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College Corner: Scoring free money for college

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[/media-credit] Academic advisor Michelle Warkentin speaks to seniors regarding the FAFSA and scholarship opportunities.

With the start of the New Year come New Year’s resolutions. However one resolution that may not be on your radar is lowing the price tag on your college tuition. There are many ways to do this but the most immediate one is filling the FAFSA (Free Application For Federal Student Aid) (www.fafsa.ed.gov).

The priority application submission period began on Jan. 1 and is open until March 2. However, the sooner you complete the form the better your chances of receiving financial aid.

I will not be going over all the details of the FAFSA in this article, but simply pointing out the main topics of interest for our seniors and their families. First off, you should complete the application whether you think you have a chance of receiving aid or not.

Some colleges will not grant scholarship money to a student if they did not fill out the FAFSA. Abigail Seldin, co-founder of College Abacus, said in a U.S. News and World Report article, that a free college cost comparison tool encourages students to completely fill out the FAFSA.

“Most financial aid in the U.S. is awarded by universities rather than the government, and you usually can’t qualify for need-based or merit-based aid without a FAFSA on file.”

Many families who would not have qualified for state aid in the previous years are now eligible if they meet the salary requirements for the Middle-Class Scholarship, according to the California Student Aid Commission. Families are automatically considered for this scholarship through their submission of the FAFSA.

In order to qualify, a student must attend a CSU or UC school and have a family income of $150,000 or less. During the 2016-17 school year, students who qualify will receive a scholarship of up to 20% of the mandatory statewide tuition and fees (this will increase to 40% in 2017-18). This is just one of the many need based scholarships available through the FAFSA.

I often ask students, how much time do you spend on social media per day? Cut this time in half and spend that portion of time looking for scholarships. Students must take the initiative. The Bible talks about honoring our father and mother, this is a way to honor your parents. What a great way to serve them by helping to pay your way through college. — Michelle Warkentin, FCS academic advisor

Debbie Coppers, Assistant Director of Financial Aid for Undergraduate Admissions at Cal Baptist University, emphasizes the importance of completing the FAFSA.

“I have heard many stories where a student did not think they were going to be able to afford tuition at CBU and then because of a scholarship or grant they were able to work it out.”

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[/media-credit] The priority application submission period began on Jan. 1 and is open until March 2.

However, it does not just come down to filling out the FAFSA, if students are serious about paying for college they need to do the leg work on finding scholarships that apply to them and their interests and talents. Coppers encourages students to apply for outside scholarships and even search on websites like Google for scholarships that may fit the students specific needs.

“I often ask students, how much time do you spend on social media per day,” Warkentin said. Cut this time in half and spend that portion of time looking for scholarships. Students must take the initiative. The Bible talks about honoring our father and mother, this is a way to honor your parents. What a great way to serve them by helping to pay your way through college.”

Coppers is right, so many students depend on their parents to pay their way through college. However, in many family situations, this is not feasible. And in these cases students take on huge amounts of debt to get through college and are then stuck paying off student loans for the next 15-20 years.

As I often tell students, searching for scholarships is worth the hourly wage. If you spend 10 hours applying for scholarships and end up getting a $500 scholarship that totals out to $50 per hour. I don’t know about you but I haven’t met too many high school students making that kind of money. So the moral of this story is apply for aid wherever you can and for as much as you can. You may be surprised with what you find.

To learn more about the FAFSA and find informational workshops in our local area visit local Eventbrite Cash For College Events page or contact Michelle Warkentin or through her office extension: 559.299.1695, ext. 126.

Warkentin publishes College Corner three-five times a semester. Please read her Nov. 20 column, “College Corner: Out of state tuition.”

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