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College Guide

There's money available for college, but file early, know your deadlines, and watch that email

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The biggest barrier keeping students from receiving financial aid for school is a “misconception that there aren’t enough dollars available for them,” according to Jennifer Whitcomb of Generation TX, an nonprofit organization striving to help students get financial aid for college. Not only is the money there, but the sooner students apply, “the more they will receive,” she said. Sounds good to us. But it helps to know your terminology. Here are a few pointers from our talk.

1. FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) This is the application to receive federal assistance for school. This form requires student information as well as information for both parents. It is important to have the correct documents ready prior to filling it out, so have your social security card, driver’s license, tax return forms, current bank statements, current investment information, and alien registration or permanent resident card handy.

2. TAFSA (Texas Application for State Financial Aid) — This is a state aid program for students who are not eligible for FAFSA. You can inquire about this form at the institution you plan to attend. This form provides some non-documented students the opportunity to qualify as residents in order to receive financial assistance with in-state tuition.

3. Grants — Free money awarded to those who qualify after completing the FAFSA or TAFSA. This is need based assistance and does not need to be paid back after graduation.

4. Scholarships — Similar to grants; however, private parties and institutions rather than the government usually award these babies. The Pan American League Charitable Scholarship is offered to UTSA students. To qualify, applicants must be enrolled in a minimum of six credit hours and submit an essay explaining how attendance at UTSA will be life-changing. The award amount is $1,000. Also, the Rotary Club of San Antonio offers The Sam J. Riklin Rotary Diploma Plus Scholarship to Bexar County high school students entering their senior year. A letter of recommendation from a counselor or teacher is required to apply. A thousand dollars is awarded during the student’s senior year in high school.

5. Know your loans — There are many different loans, so it is best to become educated on their unique interest rates, when the loan begins accruing interest, and when payment on the loan is due. “Government loans are good and private loans are the devil,” UTSA student Jasmin Nicole said. “I already owe $2,500 in interest for just one private loan.” Subsidized Stafford Loans are a great choice. These are Federal Loans that are need-based. The Federal Government pays the interest accrued on the loan while the student is still in school, which can save you thousands. Make sure you fully understand how the interest works on the loan you choose.

6. Keep Records — It is best to make copies to keep every time you apply for any type of financial aid. Forms are sometimes misplaced or not sent correctly to universities so having a backup can be a lifesaver.

7. Know your deadlines — Different types of financial aid have different deadlines and many, such as the FAFSA, are awarded on a first-come first-served basis. Basically, those who turn in their paperwork early are usually awarded the most assistance.

8. Watch your student email — This is usually where you will be alerted on award amounts and information after your applications have been processed.

There are many resources available to assist with filling out applications. To learn more, visit gentx.org or studentaidsa.org.

College Guide
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