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Top 10 SAT Resource Publications for Students

July 11, 2019

Preparing to head off to college in the next year or two? If so, are you stressing out about the SAT? Colleges use SAT scores for admissions and merit-based scholarships. The SAT has three parts: reading, writing, and math. Studying for the SAT can help familiarize you with what the test looks like, develop relevant strategies and skills, and prepare you to achieve a high score. Here’s a list of self-guided prep books that can help you prepare for the SATs.

  1. The Official SAT Study Guide – The College Board. Pages: 1,145; Price: $19.01-$19.36The Official SAT Study Guide is a publication of The College Board, the organization that creates and administers the SAT. It includes eight practice tests that are similar to the exam. Each of these tests is available as a free, downloadable PDF on The College Board’s website. In addition to the tests, the book has an additional 250 pages of instruction, guidance, and test information. This volume should form the basis of your self-guided SAT studying program.
  2. SAT Prep Black Book: The Most Effective SAT Strategies Ever Published – Mike Barrett and Patrick Barrett. Pages: 575; Price: $24.50-$28.49SAT Prep Black Book deserves a place on your bookshelf right next to The Official SAT Study Guide. The book is authored by an SAT tutor who has guided many students in preparation for the test. Readers will learn how to use the ins and outs of the SAT to their advantage. It includes a walkthrough of more than 600 official SAT questions. The publication is written in a conversational style and is full of understandable advice for doing well on the SAT.
  3. The Complete Guide to SAT Reading – Erica Meltzer. Pages: 349; Price: $29.19-$33.20The Complete Guide to SAT Reading is a comprehensive review of the reading skills required to achieve high scores on the reading section of the SAT. The author is an experienced SAT tutor who provides breakdowns of SAT Reading types of questions. She gives in-depth explanations and numerous examples of how to effectively work through every kind of problem. This book offers helpful guidance for your SAT prep, no matter your level of reading skills.
  4. SAT Vocabulary: A New Approach – Erica Meltzer and Larry Krieger. Pages: 133; Price: $17.99-$18.95SAT Vocabulary covers critical vocabulary for the reading, writing and language, and essay sections of the SAT. Rather than just providing long lists of words and their meanings to memorize, the book teaches you to understand the various contexts in which vocabulary is tested. You can then test yourself by applying what you have learned with practice exercises.
  5. The College Panda’s SAT Essay: The Battle-tested Guide for the New 2016 Essay – Nielson Phu. Pages: 64; Price: $18.99-$21.52Nielson Phu is a teacher who achieved a perfect SAT score when he took the new SAT in 2016. A copy of his high-scoring essay is included in The College Panda’s SAT Essay. And, amazingly, Phu states that he’s not a naturally gifted writer. In this book, you’ll find Phu’s tips, strategies, and resources to enable you to score well on the SAT essay, even if you don’t think you’re a “good” writer. This short book is worth reading cover-to-cover.
  6. The College Panda’s SAT Writing: Advanced Guide and Workbook for the New SAT – Nielson Phu. Pages: 270; Price: $10.29-$28.49Nielson Phu loves to write books to help students achieve a perfect SAT score. Don’t be intimidated, though – The College Panda’s SAT Writing provides comprehensive coverage of what you need to know to do well in the SAT writing and language section. It gives clear explanations of every grammar rule tested on the SAT, from the most basic to the most obscure. It also includes hundreds of examples, drills, and practice questions. To make the study of grammar less boring, Phu has even added in some fun illustrations.
  7. The College Panda’s SAT Math: Advanced Guide and Workbook for the New SAT – Nielson Phu. Pages: 254; Price: $22-$28.49The College Panda’s SAT Math is a comprehensive guide to the SAT Math section. This publication is aimed at the student reaching for a perfect score, and, in pursuit of this goal, it leaves no stone unturned. The book has clear explanations of the math concepts tested on the SAT, ranging from the simplest to the most complex. It also provides hundreds of examples, over 500 practice questions, and lists of the most common mistakes students make. Even if you don’t think you can achieve that perfect score, this book is an excellent way to brush up on your math skills.
  8. Bring Home the Score: A Private Tutor’s Guide to Scoring in the Highest Echelons of the SAT, ACT, SHSAT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, NCLEX, MCAT, or Any Other Standardized Test – Walter Tinsley. Pages: 86; Price: $9.96-$9.97Don’t be put off by the lengthy subtitle of Bring Home the Score even if you have to look up what “echelon” means. This volume is jam-packed with tips, tricks, and strategies to land you among the top scorers on any standardized test – including the SAT. You will learn mental strategies to improve your motivation and avoid burnout from an overly aggressive study regimen. Bring Home the Score can help you create a schedule that’s intense but manageable.
  9. Solve. Create: The Insider’s Guide to the ACT and SAT –
    Scott Moser. Pages: 523; Price: $19.68-$29.95People don’t usually think that standardized tests and creativity go together. The author of this book, a private test prep tutor, bases his strategy of success in the SAT on individualization and process rather than focusing on rote memorization. Reason. Solve. Create. aims to help the reader become a better thinker. For example, the same reasoning skills that are used in writing a poem can also be applied to solving a math problem or correcting a mistake in grammar. Information pertaining only to the SAT is clearly marked.
  10. The Perfect Score Project: One Mother’s Journey to Uncover the Secrets of the SAT – Debbie Stier. Pages: 288; Price: $6.45-$16.45The Perfect Score Project is not a traditional SAT prep book but provides an interesting and insightful read for both students and parents. Debbie Stier, a single mother and an author, wanted to help her son prepare for the SAT. To this end, she took the test seven times in one year. She also studied every way possible to prep for the test. The result is a book with tried-and-tested answers to every SAT question a student might be asking themselves: When do I begin? Do I really need test prep with a big name? Do I need a tutor, a class, or can I self-study? What’s the one thing I need to know? Stier’s son did well on the SAT, and so can you.

 

All of these books can be purchased online, and the prices are for new and used books as advertised at the time (June 1, 2019) of this writing. The number of pages is approximate and is based on the table of contents for each book.

What You Need to Know About College Scholarships

 

 

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Graduate student sitting in class
2020-11-19
The Differences Between Undergraduate and Graduate Student Loans

If you are thinking about getting a graduate degree and you have undergraduate student loans, you probably have some familiarity with borrowing student loans for school. However, when you are deciding how to pay for graduate school, there are some key differences you should know that can help you save some money.   

Federal Graduate Student Loan Considerations

Interest Rates

Federal graduate student loans often have higher interest rates than federal undergraduate student loans. A higher interest rate results in more interest costs, meaning you are paying more money to borrow the loan. Interest rates can change annually, so it’s important to know the current rates when you’re considering taking out student loans.   The difference in interest rates can add up to thousands of dollars in interest over the life of the loan. When borrowing federal graduate student loans you want to be cognizant of only borrowing the amount you actually need since you will be paying a much higher interest rate on the loan.    

FAFSA

When applying for Federal Student Aid, you are required to fill out the FAFSA form, as you likely did for your undergraduate degree. The major difference is graduate students are considered independent students as opposed to dependent students, and therefore, your parent’s financial information is not needed. In addition, as an independent student, you may earn less than your parents, which could make additional financial aid available.   

Higher Borrowing Limits 

Federal graduate student loans have higher borrowing limits to cover the higher cost of tuition. For undergraduates, the maximum that can be borrowed depends on your year in school and whether you are a dependent or independent student, with limits ranging from $9,500 to $12,500 per year. Graduate students can borrow up to $20,500 per year in direct unsubsidized loans. There is no limit to how much can be borrowed in Grad PLUS loans, except for the cost of attendance.    These higher limits can be helpful when you need to cover all the expenses related to graduate school. However, this can lead to borrowing large loans at high interest rates that may be difficult to repay. Since graduate loans can be used to pay living expenses it is important to continue living on a budget and only borrowing the amount necessary.    

No Subsidized Loans 

With subsidized loans, interest does not accrue while you are in school. Unfortunately, that option is not available for federal graduate student loans. Your graduate student loan options include Direct Unsubsidized loans and Direct PLUS loans, which both begin accruing interest as soon as they are disbursed.   To avoid accruing more interest than necessary, be sure to minimize your graduate school expenses and loans. Also, if you are able to pay at least the interest costs while you are in school this will prevent you from having a larger total to pay back after graduation.   If you find yourself in need of greater financial flexibility, then consider student loan refinancing with a private lender after graduation. This option could decrease your interest rate and monthly student loan payment.  

Additional Graduate Student Loan Considerations

Financial Aid More Limited 

Undergraduates have several financial aid options based on need, such as the Federal Pell Grant, which in many cases does not have to be repaid.   Although grants and other forms of financial aid are sometimes available to graduate students, these options are more limited. Some financial aid options that may be available for graduate school include grants, scholarships, fellowships and federal and private student loans.  

Loan Fees

You may pay higher origination fees for federal graduate student loans versus undergraduate student loans. The origination fees are a percentage of the total loan amount you borrow. This fee will be taken out of your loan disbursement which lowers the actual amount you will receive, but the full amount of the loan is required to be paid back.    Some private lenders, like ELFI, do not charge an origination fee for loans, so be sure to consider that when comparing loan options.   

The Benefit of Private Graduate Student Loans

Private student loans may be more beneficial for graduate school than undergraduate student loans. That's because you may be able to score a lower interest rate on a private student loan if you have an excellent credit history. Private student loan interest rates are based on your income and credit history, so if you are looking to return to school while you are still employed, they may be a good option for you.  

Refinancing Your Graduate Student Loans

If you already have undergraduate and graduate student loans, student loan refinancing could help you to save money on your monthly payment and on interest costs. Refinancing is when you obtain a new loan to pay off previous student loans. You can refinance both federal and private undergraduate and graduate student loans.  

The Bottom Line

Understanding the differences between undergraduate and graduate student loans can help you make an informed decision about the best way to fund your education. If you have significant student debt, student loan refinancing could help you to save money and pay down your loans more quickly.
Girl writing a scholarship essay
2020-11-17
6 Tips to Help Ace Your Scholarship Essay

College is expensive. The good news is that scholarships provide a fantastic way to make the college experience a less expensive and more manageable one. There are thousands of scholarships out there from merit-based scholarships to scholarships for those planning on going into very specific fields.   One thing that may feel intimidating when applying for scholarships is that many require completion of an essay. However, with a little preparation and hard work, the scholarship essay can be an easy way to show off your personality and explain why you deserve the scholarship. It’s one of your strongest tools to set you apart from other candidates. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of scholarship essay tips:  

Start Early

One of the best scholarship essay tips is to give yourself plenty of time to write and rewrite. Any writer will tell you that writing is a process of revision, and the best way to get ahead in that process is to start early.   Take a look at the essay prompts and requirements. Consider building out an outline. Write. Rewrite. Take your time. Since you’ve started so early, there’s no reason to worry about deadlines just yet.  

Be Passionate

The scholarship essay is your chance to really show who you are. They can’t tell what you are interested in and how spectacular you are from your paperwork and grades. The essay is the real test.   When you are choosing something to write about, another scholarship essay tip is to select a subject that you're passionate about. If you write about something that makes you happy, the reader is sure to understand that you feel strongly about the subject and enjoy your essay even more.   In addition, the essay readers don’t want to hear about something pessimistic or negative, so keep the tone positive or show how you turned a negative experience into a positive one. Even consider writing about a time where you learned from failure.  

Get Personal

Sometimes it can be hard to share emotions and personal details in your writing. These details, however, also give the essay readers a genuine sense of who you are.   Your experiences and feelings are totally unique, and sharing them in your essay will set you apart. Regardless of the seriousness of whatever story you tell, don’t be afraid to show your personality. It’s always better to, especially since your application already covers your academic and personal achievements.  

Edit

Because you started early, you’ll have plenty of time to edit your essay. A well-edited essay is one of the most important parts of any scholarship application. Far more important than having incredible stories of struggle and failure is the ability to write a cohesive and grammatically correct essay.   So when you’re writing, take the time to go back through your work and correct any grammar and spelling mistakes first. Then consider putting your essay into a tool like Grammarly which will check spelling, grammar and diction.   After that, it’s always worth giving your essay to someone to read. Ask your teachers, family, friends, anyone to trust to read over your essay and provide feedback. Remember, the more feedback the better.  

Have Fun

A scholarship essay tip you may not have considered is to enjoy the process of writing. Essays should have a hook, meaning something fun to engage the reader. Some humor (or pathos) can make your essay much more effective.   Understandably, with so much on the line, it’s easy to forget that the purpose of this essay is to show off your personality, but don’t forget to have some fun. Provide a nice balance of serious content and levity. Your readers will appreciate it, and you’ll be left with a stronger essay.  

Leave Some Things Out

Profanity

With all the talk of having fun and being yourself, you might get a little carried away. Be warned: there are some things you should leave out of your college essay, including profanity or inappropriate language. Simply put, it’s unprofessional, and it makes it seem that you aren’t taking the essay seriously.  

Cliches

Next to avoid would be cliches. It’s easy to churn out a cliche-ridden success story, especially when you’re following a common prompt, for example, learning from failure or overcoming adversity. Watch out for overused phrases in your writing, and avoid them when you can.  

Casual Writing

Finally and most importantly, write formally without losing your sense of personality. This means eliminating any text speak. No “LOLs” or emojis. It also means that you should keep your use of contractions to a minimum. They may be great for casual writing, but removing them from your essay will make it seem all the more polished.  

The Bottom Line

Writing a college scholarship essay doesn’t have to be intimidating. Follow the instructions and try your best to show off who you are in order to most effectively reach your readers. The fact is, regardless of whether or not you receive a scholarship right away, there are thousands ready to accept your application.   Best of all, since you’ve started early, you have plenty of time to work on dozens more essays and applications. By following these tips, you’ll give yourself the best possible chance of scholarship success.   If despite your scholarships you still find yourself burdened by student debt, check out these great ways to pay off your student loans faster here.
Woman smiling at college graduation
2020-09-08
7 Actions to Take Before Your Grace Period Ends

Congratulations! You graduated from college and have hopefully settled into the start of your career. If it has been almost 6 months since your graduation, it’s most likely your student loan grace period is nearing the end if you have federal student loans. Are you prepared for when your grace period ends? Luckily we have some actions you can take to prepare.      If you have federal student loans, there is a six month grace period before you have to begin making payments after you graduate, leave school or drop below a half-time student. Not all federal student loans have a grace period. The loans that do include: direct subsidized and direct unsubsidized. PLUS loans for graduate school have a six month deferment period after graduation where payments are not required. Some private student loans also have a grace period but it may not be six months. Be sure to check with your lender to determine if any grace period exists.   

Actions to Take

Here are a few actions you should take before your grace period ends to ensure you are prepared.  

Determine Your Debts

  First, it’s important to understand the types of student loans you have. For example, do you have private or federal loans? If you have federal student loans, you’ll need to determine whether you have subsidized or unsubsidized loans. Subsidized loans mean the U.S. Department of Education will pay the interest on the loan during the grace period for most loans. (Note: If you have a direct subsidized loan that was disbursed between July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2014, you are responsible for the interest during the grace period.) If you have a Direct Unsubsidized loan you will always be responsible for the interest, even the interest accruing during the grace period. This means that if you don’t need the grace period you may want to think about at least paying the interest on the loan.    Be sure to take stock of your other debts, such as a car loan or credit card payments, and their minimum payments.  

Make a Budget

Determine a budget that includes your new student loan payment and all other debt payments. Once you determine your budget, start following it before your grace period ends. The money budgeted for your student loan can be put aside to use as an emergency fund. Or use the money you saved during the grace period to make a principal-only payment to get ahead on your repayment.    

Set Up Auto-Pay 

Another great action to take during your grace period is setting up auto-pay through your loan servicer. Setting up auto-pay will ensure your student loan payment is always made on time. Another great benefit of using the auto-pay feature is that federal student loans are given a 0.25% interest rate reduction. Some private student loan lenders also provide a discount for auto-pay so check with your lender if any discount is available.   

Establish a Debt Repayment Plan

Your grace period is a great time to establish a student loan debt repayment plan. A debt repayment plan will help you decide exactly how you will pay off your debts. There are two main types of student loan debt repayment plans, the snowball method, and the avalanche method. You have to decide which method would work better for your financial situation and motivation. Either method will be helpful if you have multiple student loans or other debts to pay off. Once you decide on your method, you will know how to allocate any extra money you have in your budget for debt repayment. When it comes time for your grace period to end you will be more than ready to start paying down your loans efficiently!   

Research Repayment Options

  1. If you have multiple student loans you can pay each loan, keeping track of each loan individually and their due dates. 
  2. Another option is to consolidate your federal loans into one loan. The average interest rate of the consolidated loans becomes the fixed interest rate on the new consolidated loan. This is consolidating your federal loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan through the U.S. Department of Education.  
  3. Refinance student loans. Once you start getting your finances in order you may realize your student loan payment is not going to fit in your budget or has a much higher interest rate then what is available now. That’s where refinancing your student loans can help. Refinancing your student loans means you will borrow a new private student loan to pay off any previous student loans (including federal and other private student loans). Refinancing can save you money because interest rates can be much lower than for federal loans. A lower interest rate means you are saving money in interest costs monthly and over the life of the loan. To find out how much you could save use our Student Loan Refinance Calculator.*
 

Learn About Borrower Protections and Programs

When you have federal student loans you are provided benefits that are not always provided by private student loan lenders. The grace period of your loans is a good time to find out about any federal borrower protections you may want to use in the future, such as deferment and forbearance for your loans. Also, if you work for a non-profit or government agency, your loans may qualify for forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. During the grace period, it is helpful to learn about the requirements for the program so when your payments begin you can be sure they qualify under the specific rules of the program.    

Learn About the Repayment Plans

If you are shocked by what your monthly payment will be on the standard repayment plan, check into the other student loan repayment plans provided for by the U.S. Department of Education. Certain loans are eligible for an Income-Driven Repayment Plan, where your payment will be based on your income. Or you can elect to have your loans on the Graduated Repayment Plan that will extend your loan term to provide for a smaller monthly payment. However, keep in mind that you will end up paying more interest over the loan term.   

The Bottom Line

Taking these actions will help you be prepared for the end of your grace period. You are already a step ahead by thinking about this now. This preparation will start you off on a bright financial future knocking out your student loans. Good luck!  
  *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.