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Cents and Sensibility

Financial Aid Advice for College Students

Closeup of a graduate looking at cropped dean with female friend via Shutterstock

In its most recent survey of college pricing, the college board reports that a “moderate” college budget for an in-state public college for 2012-2013 academic year averaged $22,261. A moderate budget at a private college averaged $43,289. College student financial aid advice is just five tips below.

Sound like a lot? That’s because it is! But Natalie Blakeney, vice president of marketing services for Wells Fargo, has some financial aid advice for college students:

Develop a Timeline: Plan early by developing a timeline of items that should be completed before the start of school. To assist students in their planning efforts, they can sign up for the CollegeSTEPS® program, a free program offered by Wells Fargo, at wellsfargo.com/collegesteps. 

Gather Information: Students can gather information and make a list of the options available for paying for school. They can then consult with their bank, financial advisor and the financial aid office at prospective schools. One source that might be helpful as a student goes through the planning process for college is WellsFargoCommunity.com, a free online community of students, parents, teachers, guidance counselors and financial aid advisers devoted to creating an open dialogue about college planning tips and other related topics. The community hosts a number of ongoing topic discussions and is open to anyone looking for information on how to prepare and plan for college.  You can also visit the federal government-fueled site, studentaid.gov and read their “prepare for college” tip list.

Apply for Grants and Scholarships: It is important to apply for as many grants and scholarships as possible because that does not need to be returned. Students can start searching for scholarships the summer before their senior year of high school. Their high school guidance counselor should be able to provide the many organizations that offer money for school. Remember, this is free money so the student should apply for everything they qualify for.  One way to track some down is scholarships.com, which has a portal for African American-geared grants and aid.

FAFSA (Federal Application for Federal Student Aid): The FAFSA application should be completed regardless if a student qualifies for grants and loans because most states, colleges, and universities use the FAFSA to award other types of student aid such as work study programs and state and college-sponsored financial aid. Students should try to utilize the FAFSA4caster to get an early idea of their eligibility for federal aid and loans.

Loans: If it is determined that a student needs to borrow money to pay for school, they should carefully consider the full cost of the loan including the type (fixed or variable rate), interest rates, origination fees and repayment options. Whether the loan is private or a non-subsidized federal loan, it will accrue interest while the student is in school.  Students should borrow only what they need. Working with a responsible lender can help students better manage their loans.

About Dr. Karen Ratliff

Dr. Ratliff is a certified life coach and professional educator, assisting many people in accomplishing financial, career, and educational goals.  She is also the author of “Tightening Your Bootstraps: 104 Tips to Kick Your Debt to the Curb Now.” Keep up with her budgetary advice via Twitter @drkarenratliff and her website at www.drkarenratliff.com