The Best Scholarship Search Platforms

College is the most expensive it’s ever been. With tuition rates rising an average of 3.5% every year, the average undergraduate now finishes their degree with over $37,000 in student debt.

Scholarships are one of the best ways to reduce these growing costs and scholarship search platforms exist to help students find the most relevant ones. These platforms compile large databases of available scholarships and provide filters to allow students to maximize their searches.

We created this guide to review the best scholarship search platforms and instruct students on how to use them effectively to find as many opportunities as possible.

To determine the best scholarship search platforms, we spent over 200 hours researching 17 of the most popular sites across five core metrics including search functionality, scholarship availability, ease of use, application tools, and additional helpful resources.

The best scholarship search platform was Fastweb. They scored the highest out of all 17 platforms because they were the easiest to use, had the most tools, and had among the most available scholarships with the highest dollar amounts. This search engine is best for most students including high school, undergraduate, and graduate.

We also recommend Cappex. This platform scored consistently high in the most important categories of scholarship availability, ease of use, and tools. It is the best and best for students who want to be able to apply for and track the status of a large number of scholarships.

Click Here to read more.

  • Article taken from PHEAA & Reviews.com

35th Annual Chester County College Fair

Date: Monday, November 13, 2017

Time: 7 PM – 9 PM

Place: Exton Square Mall 260  Exton Square Parkway   Exton, PA 19341

Admission is free.

Representatives from 230+ colleges nationwide meet with students and their parents at Chester County’s premier college fair hosted by the Chester County Intermediate Unit.

Click Here for additional information.

 

12th Annual College Expo and Career Day

Date: Saturday, October 14, 2017

Time: 8:30 AM – 3PM

Place: Henderson High School, 400 Montgomery Avenue, West Chester PA 19380

The morning seminars include Financial Literacy, Understanding the FAFSA form, and College Preparedness which are always well attended.  Corporate partners such as West Pharmaceutical Services, LaFrance Corporation, ifm efector, Inc., and CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania) will be available to share information advising attendees how to prepare for and be successful in various STEM-related and medical careers.  Also available for students and parents is a round-table discussion featuring current college students sharing their strategies for academic success and insights to the college experience. 

PHEAA Urges Families to be Wary of Financial Aid Offers

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is warning students in the commonwealth to be extremely cautious if they are solicited by any company offering federal student aid assistance (FAFSA), scholarship searches, or student loan debt relief.  These companies typically charge significant upfront fees for services – sometimes through non-existing programs – that are readily available for free from the federal government. 
Some good, credible FREE sites to assist with student aid search include EducationPlanner.org, MySmartBorrowing.org, StudentAid.ed.gov, and StudentLoans.gov.  In addition, Pennsylvanians can visit NerdWallet’s Watch List which names companies that charge for fraudulent or questionable debt relief services. 
Students and families who believe they have been targeted or victimized by a scam should file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/  or the Federal Trade Commission at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/media/video-0054-how-file-complaint.
High school seniors and college students can check out all that PHEAA has to offer by visiting their facebook page or follow them on twitter.  There you will find ways to lower college costs and a financial aid checklist.  Also, new to PHEAA is the ability for borrowers to chat with staff with questions pertaining to recently submitted forms or requests, repayment options, deferment, and school enrollment status.  The chat option is available Monday through Friday from 12-4 p.m.  For more information please visit www.pheaa.org.   

Private Student Loans Guide – Eligibility, Costs, Repayment, & Warnings

Private Student Loans as a Tool to Pay for College

With the rising cost of a higher education, more and more students are taking out loans each year to help finance it. In fact, 7 out of 10 students who graduated in 2015 had student debt—with the average amount being just under $30,000.

While there are other ways to help pay for education, such as scholarships and grants, these are almost never nearly enough to cover the huge price tag of a college degree. Though it isn’t necessary to attend college to be successful, many jobs that are attractive to young adults require a college degree.

Though many people see student loans as negative, when it comes down to it, they are truly an investment in your future. Having a college degree opens up countless doors that would otherwise be locked to those who only a high school diploma. Many jobs won’t even look at the applications of those without one—no matter how intelligent they may be.

If students are smart about their debt and take their education seriously, they don’t have to be the lifelong burden that so many people try to make them out to be. However, because these loans are a risk, those entering into college should strongly consider there future career options and what major is necessary to obtain that career.

Under most circumstances, you will have to pay back all of your student loans. It is crucial to have a plan on what you will do after college and how you will pay pack your student loans. Thinking about all of this before you even step foot in your freshman dorm will give you a leg up on other borrowers and will put you on track for a (relatively) stress-free repayment process.

It is easy to get caught up in the seemingly countless number of options when it comes to the best places for student loans. Though this guide will mainly focus on private student loans, we will first go over how they are different from federal student loans and the basics of each.

Federal Student Loans vs. Private Student Loans

There are two types of educational loans—federal and private. Each of these have their own perks and downfalls but both can help students and their families pay for their higher education. It is important to understand both before determining which is best for you. Though the government is typically considered the best place for student loans, private lenders do have some benefits as well.

The following video gives a quick overview of the steps you should take when paying for college.

Federal student loans are given by the Department of Education, which as mentioned, is typically considered the best place for student loans. These usually are the student loans with the lowest interest rates. In order to receive these loans, students and their parents must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or the FAFSA. This form takes in basic information about the financial situation of families, such as income. Based off of this, the government determines the Expected Family Contribution, or EFC for short.

After the EFC is calculated, the government may offer students grants, scholarships, and/or loans. The lower the EFC, the more likely students are to receive need-based help in the form of scholarships and grants. Everyone who fills out the FAFSA will be offered some type of federal educational loan.

There are two main categories of federal student loans—subsidized and unsubsidized. Students with a low EFC are typically offered subsidized loans. For these, the government pays the accrued interest while the student is in school. This means that the principal will stay the same as long as the borrower is enrolled. The government does not pay the interest on unsubsidized loans, leaving students and their families responsible for paying it. These are typically reserved for families who can afford to contribute more towards tuition payments.

As of June of 2016, most federal student loans have an interest rate of 3.76% for undergraduates. These are low interest student loans that private lenders typically can’t compete with. This rate is typically lower than what is offered by private lenders. Usually families only turn to private student loans after they have exhausted all of their federal options.

Banks, credit unions, and private lenders all may offer private student loans. The main difference of private student loans is that they are, in most cases, based solely on the credit of the borrower and, if applicable, his or her cosigner. Private lenders perform a credit check to determine if customers are eligible for loans and, if they are, what they’re interest rate is.

So now you know the federal government is, in most cases, the best place for student loans first. After you use all federal student loans, you can then turn to private student loans.

Studentloans.net

Click Here to visit SLR.net for more information.

PARENTS GUIDE TO PAYING FOR COLLEGE

If you have a child that is in the Junior or Senior year of high school, he or she may be considering attending college to obtain a more advanced education. While it is certainly exciting to see your child getting ready to this step, the huge price tag of college may cause some stress and anxiety, and rightfully so. The costs of college have increased steadily for decades, and don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.

No parents want to see their child struggle financially due to having to pay for college alone, or even worse, have their child not be able to attend because of insufficient funds. Though there is no requirement to pay, or help pay, for their child’s higher education, many parents want to contribute as much as possible.

In this guide, we will go over the costs of college, the options for financing it, and what options you have to help as a parent. In addition, we recommend that you have your child check out our Financial Aid, Scholarships, and Student Loans 101 Course so he or she has an idea of the various ways to pay for college.

Click Here to read more.

-LendEdu

7 WEBSITES TO HELP WITH THE COLLEGE APPLICATION PROCESS

The worldwide web can be a big help in helping students research for college. KSL published a list of 7 key sites than can help students with their college applications. Here is a quick summary:

1. LinkedIn University Finder: LinkedIn is a handy tool that can help your students choose the right schools to apply to. They tell the website what they want to study, where they want to live, where they want to work and what career they want to have, and LinkedIn will pop out a list of schools that will give them the best path.

2. Petersons: Petersons offers a comprehensive list of undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as online programs that they can compare and contrast to find the right program for them. They can also find test prep, study resources, a scholarship search, essay writing assistance and resume help.
3. EssaysCapital: Need help writing their admission essay? If so, the professional writers at Essays Capital can help. All the writers have advanced degrees and can help workshop your students writing. They will also do a professional edit before the student attaches his/her essay to their application.

4. Admitted.ly: Admitted.ly is a free website that guides them through the application process. One fun tool is the college finder. Unlike LinkedIn’s finder, which is based on practical factors like career goals and ideal location, Admitted.ly’s finder tool focuses on more specific, personal preferences like their religion and their feelings about tattoos and piercings. The site also includes over 200 lessons with advice on things like essay writing and SAT prep.

5. Stat Fuse: Is your student worried about their chances of being accepted to their dream school? Stat Fuse will tell them how likely they are to get past the application process. If their not happy with the results, they can either ignore them and apply anyway or decide to put their efforts into a school that offers better odds.

6. College Confidential: College Confidential is the largest college forum in the world. The discussions on the forum will give your students insights and help them decide which college they should attend, what will matter the most to them during the search process and answer their financial aid questions.

7. BigFuture: BigFuture is a convenient website where they can find college application information, financial aid, guidance on scholarships and a personalized step-by-step plan for getting through the entire college search and application process. The tailored college plan is based on students’ interests, their current grade level, their financial need and what they are most looking forward to about the college experience. There’s also a section that explains different college majors so they can begin to get an idea of what interests them.

The college application process is going to be stressful; there’s no getting around it. But with these websites, at least you’ll have a little help along the way.

 

Free Virtual College Fair

Picking a college just got a whole lot easier! Join us for All Access Day March where you can get honest feedback from current students at schools you’re considering attending, chat with admissions reps, and get expert tips on finding the college that’s just right for you. This is one of the biggest online college fairs of the year, with hundreds of colleges & universities participating!

Date: Thursday, March 31st

Time: 10 AM – 10 PM

Bonus: Visit five schools during this free online event & you’ll be automatically entered to win a $5,000 scholarship!

Click Here to sign up!

College Board’s Net Price Calculator

The Net Price Calculator is a tool that students can use to estimate their “net price” to attend a particular college or university.  Net price is the difference between the “sticker” price (full cost) to attend a specific college, minus any grants and scholarships for which students may be eligible. Sticker price includes direct charges (tuition and fees, room and board) and indirect costs (books and supplies, transportation, and personal expenses).

How does it work?

  1. First, the Net Price Calculator looks at the sticker price.
  2. Then, using the financial information you enter into the calculator, the Net Price Calculator estimates the amount of money your family would be expected to contribute to pay for college.
  3. Finally, the Net Price Calculator evaluates your eligibility for financial aid at specific colleges by matching your financial and personal characteristics to the criteria that schools use to distribute financial aid (need-based grants as well as merit-based scholarships).

CLICK HERE to find your school’s net price calculator!

FAFSA Tips and Common Mistakes to Avoid

-Modified from NASFAA

The best way to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is early, online, and without any mistakes. If you aren’t yet ready to file a FAFSA, the Department of Education’s FAFSA4caster tool can help you estimate your eligibility for federal student aid by providing some basic information.

Apply Early

Many states and colleges use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for nonfederal student aid funds that may have early deadlines or limited funding. The sooner you complete the FAFSA the more aid you could be eligible for.

Completing your taxes early will help you get a jump on the FAFSA, but you don’t need to complete your taxes in order to apply for federal student aid. You can use data from previous tax years to estimate figures needed to complete the FAFSA, but you’ll need to correct these figures on the form later by going to the corrections page on the FAFSA website. If you know you will be late filing your taxes, it is better to complete your FAFSA with estimated information than to wait until your taxes have been filed.

Apply Online

Online applications are easier to complete because it uses skip-­‐logic to only ask relevant questions. In addition, online applications will be processed faster and will likely be more accurate because the FAFSA website is designed to catch common errors. The U.S. Department of Education provides a Pre-­Application Worksheet that will help you collect and proofread information for your application before you submit it. You can create a FSA ID that will allow easy access to your electronic FAFSA application. Additionally, this will enable save options, electronic signature and timely submission of your application. You can obtain your FSA ID and get more information on the FSA website.

IRS Data Retrival

When you apply online, you will be given the option to retrieve your IRS Data to automatically populate the FAFSA. This option simplifies the application process, helps reduce errors and lowers your chances of being selected to verify the information on your FAFSA. To take advantage of this feature, you’ll need to complete your taxes first. It will take roughly two weeks for your taxes to be processed. After this time, you should be able to retrieve this information to automatically populate the corresponding questions on the FAFSA.

Avoid Common Errors

Mistakes can delay your application and limit the amount of aid you are eligible to receive. To avoid errors, carefully read all of the questions on the FAFSA. Some of the most common FAFSA errors are:

  • Leaving blank fields: Too many blanks may cause miscalculations and an application rejection. Enter a ‘0’ or ‘not applicable’ instead of leaving a blank.
  • Using commas or decimal points in numeric fields: Always round to the nearest dollar.
  • Listing an incorrect Social Security Number or driver’s license number: Double-­‐check and triple-­‐check these entries to ensure accuracy. If your parents do not have Social Security Numbers, list 000‐00-­0000. Do not make up a number or include a Taxpayer Identification Number.
  • Failing to use your legal name: Your name must be listed on your FAFSA as it appears on your Social Security card. Don’t enter nicknames or other variations on your name.
  • Entering the wrong address: Don’t enter a temporary campus or summer address as your permanent address.
  • Entering the wrong federal income tax paid amount: This amount is on your income tax return forms, not your W‐2 form(s). If you haven’t filed your taxes, you can estimate this amount using previous tax year information and correct the amounts later on the corrections page of the FAFSA website.
  • Listing Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) as equal to total income from working: AGI and total income from working are not necessarily the same. In most cases, the AGI is larger than the total income from working.
  • Incorrectly filing income taxes as head of household: If there is an error in the head of household filing status, the school will need an amended tax return to be filed with the IRS before paying out aid awards.
  • Listing marital status incorrectly: The Department of Education wants to know your marital status on the day you sign the FAFSA. If you are in a legally recognized same-­sex marriage, you will need to provide your spouse’s information as well.
  • Listing parent marital status incorrectly: If your custodial parent has remarried, you’ll need to include the stepparent’s information on the FAFSA. If you have two parents in a legally­‐recognized same-­‐sex marriage, you’ll need to list both parents (one as Parent 1, and one as Parent 2)
  • Failure to list both parents if they live together: If both your legal parents (defined as biological or adoptive parents) live in the same household, you are required to list both parents on the FAFSA even if they are not married.
  • Failure to report unborn children: If you have a child that will be born before or during the award year and you will provide the child with more than half of his or her support, count that child as a member of the household.
  • Failing to count yourself as a student: The student completing the FAFSA must count himself or herself as a member of the household attending college during the award year.
  • Failing to register with Selective Service: If you are a male, aged 18 to 26, you must register with Selective Service. Failure to register will make you ineligible for federal student aid.
  • Forgetting to list the college: Obtain the Federal School Code for the college you plan on attending and list it along with any other schools you’ve applied to attend.
  • Forgetting to sign and date: If you’re filling out the paper FAFSA, be sure to sign it.
  • Sending in a copy of your income tax returns: You do not need to include a copy of your tax returns with your FAFSA. Any information sent with your FAFSA will be destroyed. In addition, do not write any notes in the margins of your FAFSA.

What you Need to Complete the FAFSA

  1. Social Security Number (can be found on Social Security card)
  2. Driver’s license (if any)
  3. W-­2 Forms for the previous year and other records of money earned
  4. Most recent Federal Income Tax Return – IRS Form 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, 1040Telefile, foreign tax return
  5. Records of child support paid (if applicable)
  6. Records of taxable earnings from federal work-­‐study or other need-­‐based work programs
  7. Records of any grants, scholarships, and fellowship aid that was included in your or your parents’ adjusted gross income (AGI)
  8. Current bank statements
  9. Current business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, stock, bond, and other investment records
  10. Documentation of U.S. permanent resident or other eligible noncitizen

Get Help

Check the Help section of the FAFSA website or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-­800-­4­‐FED AID (1-‐800-‐433-‐3243). The Department of Education also provides answers to frequently-­‐asked questions about the FAFSA, and FAFSA on the Web Live Help, a secure online chat session that allows you to ask questions of customer-­‐service representatives.

Look for a free FAFSA event in your area to get professional assistance filling out the FAFSA. Financial aid administrators across the country participate in these free FAFSA events to help students and families fill out the form accurately.