×
TAGS
For College

How To Find The Best College For You

April 4, 2019

Picking the right college for you is quite a task. There are so many to choose from! Plus, with the birth of digital experiences, vlogs, and just plain slick marketing materials, it can be a challenge to determine what matters when making such a big decision. It’s important throughout the college search process to remember the main goal which is getting an education. It can be easy to become distracted by the brand new apartments on campus and the conveniences that the college offers. Yes, it’s important to be comfortable while attending school, but it’s not worth losing out on education. How do you find the right college for you? Here are some things that you should take into consideration. Not every aspect will matter to you, but it’s nice to think about big-picture options.

 

Major Malfunctions

The major that you’re interested in studying and how the college meets the major’s needs could be a huge deciding factor. For example, does the college have a good reputation, appropriate resources, and a notable department? Really take into consideration what the school’s reputation for the program.  Is your major available and are there classes that will challenge and engage you? Is the reputation of the college’s program going to further your career upon graduating?

 

Most people know their preferred major or industry before starting, but it’s common for college students to change majors. Does the school have a few appealing options for you? Get in touch with an advisor or the head of the department of your choice and see how you can find out more. You are attending college to further your education and get a career, so if that program isn’t available that could be deal-breaker.

 

Location, Location, Location

Have you always wanted to live on the east coast, dreaming of the mountains, or would you prefer to stay closer to home? Being close by to your family and paying lower in-state tuition could be great options for you. A school in the city could be a better option since you’ll have the ability to take in everything that urban life has to offer. From expansive green grounds to bustling urban towers, there are so many different types of locations you could pick. Don’t rule anything out too soon. You might be surprised how friendly a university in the city can be, or how lively you’ll find a more rural campus.

 

 

When selecting a school it’s important that you consider the distance from your home. Many people often times will want to be available to go home on some weekends or for big events. What the cost is to go home? Can you take public transportation, can you have a car on campus your first year, can a friend or parent pick you up, if needed? A primary consideration for location is the cost. In-state-schools provide a much lower cost to attend than an out-of-state school. If you know you’ll need to borrow student loans for college it may be best to stay with an in-state-school. Paying to attend an out-of-state school will mean more money you’ll have to borrow and eventually pay back. Your decision on school location should be influenced by your comfortability level with being away from home and the cost associated with the location.

 

Tally Total Cost

Cost is a huge factor in selecting a college.  Fees aren’t only limited to tuition but can be dependent on the school. One school may have lower tuition, but fees like room and board, off-campus housing, meal plans, or transportation. We touched on this previously but, if you opt for a school that’s farther from home, how much will you spend coming home to visit? If you really want to go far away from home you may need to factor in the cost of airfare to visit home. Plus, look into fees like a parking permit and departmental fees. It’s worth doing a little math to see what the total cost is before you get your heart set on one or another.

 

Finding Financial Aid

If you can qualify for financial aid and are being provided with financial aid from a college that should heavily impact your decision. Can you get more aid at one school vs. another? Are there more scholarship options available through one college over another? Does staying in-state offer enough benefits that you don’t want to leave? There’s nothing wrong with picking a school because it will offer you the most aid. Aid is especially important if you are borrowing money to attend college. Even if the school doesn’t check all of your other boxes for wants, the cost savings could help make it a front-runner. Make sure you check into scholarships and applications for aid before you make your decision.

 

What You Need to Know About Scholarships for College

 

Culture Shock

Schools usually have a discernible culture that students or faculty can feel and describe. For instance, a school with a robust exchange student program might be more inclusive and have a culture that appreciates diverse perspectives. Another school might be steeped in tradition and fit better for someone with traditional values. Schools with bigger arts programs or specialties in STEM could have a culture all their own. You really can’t get a good depiction of the culture from marketing materials. Understanding a school’s culture is the kind of thing you can ask while visiting or inquire about online in places like forums or Reddit.

 

Sweet Student Life

You will be spending a lot of time on campus. Even if you are non-traditional or live off campus. You should take advantage of entertainment, attending special activities, and participating in one or more organizations. Maybe you want a certain Greek life experience—check into it! Ask around and see what the reputation of campus life is like. Look at upcoming events and see what types of organizations you can join. It can be difficult the first year to make friends and get connected into a social group. Well-supported campus life can make this big task a breeze and set you up for some awesome lifelong friendships and memorable experiences.

 

All About Amenities

Relatively little things can make a big difference—especially if you’re between a few schools or have close contenders. Think about recreation and facilities on campus, what their sports, athletics programs or teams are like. Does the school have a special connection to a family member or your culture? Small things like cafes that better serve your dietary needs or campus dining options that stand above the rest can weigh into your decision. Your decision should not be based solely on these relatively small things, but if you’re on the fence of two universities it could be what gives you the push needed.

 

It’s important to understand how you’ll be financing college before you start looking at the school. If you plan on financing college by taking out student loans, they can impact your future. Once you understand your finances, you’ll be able to prioritize what is most important to you and start there. Remember too that schools usually have lots of opportunities for you to visit and learn more. There are entire departments of people whose job it is to acquaint you with the campus and community. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions. Go in person and get a feel for the school if you can. Don’t forget to connect with potential faculty for your preferred major. You’ll probably learn a lot about what life would be like as a student, which will help make your decision much easier.

 

Happy school hunting!

Lower College Costs with These Jobs

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Photo of graduation cap on top of a pile of money
2020-02-10
Financial Aid Options for Middle-Income Families

It’s no secret that college comes with a hefty price tag. Every year, students and their families have to figure out how they’re going to pay thousands of dollars in school bills. While high-income families may have the resources to pay tuition, footing the entire bill just isn’t realistic for some families, especially if they have more than one child attending college. This is why many students rely on financial aid to fund their education.

 

It’s generally known that students from lower-income families can qualify for special scholarships and grants that help fill the gap to fund their education, but for families around the middle-income tier, financial aid options may be harder to come by and make them feel that their options are limited. Rest assured that there are options for middle-class families to receive the financial assistance they need – it just may take a bit more effort.

 

FAFSA

When it comes to looking for financial aid for college, the FAFSA is a great place to start. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid has no income cutoff for eligibility, so your child could still receive some need-based aid from the FAFSA, especially if he or she plans on enrolling at a higher-cost school. The FAFSA opens October 1 every year, and you can apply as early as the year prior to your child’s first day of college. The earlier you apply, the more likely your child is to receive financial aid. 

 

Scholarships

Researching and applying for scholarships has continually proven itself worthy of the effort. Many scholarships are merit-based instead of need-based, so your child may be eligible for many different scholarships depending on the qualifications. Start by looking for local scholarships – many locally-owned businesses and organizations offer scholarships for graduating high school students. If your child visits the school guidance office, they may have some applications on file. You or your spouse could also ask your employer if they offer any type of scholarships or financial aid for employees’ children. After exhausting local options, your child may want to research national opportunities. A quick web search could reveal countless free scholarships – Niche, Fastweb, and eCampusTours are a good place to start. Finally, many colleges offer merit-based scholarships and endowment scholarships. Make sure your child looks for institutional scholarships at the school he or she plans to attend. You may discover that if your child joins a club or raises a standardized test score by a couple of points, he or she could receive thousands more dollars of financial aid.

 

Tuition Discounts

If a family member, such as a parent or grandparent attended the same college or university you're enrolled in, you may receive a tuition discount. There may be additional requirements to qualifying for this discount, such as, your family member being active in the school's alumni association or maintaining a certain GPA.

 

Tax Rewards

Middle-income families are perfectly positioned to receive tax credits for college expenditures. For example, the Lifetime Learning credit has income requirements that exclude those who earn over and under certain amounts. Programs like this, as well as tuition savings plans, offer a few different ways for middle-income families to receive tax benefits.

 

Federal Loans

If you’ve taken advantage of all your financial aid options and find you still have more to pay, it may be time to consider loans. Non-need based federal loans such as the Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan for students and the Federal PLUS Loan for parents can bridge whatever gap you find in your aid and your expenses. Federal education loans generally have low interest rates or may be tax-deductible, so they’re a smart alternative to using a credit card, for example.

 

Private Loans

You may find that you still need financial assistance after exhausting all the options above. If that’s the case, private student loans may be for you. We always recommend you take advantage of grants, scholarships, and federal aid before taking out a private student loan. To learn more about ELFI’s private student loan options,* click here.

 

The cost of college can present a challenge for families at all income levels, but middle-income families often struggle the most to find good financial aid options because their finances fall between affording college and needing assistance. If your family is in this situation, don’t let it get you down. The options in this article are a good place to start searching for financial assistance. Don’t lose sight of the end goal – getting the degree you want and establishing a successful career. If you’re already looking for financial aid options, you’re well on your way.

 
  *Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.  

Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.

2020-01-27
FAFSA Deadlines for 2020

Congratulations! You are graduating high school and taking the next step into college. You may have been accepted into different schools and still deciding where you will attend or you have already been admitted into your dream school and are now wondering how you will pay for it. Whether you’re already committed to a school or still planning your future, it’s important to know what the FAFSA is and the deadlines associated with it when you are figuring out how to pay for college.

 

What is the FAFSA?

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You should complete the FAFSA in order to be eligible to receive federal, state financial aid, and aid from your school. The aid can be in the form of grants, scholarships, work study, and federal student loans. The application is easy to complete online or by paper. The application provides the necessary information to calculate your financial need to see what aid you would be eligible for. There are no income limitations so it’s smart to fill out FAFSA regardless of your financial situation. Even if you think you and/or your family may not qualify for financial aid, you will not know for sure until your university’s financial aid office reviews your application.

 

Note: As the name states it is a free application, so be aware of any websites that charge you to fill out the application to avoid any scams!

 

Who Should File the FAFSA?

If you are a senior in high school and will be attending college you should fill out the form. Also, returning college students who previously filled out the FAFSA must fill out the FAFSA every year while in school. The information allows financial aid offices to determine your financial need.
  • Your financial need is determined by taking the Cost of Attendance (COA) and subtracting your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).  COA - EFC = Financial Need.
  • The COA is different for each school and includes tuition, books, supplies, transportation, and room and board.
  • Your EFC is calculated by a formula established by law based on the information provided on the FAFSA. The formula takes into account your family’s income, assets, and family size, among other factors for a dependent student.
  • If your EFC is low you may be eligible for more financial aid.
  So how does all this work? Here is an example:
  • You plan to attend a school with a COA of $25,000.
  • Your EFC is $10,000.
  • $25,000 - $10,000 = $15,000 is your financial need. This amount could be awarded to you in grants by the school, state or federal grants or by subsidized federal student loans.
 

Preparing to File the FAFSA

Ready to file? Here is the information you will need to complete the application.
  • If you are a dependent student (receiving financial help from parents) you will need the following for both you and your parents:
    • Social Security Number
    • Tax returns
    • Bank statements
  •  You will also need to apply for a FSA ID. This is a username and password that will allow you to access the Federal Student Aid’s system to complete and sign the FAFSA electronically.
 

Important Dates to Know

The earlier you file the FAFSA, the better because you will be eligible for more aid. It is also important to file before the federal deadline because some states set their own deadlines that may be earlier than the federal deadline. Your state may also require an additional form, so be sure to check the Federal Student Aid website to see what your state requires. In addition, some schools have an earlier deadline then the federal deadline so you should check with your school’s financial aid office to ensure that you don’t miss their deadline.

  The important federal dates to know are:
  • October 1 - the application becomes available
  • June 30 - the deadline to file each year
The application becomes available on October 1, the year before you would start school. While you have until June 30 after the school year to submit the application, it’s advantageous for you to apply as early as possible.   This means for the 2019-2020 school year the application became available on October 1, 2018 and the deadline is June 30, 2020. For the 2020-2021 school year the application became available on October 1, 2019 and must be submitted by June 30, 2021. On October 1, 2020 the application for the 2021-2022 school year will become available.  

Other Options: Private Student Loans and Student Loan Refinancing

Maybe you didn’t know about the financial aid process and the deadline passed or didn’t receive enough aid and are looking to cover the gap in education expenses. Luckily, there are other options to help you pay for school.   Private student loans are a great resource to help you pay for higher education. Private student loans are from a private lending company or bank that you can use to pay for your school expenses included in the cost of attendance. You can apply for private student loans at any time. Just like with the FAFSA, you will need to provide some financial information and documents, such as your most recent W-2 and paystub. If you do not have these items you may need a co-signer, such as a parent, who will have these documents.   There are many private lenders so it’s best to do your research and compare. You want a lender that is reputable and offers a good rate on your loan. It’s also important to compare the terms of any loan offers. For example, you should check if there is a prepayment penalty on the loan or any fees associated with the loan.   A private student loan company should make the process easy. At ELFI there are no fees to apply, no origination fees and no prepayment penalties*. There are also flexible repayment options. The online application is a simple process that allows you to see personal rates within minutes and you receive a dedicated Personal Loan Advisor to help you through the loan process.   Private student loan companies can also help if you have already taken out loans. Through student loan refinancing*, you can reduce the interest you are paying on your student loans and as a result, reduce your monthly payments and the amount you pay over the lifetime of the loan. To see how much you could save by refinancing, check out our student loan refinance calculator.  

Bottom Line

Mark the dates in your calendar and be sure to fill out the FAFSA early. Paying for school can be one less worry if you plan ahead!  
 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

2020-01-24
This Week in Student Loans: January 24

Please note: Education Loan Finance does not endorse or take positions on any political matters that are mentioned. Our weekly summary is for informational purposes only and is solely intended to bring relevant news to our readers.

  This week in student loans:

A Zero Based Budget Helped This Woman Pay Off $215k Worth of Student Loan Debt in 4 Years

When Cindy Zuniga accomplished a major milestone when she graduated from law school in 2015, however, she also came out with $215,000 in student loan debt. See how she managed to eliminate her debt in just four years by both refinancing her student loans and using a zero based budget.  

Source: ABC News

 

signing legislation

Court Cites Student Loans As Reason To Deny Bar Admission To New Lawyer

Student loan debt can sometimes be a barrier to obtaining professional licensure, specifically for teachers, doctors, and nurses. For one recent graduate of law school, her student loan debt played a significant role in her being denied a license to practice law.  

Source: Forbes

 

Student Loan Debt Is a Key Factor for Gen Z When Making Career Decisions

A recent survey found that Gen Z's concern over student loan debt is a key factor in their career decisions, causing many to prioritize finances over passion when it comes to their fields of study. The study found that an overwhelming 61% of college students would take a job they're not passionate about due to the pressure to pay off their student loans.  

Source: Yahoo News

    That wraps things up for this week! Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or LinkedIn for more news about student loans, refinancing, and achieving financial freedom.  
 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.