mind that the salary will be entry-level, as well. Don’t be surprised if you’re not offered the median salary in your industry since you don’t have much, if any, field experience. If you do well, you can earn your advancement in pay or position by moving up within the company or with another employer.

#3 Know yourself

Before you accept a job, be sure that it’s a job you want and not one that parents, counselors, or friends want for you. Hopefully you have had enough life experience to know not only what your priorities are, but what equates to a deal-breaker for you. Does a typical 9-5 sound ideal or does working varied hours sound more appealing? Do you prefer to travel for work or would you prefer to be in the same location every day? Be sure it’s what you actually want or you could be back to job searching again before you know it. This job needs to fit your current lifestyle, not only the “what-if” scenarios you’ve considered for your future.

#4 It takes time (and it might be your job for a while)

Unemployment is not much fun after the first couple weeks, as concerns about being able to pay your bills—and eventually student loans—become reality. It takes time to fill out applications and tweak your resume for each job. Remember that until you find your full-time job, your job is to job search. It is exhausting applying for various jobs for eight hours a day, but it’s better than not being able to make your ends meet.

#5 Utilize your network

If you’re still in school, you’re going to want to take advantage of all those free lunches and other events put on to meet your professors and other staff. Not only do these people have connections outside of your college, they can also be great resources for the future. Talk to them and find out how they got their foot in the door! Don’t be shy about asking for an informational interview from these people. Many have a vested interest in seeing you succeed and will go out of their way to help you. Just be sure to make a good impression while you still can!

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