Wednesday, February 15, 2012

College funding

I've written about high school preparation for college. What classes to take, about college entrance exams, and choosing a college.  Today I'd like to talk a little bit about funding college and leaving home.

I'm a second generation college graduate.  My parents both attended Indiana University in Bloomington.  I grew up knowing that they expected us to go to college, and knowing that I would be on my own to pay for it.

I've mentioned that I had a savings account from an early age.  Half of everything I earned from at least the age of 8 went into my savings account.  I did use some of it, in high school, for the Art Club trip to Chicago.  But most of it was saved for entrance fees, exam fees.  Once I graduated, I was out looking for a summer job.

There's a critical piece of paper to file for funding college.  It's called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.  Any time you want to go to college, file it.  You get the best results by filing early, I believe it's a March 1st "deadline," because the money does run out... but you should still file if you decide to go to college in August, or even December.

It's worth it to apply.  As the oldest of six children, with my parents working about three jobs each to keep the family afloat... the "expected family contribution" for my first semester was about $50.  Which all came out of MY pocket.  Unfortunately, most of the aid came in Perkins and Stafford loans, which must be repaid.  I think there was a Pell grant the first year.  Grants are nice, because you don't have to pay them back.

There are LOTS of scholarships out there.  I was silly, and didn't apply.  There are so many, and so many different qualifications, deadlines, requirements.  After I declared my major, I even saw signs advertising a scholarship for female Electrical Engineering students interested in Aerospace.  Hello!  Me, me, me! And I never applied.  You miss 100% of the chances you don't take.  I would encourage you to apply for any scholarships that you remotely qualify for.  You never know what you might get.