Tag Archives | money

How the FAFSA Works

Image by FAFSA

Looking for a college, applying, and getting in is complicated enough. But throw the FAFSA on top of that, and you’ve got a recipe for a serious headache.

The FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a form which college students in the United States can fill out in order to see if they qualify for financial aid from the government. Even if you think that you won’t, it’s worth doing — there are lots of different kinds of aid: Pell Grants, federal Work-Study, and loans. You never know.

In fact, in the 2014-2015 school year, students left $2.7 billion on the table, unclaimed. And that’s not $2.7 billion in loans — that’s $2.7 billion in free grant money! And this is because over 1 million high school grads didn’t even bother filling out the FAFSA. So, if you’re applying for college, or in college, please don’t leave money on the table. Fill out the FAFSA.

Of course, we get that it seems daunting. But in order to ensure that the hardest part will just be convincing yourself to sit down and do it, the publication College Choice has created a free guide to the FAFSA that walks you through the process, step-by-step, complete with screenshots, FAQs, and definitions. So check it out — you might have some federal money waiting to be claimed!

This article was contributed by guest author College Choice.

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College Fund: How Students Can Save Money for Higher Education

Image by StockUnlimited.com

We all remember when we were children, and how exciting it was to find a quarter on the sidewalk, a monetary gift from the tooth fairy, or just pick up a few extra dollars doing chores. But how many of us are still paying off student loans, and wish we could have started saving for higher education back in the day when quarters and wrinkled dollar bills seemed like big money? How can students learn to save while in high school and when applying to college afterward?

Start Young
Parents should teach children to save money for their future. However, parents can only do so much – the individual must learn how to do this for themselves. One way to make this more accessible is to turn saving money into a game. Now that you’re older, challenge yourself to set aside some amount of money — spare change or money from working part time in high school and before college. Use a ledger to help keep track of your funds. Having a written record of your savings helps put it all into perspective when it’s right in front of you. Also, taking the time to write down deposits into your savings account will help you have a greater appreciation for your money and what you’re saving for.

Dreams and Education
What do you want to do? Become a veterinarian? Game designer? Become a mechanic or musician? Browse college and technical school websites to investigate different programs and classes that are offered by schools you’re interested in attending. This will help you see how your education will help you reach those goals — and just how much that education will cost. This will help put it all into perspective and connect the process of saving and applying to schools that you’re interested in attending.

Advanced Degree, More Saving
According to FinAid.org, if parents begin saving in a fund that gives at least 5% interest, over 17 years they can accrue almost $35,000 — nearly enough for the average MBA — just by putting aside $25 a week from birth. Whether you plan to get an online master’s degree in public administration or an MFA from a top liberal arts university, saving for an advanced degree such as a master’s takes particularly careful planning. If you’re old enough to know if you want to pursue a master’s degree, and old enough to get an after-school job, you’re old enough to help contribute to those savings your parents have started for you.

Don’t Count on Financial Aid
Even if a student is eligible for financial aid, they could be picked for verification or experience some other delay in receiving their award. Thousands of students every year find themselves having to pay out of pocket to secure their classes until their financial aid comes through. As you get older, understand that it is important to not only complete your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), but to have funds to pay for your tuition just in case financial aid is delayed or denied.

Students can help themselves learn the principles of going without to be able to save for their future to make it that much brighter and more accessible.

This article was contributed by guest author Rachelle Wilber.

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Quick Ways to Make Money While You’re Studying

Image by Fabian Blank, unsplash.com

Image by Fabian Blank, unsplash.com

An independent and fun-filled life is the fantasy of every college student. However, with the limited financial budget of a student, this fantasy remains just that – a fantasy. Moreover, college loan repayment is another obstacle that not only prevents this kind of life for students but also prevents them from investing independently and earning rewards to help financially support them.

1) Freelance
As a student, there are many ways to earn money. Content writing is one huge field that has helped many students. With a lot of freelance websites in motion, students can grab work that interests them, write articles and earn by selling those. Students can also start their own blogs and earn money through them.

2) Be A Tutor
If a student excels in English, they can earn by proofreading and editing articles of their peers or by becoming tutors. Teaching is the best way to excel in a subject and by becoming a tutor, students can earn, polish their own skills and knowledge and be a valuable service to those around them. Schools usually have teaching assistant posts or a campus tutoring center available where students can take the role of a tutor.

3) Become a Notetaker or Sell & Textbooks
Students with learning disabilities are provided with note takers that are compensated fairly well, and by taking up such a position, students can not only help their peers but also earn for themselves. Selling text books at the end of the term is another way income can be generated. Textbooks are a huge expense for students, so many look out for used books from seniors. Approaching such students results in a win-win situation for both parties.

4) Get a Part-time Job or Internship
Most universities and colleges have a career counseling department that provides students with opportunities to work with local or multinational companies. Students can look out for such internship / job opportunities and work part time. This would build their resume, provide them with adequate experience and help students make money. On campus jobs such as waitressing or administrative work in various departments are also available that help students to make money. Usually, students also participate in paid interviews, surveys and medical experiments that add cash to their wallets.

For most students, having cash to spend freely is a major issue; not only during their study years, but also after graduation. This is mainly due to the high amount of interest they have to pay on student loan repayments. While some students have their repayment strategies chalked out, most do not care to think about it until after they graduate and the grace period has almost ended. Hence, having made some money while studying at college can be a huge advantage for every student while at college and even after they graduate.

Earning while you study can also reduce your dependency on student loans, resulting in fewer repayment problems and reduced interest payments.

This article was contributed by guest author Henry Kingston.

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Paying for School: What Are My Options as a Student?

Image by Tax Credits, Flickr

Image by Tax Credits, Flickr

College represents the conscious decision to take education further than is required by the government. It gives students the ability to learn more than just the basics, which in turn allows them to forge ahead on their chosen career paths.

The problem is that the cost of college has been rising steadily. CNBC reported that the average cost of college has risen by 300 percent since 1971.

The most troubling fact is that cost continues to climb.

Let’s explore some of the options that students have for paying their way through college. These include common strategies and a few creative answers.

1. Federal and State Assistance

FASFA offers federal financial assistance with regards to the cost of college tuition. States tend to offer similar financial aid for specific groups of students.

While this seldom pays for the full cost of college, it can dramatically lessen the financial burden that higher education can place on a student.

The downside is that this assistance tends to be limited to undergraduate students. Graduates will need to use a different method of financing to pay for their education.

2. Grants and Scholarships

Grants and scholarships represent another well-known way to help a student finance their way through college. These are typically awarded on an as-needed basis or as a reward for academic or charitable achievements.

The major problem with this source of funding is that generally only a few students receive it, which in turn means a certain amount of competition is vying for funding.

The other drawback of this method of financing is that it tends to be limited. Seldom are these forms of funding enough to pay for tuition fees, and even more rarely do they pay for other necessities like books and lodging.

3. Student Loans

Student loans have become a necessary evil in the world of education. They are notorious for putting students into an overwhelming amount of debt before they even have their first professional job secured.

One trick to minimizing the impact student loans have on your life during and after college is to minimize costs as much as possible. Certain low-interest loans exist that make it possible to pay 2 percent or less on interest during school, and between 3 to 7 percent after graduating.

4. Cost-Effective Alternatives

Another viable strategy for funding yourself through college is to seek a more cost-effective approach to education. Some courses, such as online engineering programs from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, allow for a more cost-effective approach to education.

Tuition for these programs tends to cost less than similar programs due to the lack of physical presence required by instructors, and the automated coursework. While more cost-effective, they are just as robust as a traditional college education.

Finding the Money for a College Education

College is one of the most expensive investments. It can cost more than a home, but it can also provide for your entire future.

By following the funding strategies listed above, you will help make college into something that you can afford, regardless of the field you choose.

This article was contributed by guest author Anica Oaks.

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Money Management for College Students

Image by luxstorm, pixabay.com

Image by luxstorm, pixabay.com

We all have experienced “being broke” in college. What with high expenses on textbooks and social activities and limited income, it’s unusual to find a college student who isn’t financially strapped in one way or another. While some things may not be in your control, managing your finances in an effective way may help you have a little extra cash to keep you sustained through periods of heavy spending. Here are four steps to help you get your finances in order:

1. Make a Budget

Budgeting is key to keeping track of your money. You always know where your money is going and how much you have left over in case of unplanned spending. Once you get the hang of it, budgeting becomes a natural habit, and is actually quite easy. First, make a note of all your current spending for a fixed duration, say, a month. This will help you determine your usual spending habits. After you have determined your spending patterns, compare your expenses to your income, and note down areas where you can cut down spending.

Budgeting apps like Mint are extremely helpful when it comes to being able to access your budget anytime. Remember to always allocate an amount for miscellaneous expenses that don’t fit into your regular spending. Whether you use this amount is immaterial; if you experience a period of necessary high spending (say, buying new textbooks), this amount will come in handy.

2. Have Goals

Having a goal will motivate you to stick to your budget. It will prevent you from randomly spending on unnecessary things. Set aside a small amount of your paycheck/allowance each month to go towards fulfilling this goal. At first, you won’t enjoy setting aside money that could be used elsewhere, but after a while your funds will start building up, and you will begin to appreciate the little bank you’ve created to meet your goals.

3. Save where you can

Opening a savings account in college is a wise investment. Over time, the money in your savings account will accumulate and earn interest. In any particular month, if you spend less than your budgeted amount, be sure to put the remainder of your money into your savings account rather than binge-splurging. You’ll see more growth in your savings account over time. Other ways to save include making changes in your daily habits. For example, if you spend a lot of money on your car, consider learning some auto-hacks, such as gas savings or using the bus more often. Take packed lunches to class rather than buying food, and make your own coffee in the morning before class rather than grabbing one at a coffee shop. At first it doesn’t seem like much, but these changes in your daily routine do add up!

To increase your savings, you can also consider various ways to gain supplemental income. Today, we live in an age of constant connectivity, meaning that you can work from practically anywhere. According to this infographic, 61% of American homes had wifi in 2012. Since then, the number has only gone up, creating more opportunities for online work. As a student, you could tutor online, write for paid blogs and magazines, and even do surveys to boost your income. These are opportunities that don’t require you to travel far, and won’t take up much of your time – but will get you some quick cash.

4. Plan for the long term

It’s always good to keep the bigger picture in mind. Even as a student, it’s important to consider the future at some level, though it doesn’t have to be your top priority. Long-term planning includes having a savings account, a retirement and pension plan, and long term insurance. For example, if you know you would like to retire abroad, it is vital to factor this into your goals after college, as research shows that retiring abroad can be quite costly. When following through with the required actions to achieve your goals, you’ll want to keep this in mind. As a college student, you may not be in a position to actively plan for the future, but it is good practice to make a timeline that incorporates the long term, such as paying off debts or when you will start saving for retirement. This way, you will be well-prepared for the future. Even though long term planning can be tedious, it will hold you in good stead through the years.

Using the four basic principles of budgeting, goals, saving and long term planning, you can start to get your finances in order. Even though you won’t have much money to deal with as a college student, understanding and utilizing these concepts will help you both now and later.

This article was contributed by guest author Akshata Mehta.

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Student Loans Guide

by Simon Cunningham on Flickr

by Simon Cunningham on Flickr

The majority of university students have forever dealt with student loans. Past students may still be trying to pay off their loans while current ones may feel swamped with the amount of money they will have to pay. Luckily, there are many resources online that have great information for students on how to deal with loans and get rid of them as quickly as possible. Here is a consolidated guide on student loans:

  1. Many experts recommend consolidating loans, and it is something that students should look into, especially if juggling multiple students loans. It combines them all into one loan that can be paid off through one payment per month rather than multiple. This is a huge benefit that can save you money through a plan that better fits your financial needs. Keep in mind that you may end up spending more money if you choose a longer payment schedule, and it may be required that you have a locked interest rate, based on your multiple loans.
  2. Interest rates play an important role in deciding whether to consolidate your loans. Federal loans are presented with fixed rates which establish how much you will be paying throughout your loan schedule. Private loans are subject to change depending on whether they are a variable or a fixed rate loan. Both have pros and cons, but again what is important is that you find a payment schedule that best fits your schedule.
  3. An example of a strategy that can be used when paying off student loans is to pick the shortest payment schedule that you can manage. The longer the payment schedule, the more money in interest you will end up paying, which in most cases will lead to paying off way more than you borrowed.
  4. Attempt to pay more than you need to each month as well. That little amount that you add on to your monthly payments will save you money in the long run and get that loan paid off more quickly. Prioritize the most expensive loan too if you haven’t consolidated your loans, because again, you will save money and time due to the higher interest rates on that loan. Contrarily, you can prioritize your smallest loan to pay it off as quickly as possible. This will save you the most time in the long run because of how long the small interest rate schedule is.
  5. Look for student discount and loan forgiveness options if need be. Those small breaks will help you even if the discounts are very minimal. Loan forgiveness should only be used as a last resort option as it does come with some important clauses.

Student loans remain extremely common with the university population today, and will certainly be an important factor for students in the future. Consolidating federal loans is an option that can help students manage their finances while not impacting their financial situation due to locked interest rates. Private lenders can either save or cost you more money depending on the rates you choose. At the end of the day, pick the schedule and tips that fit your needs and will benefit you the most, in the area you wish to benefit the most. Just remember to always read the fine print.

Find out more about Loans and Consolidation from The Simple Dollar.

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How to Plan Your Finances so You Can Afford to Study Abroad

Image by Newton Free Library, Flickr

Image by Newton Free Library, Flickr

Jennifer Fonda* is currently pursuing her MS in computer science from Oxford University in the UK, which is deemed to be one of the most expensive universities in the world. Even though she comes from a middle class family, she made it to one of the most expensive colleges in the world without having to worry. She says,

For me it really was not hard to come up with the required admission fee. I had already saved quite a lot during my undergrad. My parents inculcated the habit of saving every penny I could since a young age. It really helped me pay off my tuition fee.

Being short on funds is the permanent state of every college student. But if you have bigger dreams in mind and want to go study outside of the US to gain global exposure, you need to start planning early. Jennifer knew her parents would not be able to afford the expenses of living abroad, but that didn’t deter her from pursuing her dream. If you want to study abroad, you have two options: either give up or go through the hard work of earning and saving money. It is up to you which one will you choose.

Planning throughout the four years of your undergraduate course will help you save money during grad school. Here are a few points which will not only help you save money but also guide you on making some:

Manage your money

  1. Set a monthly budget – This doesn’t have to be a difficult task. An Excel spreadsheet will be enough. You need to keep track of your monthly expenses and stop any unnecessary spending habits. List your fixed expenses like transportation costs, food etc, and keep money aside for these. Put aside some for saving, and the remaining balance can be used for unplanned expenses like shopping or gifting.
  2. Plan your expenses – Has buying expensive things left you cashless? Simple math and bit of planning can help you avoid this situation. Cut down your expenses by a certain amount for a couple of months and save the leftover money. Planning ahead is the easy way to avoid bankruptcy. Keep your eyes open for clearance sales at big-box stores – you may find some great deals there.
  3. Save money for emergencies – For students without a regular source of income, it is mandatory to have a fund for emergency situations. Rather than borrowing from friends or family, save money yourself by making small adjustments like skipping a movie or a trip to help you prepare for an unexpected crisis.
  4. Open a savings account – Rather than going for a regular bank account, go for an account specifically designed for students. Student savings accounts have other benefits apart from zero-balance facility which make them better than any other no-frills account.
  5. Avoid misusing credit cards – As mentioned above, if you open bank account for students you may get a credit card with low interest rates – but you want to avoid paying interest as much as possible, so if you are going to use a credit card, make sure you can pay off your bills on time and in full every time.
  6. Choose prepaid plans for your phone – Choose prepaid plans instead of pay-as-you-go for your phone will help you avoid surprises at the end of the month.

Increase your savings

  1. Be patient – If you want to buy a new iPhone, wait for a few months – gadgets’ prices fall as soon as there is a successor of the same model in the market. Postponing your purchase for some time can get you a reduced price.
  2. Watch for online discounts – If you are shopping or booking shows online, Google discount coupons, codes, or deals. Discount sites are the new money-saving method, as you can easily get a discount of 20% or free shipping with using a coupon code. You can get good bargains at restaurants, movie tickets, clothes, gym memberships, etc. Get an Amazon Prime account to get the best deals and discounts.
  3. Make shopping lists – A good way to control impulsive shopping is to make lists before going to the market. Though the market is filled with options, stick to your requirements, and you will save more money at the end of each month. Or use the wish list option many websites offer while shopping online.
  4. Save, save, save – Buying course books often leaves your pockets empty. Instead of buying, borrow them from a library or purchase them at a second hand bookstore. Once you graduate, the secondhand books can be re-sold and the money can be put towards your savings.
  5. Try getting cheaper accommodations – As a college student, you can save a lot of money on lodging. Rather than living in a studio apartment near college, try getting a shared apartment in the suburbs. It could cut your rent money in half. Or try sharing your apartment with 3-4 roommates, which further reduces your share load.
  6. If you’re in the city, don’t rent a car – Big cities like Toronto or New York have a good public transportation system in place, so you can save a lot of cash by not buying or renting a car to move around the city. Invest in a train pass or student pass to save more on travelling.

Earn some money

  1. Turn hobbies into careers – If you love to bake, or are great at painting, you can always turn this passion into earning. Form your own music band or start a blog or vlog. If you have talent, you can make it a career even before you finish college.
  2. Work part-time – Get a part-time job to earn some pocket money. Many jobs have a constant demand for interns. Remember, at this stage no job is small or big; you need to do what is required without feeling embarrassed of your job. Many job search engines are specifically designed for college students, and can help you look for temporary jobs. You can also talk to your college placement cell and consider the options available in your city.
  3. Participate in college activities – Be part of cultural societies and participate in competitions which offer cash prizes. Find out about scholarships offered by your college. If you are eligible to apply, do so! If your professors are involved in some research work, ask them if they need some assistance. You may get a stipend for doing so.

This article was contributed by guest author Harleen.

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Canadian Banking for Students

Image by Tax Credits, Flickr

Image by Tax Credits, Flickr

Courtesy of the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA), the following provides a quick overview of student banking in Canada. Whether you are an international student or you have had an account for quite some time, it gives you information on how your bank can be a good partner during your post secondary school life: Download the Banking for Students PDF.

Choosing a bank can be an overwhelming experience – almost as stressful as choosing which car to purchase or which school to attend. All banks offer similar features, but when it comes to students, you’ll see different perks and benefits. The following table outlines the big Canadian Financial Institutions and their fee structures and benefits to students. A few of the banks offer Advice Centres for students, which can be helpful when it comes to budgeting and ultimately paying for school. Other banks offer perks such as points for Scene cards, Student Price Cards (SPC) and Air Miles.

We hope the following table allows you to narrow down your selection on the bank that will best meets your current and future needs!

Name Monthly Fee/Min Balance to Avoid Fees # Transactions per Month ATM Network Extras Associated Credit Card Other Advice Centre
Bank of Montreal Student Banking None 30 Bank of Montreal 2 free Interac email money transfers per month, earn AIR MILES reward miles on debit purchases No-fee BMO SPC MasterCard with built-in SPC Card benefits BMO Student Budget Calculator; BMO MoneyLogic
CIBC Everyday Chequing Account (Advantage for Students) None Unlimited CIBC None CIBC Classic Visa Card CIBC Professional Edge Student Program – borrow up to $270,000 towards studies CIBC Advice Centre
Royal Bank Student Banking None 25 RBC None Signature RBC Rewards, RBC Visa Cash Back, WestJest RBC MasterCard; save up to $39 a year off annual fee Access to myFinanceTracker, online financial management tool
Scotiabank Student Banking Advantage Plan None Unlimited Scotiabank Free usage of Scotiabank’s Global ATM Alliance LEARN VISA card, SCENE VISA card SCENE movie rewards earned when using debit card; Special Grad Auto Loan programs available
TD Canada Trust Every Day Chequing Account with Student Discount None 25 TD Canada Trust None TD Classic Travel VISA Card (annual fee waived for year 1) Eligible customers get free access to concert discounts, exclusive contests TD Student Life
HSBC Performance Chequing – Student $3.97 / $2,000 40 HSBC, The Exchange, BMO None No student specific card
Laurentian Bank Student Advantage None 15 Laurentian Bank None VISA Black Card, VISA Black Reward Me Card
PC Financial No Fee Bank Account (not student specific) None Unlimited CIBC Earn PC points towards free groceries No student specific card

Scholarship Myths

Image by Philip Taylor, Flickr

Image by Philip Taylor, Flickr

Scholarships are awards that can assist you in paying for your tuition fees and your textbooks. Scholarships can give you a sense of accomplishment for being handpicked for an award, and they also look excellent on a resume. However, many students don’t apply for scholarships because they don’t think they have the time, or because they don’t believe that they will win. Here is the truth about three popular scholarship myths:

Scholarships are only for students with high grades.
Although it is true that some scholarships require high grades or a high academic average for students to qualify, there are many scholarships that don’t have anything to do with grades. Many reward you for your creativity, volunteering commitments, or essay writing. The Stuck at Prom Scholarship requires you and your prom date to create your prom outfits entirely out of duct tape. A pair of students will win a $10,000 scholarship and $5,000 for their school. The Scotiabank National Scholarship requires you to answer the essay question, “In 150 words or less, tell us how you will fund your future.” 12 scholarships worth $2,500 each will be given away.

Scholarships are impossible to win.
In some cases, it may be true that hundreds of students apply for the same scholarships, and they are often competitive when a high profile award is offered. However, this shouldn’t discourage you from applying for them. There is a simple golden rule when it comes to scholarships: If you don’t apply for them, you can’t win them. Without any risk, there won’t be any reward. Take a chance! You never know what might happen.

Scholarships are only for graduating grade 12 students, university, and college students.
There are many scholarships up for grabs if you have just enrolled in high school. The Easy Money Scholarship only requires you to be at least 13 years old, enrolled in a Canadian high school, university, or college, and be a member of the StudentAwards website. As there are many scholarships that can be applied for early on in high school, it will give you a lot of time to search, plan, and apply.

These scholarship myths often discourage students from applying for scholarships. Don’t let yourself be one of those students – there are thousands of scholarships to apply for and many of them are neglected. Happy scholarship hunting!

The Beginner’s Guide to Scholarships, Grants, Bursaries and Awards

Image by CollegeDegrees360, Flickr

Image by CollegeDegrees360, Flickr

Having trouble paying your tuition? Don’t have time for a job? Good news: there are many scholarships, bursaries, grants and awards that can cover the costs of schooling for you. They are offered by a number of institutions, such as the federal and provincial government, private industry and service organizations, and post-secondary schools. The great thing about grants, bursaries, awards and scholarships is they don’t need to be repaid.

Scholarships

Scholarships are usually awarded based on academic standing or other achievements, including leadership, athletic ability and community service. They can range from $500 to a generous $23,000. There are five kinds of scholarships:

  • Admission (or entrance) scholarships: Awarded upon enrolling in a post-secondary institution.
  • Renewable scholarships: Can be applied to financial debt yearly, if one maintains good grades.
  • National scholarships: Available to students all over the country.
  • In-course scholarships: Given after an applicant’s first year of college or university.
  • External scholarships: Encompasses scholarships that are granted by organizations other than a school. One should ensure his or her school is approved by the corporation before applying for an external scholarship.

Grants

Grants are bestowed according to grades, financial need and academic research projects. One perk about grants is they are offered to as many people who meet the criteria.

Bursaries

Bursaries are presented depending on one’s financial needs. Bursaries tend to be granted to be used in conjunction with other sources of funding, such as student loans, family support and individual earnings.

Awards

Awards are given based on academic merit or accomplishments. They are usually small sums of money that can be applied to one’s tuition or book costs.

Links

The following are links to websites where you can apply for scholarships, grants, bursaries and awards:


Remember you can find out about scholarships, bursaries, grants and awards through your post-secondary school, high school counsellor or online. Employers are an alternative source to check; many organizations offer students financial aid, so it’s a good idea to ask if they provide this service.

Going to school doesn’t have to be a financial struggle. There’s financial aid all around; you just have to look for it. There’s no reason to panic about your finances while going to school.