Webcast Tonight on Paying for College: The Secrets and Surprises

Our next ExpertAccess webcast -- "Paying for College: The Secrets and Surprises" -- will show you how to:

  • Reduce your college costs by thousands of dollars each year
  • Learn which colleges consistently deliver aid to families earning $100,000 annually and which will disappoint $25,000-a-year families
  • Identify which admission strategies work at all schools and which popular strategies do not work at any

Larry Dannenberg, one of the nation's leading experts on financial aid who has spoken on NPR and Fox TV, will help families understand the forms, the formulas, and the loans. You'll be surprised to learn how colleges will look at you and how you can optimize your chances of getting financial aid.

WHEN: Tuesday, November 19 @ 8 pm ET

Click here to register for FREE now! 

Get Your Financial Aid Questions Answered

Fill it out, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

For those families who are still wondering how they will be paying for college, The New York Times' Choice Blog has posted Part 1 of a series answering your questions about the Fafsa here.  For those of you still not familiar, Fafsa stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and it is what all applicants need to submit in order to qualify for financial aid.

One common question is whether there is a particular cutoff of eligibility above which families will not receive aid. According to financial aid expert Mark Krantowitz, there is no cutoff. Rather it depends on various factors including the number of people in your household and how many unusual expenses you may have. In fact, many applicants decide not to apply, mistakenly believing that they would not qualify: "More than 1.7 million students failed to file the Fafsa in 2007-8 because they incorrectly believed themselves ineligible for financial aid. More than a third would have qualified for the federal Pell Grant, and about half of these students would have qualified for a full Pell Grant."

To see more answers to common financial aid questions, click here.

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Don’t Miss Applying for Aid

How will you pay for college?

Now that we’re in January, and many of you have finished your applications, more questions may be popping up regarding paying for college. Here are a few frequently asked questions that you may find helpful.

1. What is the difference between loans, grants, and scholarships?

Grants and scholarship are free monetary awards and do not need to be paid back. Grants may be offered without service requirements like Pell Grants, or with research requirements as is often the case of graduate students. Scholarships can be awarded on various criteria including merit, talent, major, or ethnicity. Loans must be repaid, with interest.

2. I probably won’t qualify for financial aid. Should I apply anyway?

Yes. It’s free to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, so even though you don’t think you’ll receive aid, it’s worth trying. You may also qualify for other sources of aid such as unsubsidized Stafford and PLUS loans that are available regardless of need.

3. Do I need to be admitted to a particular university before I can apply for aid?

No. You can apply for financial aid any time after January 1. However, to receive the funds, you must be admitted and enrolled at the university.

For more information on filling out the FAFSA, check out these questions and answers addressed by expert Mark Kantrowitz in the NY Times Choice blog.

Scholarships Provide a Needed Financial Break to Students

Would You Turn Away Free Money?

With college expenses rising, and many family budgets shrinking, pursuing scholarships can give a needed financial break to applicants and parents alike. Claudia Buck recently published this informative piece in The Olympian detailing one student’s scholarship search. Connor Quinn, a high school senior, ended up applying for over 80 scholarships, winning 22 awards totaling $22,700.

With the average tuition to private universities nearing $40,000 per year and financial aid budgets decreasing, scholarship money is becoming more of a necessity, and students are often unaware of how prevalent it can be. Buck writes that, according to estimates, there are over 1 million scholarships offering over $3 billion in free money.

While it takes some extra preparation, national college financial aid expert Mark Kantowitz explains that it doesn’t have to be overwhelming: “It isn't as much work as it seems. The first few will take maybe one hour per scholarship, but after you do your first half-dozen, you can adapt one essay to the next one. So instead of taking one hour to write an essay, you're taking 20 minutes.”

While it did take an extra effort, Quinn walked away with some non-material benefits as well, becoming more confident and grateful through the process. Quinn stated, “When I first started, I was really shy and stumbled during interviews…and it made me appreciate work and the value of a dollar.”