Tips for reducing college debt

Tools to help parents and students prepare for college

The Common App - A common, standardized first-year college application form for use at any member institution.

FAFSA4caster - A free financial aid calculator that gives you an early estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid.

Scholly Scholarships App - An easy way to find scholarships for high school seniors, current undergraduates, and graduate students. Gives students a curated list of scholarships. Available on Google Play and the App Store.

15 Free Apps to Help With College Prep

25 iPad Apps Changing College Prep

12th grade college prep checklist - A checklist of what students and parents should be doing throughout the year to stay on track for college.

Last minute checklist - For anyone who has been accepted at a college and is starting classes soon but hasn’t applied for financial aid yet.

High school seniors across the country are preparing for their fast-approaching graduations, and many are gearing up for college. Meanwhile, parents are contemplating the costs of funding that education.  Here are some quick tips for reducing college debt:

  • Consider your school options.  A top-tier school may not be an option for your first-year college student.  Consider a state school, a private college or even a community college for the first two years of enrollment, and significantly reduce your costs. Check out this online tool from the federal government, for comparing tuition costs.
  • File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) assessment form to maximize your child’s financial aid eligibility. The federal deadline for filing the FAFSA for the 2015-16 academic years is midnight Central Time, June 30, 2016. Keep in mind that each state and each academic institution has their own deadlines. Click here to download a PDF of those deadlines.
  • Be knowledgeable about the types of financial aid available to your college student.  Aid can come from the U.S. federal government, the state where you live, the college your child will attend, or a nonprofit or private organization. Aid can include:
    • Grants—financial aid that doesn’t have to be repaid
    • Loans— borrowed money for college or career school; you must repay your loans, with interest
    • Work-Study—a program tied to financial aid eligibility in which a student works at the school to write off a percentage of their tuition costs

There are also federal aid programs available for serving in the military or for being the spouse or child of a veteran, an education award for community service with AmeriCorps, educational and training vouchers for current and former foster care youth, and/or scholarship repayment through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Indian Health Service, National Institutes of Health, and National Health Service Corps. Check out this video to learn more about the types of federal student aid available. 

  • Many colleges offer financial aid from their own funds. Visit your school’s financial aid page on its website, or ask someone in the financial aid office.  Also ask at the department that offers your course of study as they might have a scholarship for students in your major.
  • Check out on-campus jobs.  Students can also defray costs by working part time while they are in school. Most universities have on-campus employment opportunities. Details can be found on their respective websites.
  • Find a scholarship or LOTS of scholarships! Apply for every scholarship possible! There are literally thousands of scholarships available through schools, employers, individuals, private companies, nonprofits, communities, religious groups, and professional and social organizations. You just have to be willing to do the work of seeking them out.  This is FREE money that can make a real difference in how affordable your education is, and it doesn’t have to be paid back.  

Start researching early and meet the required deadlines. Follow this link for more information about the types of scholarships available and how and when to apply for them. Be careful and avoid scholarship scams.

Also, check out our blog, Wacky Scholarships, for some fun scholarships.

  • As a last resort, consider a student loan. Federally guaranteed loans are generally more appealing as their as interest rates are usually lower and there are better plans for repayment, loan forgiveness, and protection of the student if deferral is needed. Click here for more information about the types of federal student loans available.

Don’t let the stress of college costs sneak up on you. Do your research, make a plan and get an early jump on the process. Involve your future college student in the process as well so that they have a vested interest.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.”

- Thoreau can help parents guide their children along the financial paths in life with their fun, educational, and intuitive award-winning online money management application. It is an exceptional tool for teaching children to manage their money and build financial literacy.

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