Scholarship Mom Alert: Scholarship Points

Trading scholarship points for dollars. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Trading scholarship points for dollars. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Outside private scholarships are contests with set rules for winning. A typical scholarship requires an application and an accompanying essay that must be submitted by posted deadlines. College Scholarship Expert Monica L. Matthews found a different way sponsored by ScholarshipPoints.com.

The Scholarship Points program offers its applicants the chance to earn points to enter into scholarship drawings. Opportunities to acquire points are often based on activities that also benefit the site such as students clicking on links, entering promoted scholarships, and completing surveys.

Read Monica’s winning tips to find out the advantages and disadvantages for trying to win college scholarship money via earning scholarship points:

Winning College Scholarships with Scholarship Points

Remember to check the odds for winning when deciding how much effort to dedicate. Good luck!!!

What you need to file a FAFSA

Cliché: Pave the way.    
POCS Reality: The college-bound can prepare for financial success.

 

If you are college-bound, you are going to want to file a FAFSA. After you get your financial aid award, you may even do a happy dance. That’s because filing a FAFSA provides eligible students with grants, loans and a job from the Federal Work-Study program. FAFSA is a pre-requisite for state financial aid programs, many colleges require it for institutional awards and some private outside scholarships want it to verify need.

There are 3 major reasons why families dread filing FAFSA:

  1. It’s complicated Recent changes make filling the FAFSA much easier. If you file online like most do, there are helpful tips and pop-up explanations. There’s a plethora of free info in libraries and online but consider the source before relying on any advice.
  2. It’s time consuming Many of the questions are biographical and should be a snap to answer. For the financial questions, having your documents at your finger tips can provide quick access to answers.
  3. Doubt eligibility Skyrocketing college costs concern families at all income levels and even the affluent can receive financial aid. Some financial aid is based on financial need and some is based on merit (student’s talent- academic, artistic, musical, athletic, leadership abilities). Colleges can give institutional awards to discount their tuition and encourage students they want to attend. However, they may want to see the FAFSA, first.

Now, don’t you want to file your 2012-13 FAFSA? Before you put on your dancing shoes, here’s what you need to get started:

Documents

  • Social Security number
  • driver’s license number (if any)
  • 2011 W-2 forms and other records of money earned
  • 2011 federal income tax returns (or estimates based on last year’s)
  • 2011 untaxed income records
  • Business and investment records except for small businesses 
  • Current bank statements and investment records
  • alien registration number (if you are not a U.S.citizen)
  • For online filers (see below filing help) a Federal Student Aid PIN
  • Dependent students need their parents’ info, too

Filing help

  • Call the Federal Student Aid Information Center 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243 hearing-impaired TTY line at 1-800-730-8913.
  • Email the Federal Student Aid Information Center  FederalStudentAidCustomerService@ed.gov.
  • Online filers can get a PIN before or during FAFSA filing to sign and make corrections electronically.
  • Use the FAFSA4caster to estimate your eligibility for federal student aid.
  • For online filers, there’s a FAFSA on the Web Worksheet to preview questions.
  • The IRS Data Retrieval Tool is available beginning February 1, 2012 to online filers who have completed their 2011 IRS tax return. They will be able to use FAFSA on the Web to electronically view their tax information and transfer it into the FAFSA.

Read more: File FAFSA ASAP, 10 Reasons not to file a FAFSA, 15 FAFSA FACTS

Get more: Sign up for POCSmom’s free, new for 2012, monthly College Prep Insights newsletter. January issue is all about getting $$$ for college.

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: The best FAFSA prep is previewing the questions before filing your FAFSA.

5 Things You Should Know Before Accepting Federal Work-Study

Cliché: Work for a living.    
POCS Reality: Eligible students can earn their financial aid through the Federal Work-Study program.

 

5 Things You Should Know Before Accepting Federal Work-Study is a post I wrote for the Student Advisor Blog.

Read the whole post for details but here are the 5 key points about the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program:

  1. FWS award is a job on or off campus, usually for Federal minimum wage.
  2. After accepting the FWS award, students apply for a particular FWS job which may or may not be in their field of study and which may require an interview.
  3. FWS recipients receive a paycheck as they work and do not get the total award money up front to reduce the college bill.
  4. FWS earned money is taxable, although students are not penalized for FWS money earned on their next year’s FAFSA.
  5. FWS job ends when award amount is met. Any unearned money cannot be rolled over into next year’s award.

 POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: If you’re a full-time student, the FWS financial aid award is a part-time job. Before accepting FWS, make sure you can balance your studies with time spent working. The best jobs are the most valuable way to spend some of your free time because they:

    • give you experience in your field of study
    • provide networking opportunities in your field of study
    • pay more than another opportunity

 When considering your schedule, plan for downtime and extra-curricular fun. You can pass on Federal Work-Study for one semester, adjust to campus life, and accept it the next.

*POCSmom’s Insight: Outside College Scholarships

Cliché: Win the day.    
POCS Reality: Students can win scholarships to help pay for college.     

 

Every dollar won from outside college scholarships is a dollar the family does not have to pay for college.

Outside scholarships are often contests sponsored by schools, fraternal organizations, businesses, groups, and individuals. The free money amounts vary from less than $100 to a free college ride of thousands. Outside scholarships are a form of financial aid that students do not have to pay back.

 Then why don’t all students apply?

 Here are the 3 main excuses:

  1. I didn’t know where to begin.
  2. I didn’t think I would win so I didn’t bother.
  3. I tried but gave up because the application process was too much work.

 Where to begin

A good place to start your internet scholarship search is on the free federal government websites:

  • www.studentaid.ed.gov  (FSA-Scholarship Wizard)
  • www.students.gov  (Pay for your education…Scholarships & grants)
  • www.college.gov  (How to pay-Learn what’s available-scholarships, grants, loans and more, continue to Scholarships: earn to learn, for each state’s programs)

Local resources include high school guidance departments, PTAs, local businesses, employers, and local organizations.

 Go for it

If you don’t try, you can’t win. The stakes are high-college is expensive and costs are rising fast. It makes sense for students to exercise some self-help and apply for multiple scholarships to increase chances for winning. Winnings add up so a few small scholarships can easily approach one large one.

Don’t give up

Scholarships applications are as varied as their sponsors. Sometimes only biographical info is requested; other times students must submit an essay or complete a project. The sponsor determines the requirements. Bonus: If the scholarship requires a volunteer project, you help others, too.

Writing is a skill that can improve with each draft. The more you write, the better you write. Good writing skills will help you get into college (many colleges require an essay) and do well in college (think essay tests and papers). Bonus: Unlike in your school classes, you may be able to use the same essay with a little tweaking for more than one scholarship application.

You can increase your chances of winning outside scholarships by following all the scholarships rules. Submit a neat, complete, and error-free application before any deadlines. Proof-reading is a must.

Scholarship Expert Monica Matthews encourages students to apply for college scholarships and provides tips for parents to help:

http://how2winscholarships.com/

POCSmom’s Insight: Be a smart consumer. Do not give out bank account, credit card, PINs and Social Security Numbers. Never pay a fee to win free scholarships. Have fun with your projects, develop your writing skills, and Good luck!!!

Stay tuned for POCSmom’s Insights on other forms of financial aid-from federal and state governments, and from college endowment funds.

*POCS: Parent Of a College Student