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Tips to finding help for college financial aid

Accessing financial assistance for college can be trying and even so for families going through the process for the first time. A national program was created first by the Indiana Student Financial Aid Association to assist students and families with financial aid assistance. As time passed more and more state associations have joined the movement to provide on-site, professional guidance through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Tips to finding help for college financial aid

How College Goal Sunday Works

College Goal Sunday program varies state to state. Every state has an association for financial aid counselors, usually called association for financial aid administrators. The associations set up an on-site workshop for families for free. At the workshop families access the FAFSA form and learn how to complete it for processing. Information on locations offering workshop are posted on the College Goal Sunday website.

Families interested in attending a workshop need only to find the time and location of the event and show up. The workshop is staffed by financial aid counselors who volunteer their time to assisting families. These professionals work daily with college financial aid resources and can greatly assist families through the complicated process. As professionals the volunteers will practice confidentiality and privacy for each family’s financial situation.

What to Bring to a College Goal Sunday Event

The College Goal Sunday website outlines the items that families need to bring to the workshops. The first time to bring is a Social Security number, alien registration or permanent resident card for the student and each parent. If a card is not available, then the number can just be provided at time of the meeting. Additionally, a driver’s license or state Identification Card is also helpful.

Tax returns for the previous year and the year prior are also needed at the time of the meeting. The returns are needed for both the student, if filed, and for the parents. If the family received untaxed income, such as welfare or Social Security, then those records also need to be brought to the workshop.

The last type of information needed is records of assets. Families that own multiple properties, have stocks, utilize savings accounts or Certificate of Deposits, or other types of investments, need to provide that information as well.

Common Questions about the FAFSA Answered by College Goal Sunday

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High schools around the country hire school counselors to support students and families. One such support is assistance with college investigation and planning; however, school counselors are not experts in financial aid. Most of the school counselors have some background with the financial aid process, but they are not financial experts.

Families usually have the same types of questions about the FAFSA that school counselors can not answer. School counselor will often suggest that families access the financial aid counselor at the selected college or to the family’s financial advisor.

At College Goal Sunday the volunteers will assist families to answer common questions. The following are some example of common questions:

Can the student claim themselves as independent?
In the case of a divorce, which parent fills out the FAFSA?
Is financial aid automatically denied to students who have a past drug conviction of selling or possessing illegal drugs?
What is the FAFSA deadline?
How does a student create a FAFSA online account?

Overall, families can obtain solid assistance for FAFSA completion; however, families need to access the opportunity. Forty-three states offer this type of assistance, so families need to set aside time to meet with volunteers if they need further help.

Searching for College Scholarships

If the prospect of paying for your college education is freaking you out, you’re not alone! The thought of paying off consolidated student loans for years can feel pretty overwhelming, as is the process of filling out complicated financial aid forms. Free money is not going to fall from the sky to pay for your college education? Or is it?

No, don’t stand with a bucket on your front porch waiting for the money to fall. But what you should do is spend some time looking for and applying to as many scholarships as you can. Scholarships are the easiest way to help students afford their education. There’s billions of dollars out there from people who want to help students like you make their way through college. All you have to do is find those billions of dollars– or at least your fair share of it.

So, how do you go about searching for scholarships? More than anything else, the trick is persistence. Devote some serious hours to the task of finding and applying for as many scholarships as you can. Resist the urge to be lazy. You’ll get lots of rejections, and you’ll just have to suck it up and keep trying. In the end, if you wind up with a few thousand dollars or more for college than what you started with, it will be worth it.

As you search for scholarships, here are some good places to look:

financial aid

The Internet. Scholarship websites have made it much easier to find money than it used to be. Register for multiple free scholarship databases such as Scholarship.com, FastWeb.com, and CollegeBoard.com’s scholarship search. Be persistent and check back with these websites often. One word of caution: don’t limit your scholarship search to just the Internet. Yes, this is a great resource, but there are other ways to find money as well.

High school guidance counselors and college advisors. Don’t forget that there are people out there who are paid to help students navigate the system. A simple question like, “Can you tell me some good places to find out about scholarships?” can really help. If they know a little bit about you, they might be able to recommend particular scholarships.

Organizations that help students like you. Many organizations set aside money to give to certain kinds of students. There are scholarships for African Americans, women, members of religious groups, first generation college students, returning college students, nursing students, single parents, athletes, musicians, aspiring nurses, and all kinds of people.

Local organizations. Businesses and other organizations give out scholarship money because it’s good publicity. Find out what businesses in your community award scholarships. Your high school guidance counselor can help you with this task.

Alumni scholarships. Many colleges and universities have scholarships for children and grandchildren of former students.

Weird scholarships. There are some pretty odd scholarships out there. Don’t rule them out! Here’s a list of some unusual college scholarships.

Your parents’ employers or organizations. Some employers have scholarships specifically for children of employees, and some clubs and organizations offer scholarships to children of members.

Your academic department or college. Most college departments and colleges have a list of scholarships that are only offered to students at your school. Once you are in college, ask a professor or academic advisors what scholarships are available and how to qualify.

Academic associations. Almost all areas of study have an academic association for professors in that field. For example, there’s the National Communication Association for communication professors. These groups frequently offer scholarships. Do an Internet search for the group that represents your major and find out what scholarships are available.

Use your imagination and think of organizations you might look to for financial assistance. And don’t give up. There’s plenty of money out there that has to go to someone. It may as well be you.

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