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So, how are you handling all the information about financial aid? You know about the FAFSA and you have probably heard/read about the CSS Profile. Do you know that there are LOTS of resources out there to help you? I’ve been on a fishing expedition at the local library and online. The good news is that there is almost an overwhelming number of resources, the not-so-good-news is that it can be tough to wade through all of it!

When I am talking with students and parents, I am pointing them in the direction of these books and sites… there are certainly more resources available… this is a good start!

SallieMae, How to Pay for College, a Practical Guide for Families, by Gen and Kelley Tanabe is really written for parents… and realistically, tackling the challenge of paying for college from all sides, really divvying up the work involved in researching the possibilities, sounds like a great plan to me. It’s also the basis for conversations, with parents and teens coming to the table with information to discuss. This book is a wealth of information and the site, www.salliemae.com provides online calculators. I also like the advice from the experts throughout the book.

Peterson’s, Paying for College, is a rather dry yet thorough little book. I have to say that I really like the chapters, Crack the Code: What Deal Did You Really Get?, If I Only Knew, and Top 19 Questions Parents and Students Should Ask. Don’t miss those chapters!

How To Go To College Almost for Free, Ben Kaplan, and his website, www.scholarshipcoach.com is a pleasure to read. I really enjoyed the comfortable, almost chatty, approach to the topic… The book was easy to read and the site was fun and useful.

The format of Winning Scholarships for College, by Marianne Ragins is more traditional than some… yet there’s lots of great information, and her site, www.scholarshipworkshop.com is chockfull. I have to say that I got lost for over half an hour just reading through the “Unusual Scholarship Opportunities,” such as these
“Stuck at Prom” Contest from the Henkel Consumer Adhesives, Inc. Duck Brand Duct Tape
Klingon Language Institute, Kor Memorial Scholarship, to recognize and encourage scholarship in the fields of language study
The Patrick Kerr Skateboard Scholarship
All American Apple Pie Recipe Contest from the Culinary Institute of America
The SAMMY Award (Scholar Athlete Milk Mustache of the Year)

How to go to College on a Shoestring is really “the whole enchilada” in terms of information about the college search and selection process, though the chapter titles hide the detailed nature of the information. Ann Marie O’Phelan offers up great research about scholarships, grants and fellowships, ways to save money once you’re in college, an appendix full of resources and a great bibliography… just in case you don’t have enough to read!

I have to say that I am partial to the big, fat books with a gazillion pages AND a CD that starts the winnowing process for me… and so I took a look and a spin with the CD from The Scholarship Book, 12th edition, by Daniel Cassidy and the Ellen Schneid Coleman Research Group (2006). In fact, the book lists scholarships, fellowships, grants and loans… yet the information is arranged by subject area, which is fine IF you know what area you are interested in… yet over half the students preparing to go to college are undecided as to their major…. On the “plus” side, there is a “general” section and there’s a very good list of college guides… but the CD is just pdfs of the book’s pages, so there’s no voodoo going on and spitting back answers to you (as the Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges does)… Too bad!

Nathan Brown and Sheryle Propers book, The Everything Paying for College Book feels like a book from the Idiot’s Guide, or Dummies series… and I have to admit I like that easy to read, point out the essential “stuff,” format.

The 2009 Scholarship Handbook, the CollegeBoard, now, here’s a treasure trove to sift through, made easier by format. This is a book that helps you learn the language of financial aid. I love it’s rather austere, straight to the info approach, and even more, I love the scholarship search program at www.collegeboard.com.

And, check out these sites!
http://www.salliemae.com
http://apps.collegeboard.com/cbsearch_ss/welcome.jsp
http://www.fastweb.com/
http://www.scholarships.com/
http://www.scholarshipcoach.com
http://www.collegeanswer.com/paying/content/pay_free_money.jsp
http://www.careersandcolleges.com/
http://www.collegenet.com/elect/app/app.

What’s the bottom-line?
Where are you in this process? What do you know and what do you have yet to learn?
Who is teaming up with you in this process and how will you divide up the work?
What’s your style? Which guides or sites make this a fun and interesting process?

There’s a gold mine out there… get out your tools and pan for gold!

 

The teens and parents I talk to… are talking about financial aid…

And so that’s what I am paying attention to… Here’s what I have learned in scoping out a dozen books and sites on financial aid, scholarships, loans…

1. There’s A LOT of information out there! Guides come in all shapes and sizes…
Firstly, get clear about what you need/want to learn:
Do you need to understand all of the steps of the college search and selection process?
Are you able to differentiate between the various types of financial aid?
Do you have a sense of your eligibility for various types of aid?
Are you aware that private colleges often offer more aid than public universities? So just looking at schools with smaller price tags is not necessarily your best move!

Secondly, some guides are great resources and fun to read, while others are helpful and a snore! Suss out all the possibilities – from your advisor’s/guidance counselor’s office to the library to the book store – and find the guide(s) you love to read… or can live with to get the information you need.

2. Check out websites that will do some of the “magic” for you…
Once you have a sense of what types of financial aid you want to investigate, go to those sites that will match you and scholarships, grants, and loans… using more than one search engine is your best bet! {See tomorrow’s post for some ideas!}

And, remember that colleges also have their own funds and award financial aid: you will need to be digging into the information on the colleges’ websites and in their print materials too.

3. This process of paying for college is a family affair…
Creating a plan for tackling the task of understanding financial aid, scholarships, and moneysaving tax incentives needs to involve both you and your parent(s).

4. Take out the magnifying glass for all sources and check when the information was last updated.

I was reading some guides with an imprint date of 2004 and others that arrived on shelves last year… and yet books start the publishing process at least a year before the publication date. Beware, the same is true of websites… look carefully at the resources you are reading, I saw some info on a site from 2004 that had not been updated… The world changes so fast, you need to have the most current information possible!

Tomorrow I will give you a list of the resources that I have scoped out… Take heart, there are some goodies!

 
 
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