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What you Need to Know About College Scholarships: Part I

March 26, 2019

Paying for College? Here’s Where to Find College Scholarships

 

So you’re going to college. That’s great! But now you need to find a way to pay for it. Lots of people have a successful college career by borrowing student loans for college, but scholarships for college can help lessen the amount you need to borrow. Here are some things you need to know about college scholarships and how to find them.

 

When should I search for college scholarships?

 

One of the most important things to know about searching for scholarships for college is that you should start early to make sure you’re meeting deadlines. The sooner you start looking for aid, the better. You want to be top of the pile when it comes time to apply, and you don’t want to miss out because you were late on a deadline. If you are late to apply to a scholarship deadline, chances are they won’t accept your submission.

 

If you know what degree you want and where you’ll be going to school, it cuts out the guesswork. Your degree and school will heavily impact how much you’ll pay for college.  Any amount of schooling that can be paid for by a scholarship will be the best option. If you’re earlier in the process, here are some helpful figures on the average cost:

 

What does it cost to go to school?

 

School costs vary widely depending on multiple factors. Factors that impact schools costs include your degree, choice of school, and the type of field you’re going into. You may also be able to work while going to school, which can lower the cost.

 

Degree Type

Average Cost – Public Average Cost – Private
Associate’s Degree – Two Year[1] $3,570 $14,587
Bachelor’s Degree – Four Year[2] $102,352 $250,576–$341,184

(For-profit vs. Not-for-profit)

Master’s Degree[3] From $30,000 to $120,000, depending on the program and school
Doctorate[4] From $15,000 to $50,000, depending on the program and school

 

 

What should I look for in a college scholarship?

 

Scholarship qualifications can vary significantly based on the person or organization that created it. You might have to keep up a religious commitment or affiliation, meet performance requirements, or prove you are completing projects or work. Most commonly scholarships require that you need to maintain a certain grade point average and enrollment status. Don’t be surprised if other stipulations apply to a scholarship. It’s important to know the details when considering if you should apply or accept scholarships for college.

Secondly, you also need to look into how you are allowed to use the funds. Some scholarships cover strictly academic fees. Others scholarships may be used for room and board or general living expenses. Know the restrictions on funds before you accept any financial aid. The last thing you want to do is risk losing the money or having to pay it back.

Finally, be sure to find out what the worst case scenario might be. If you change programs or don’t achieve the grade you needed, what happens? It’s nothing that should scare you away from scholarships, but you need to know. Knowing if you’ll be on the hook later if something goes wrong is important.

 

Federal Scholarships

The U.S. Department of Education has lots of tips on finding federal student aid and federal scholarships. Be sure you start your scholarship search for college at studentaid.ed.gov. In order to avoid taking out student loans for college, checking with government programs is a must. An added bonus is that the details and requirements are pretty clearly laid out. Using the U.S. Department of Education website is usually a quick search that’s easier to do, so we’d recommend starting your scholarship search there.

 

College Scholarship Categories

There are lots of different categories of scholarships. Here are some of the main ones you might qualify for. Narrowing down your search to a category can really help you focus on what applies to you and make your search more effective.

 

Scholarships for Academic Excellence (or even average performance)

As you can imagine, the top academic scholarships are highly competitive and only apply to the tip-top of high-performing students. Very few of us fall into that category. The good news is that whether you’re an ace or have more typical grades, you can still search for scholarships based on the level you’ve achieved in school and see if you qualify.

 

Athletic Scholarships

Are you good at a sport or activity? Search for those scholarships! From chess to volleyball to football and soccer, there are scholarships for lots of different types of athletes.

 

Legacy Scholarships

Your parents might have a connection to a university or organization that offers scholarships. Ask around the family and see if you can make that connection.

 

Military Scholarships

Most people are aware that the military offers money for college. There are lots of options from military reserves up to enlisting for a few years of full-time military membership. Check out this list of military scholarships and aid for active duty service members and veterans.

 

Scholarships for Parents

Single parents, working parents, and young parents are just some of the people who might qualify for this type of scholarship. Lots of organizations and schools want to promote education for all members of the community, and sending parents to school (or back to school) might make you their prime applicant.

 

Scholarships for Minorities

Scholarships for minorities often come from community organizations, colleges, and institutions, or even national and global groups that want to promote education for your ethnic or cultural group. Search this type of scholarships for college to learn more.

 

Scholarships for Women

Similarly to scholarships for minorities and parents, women often face barriers to attending school at higher rates than men. Scholarships for women offer extra help to make sure educating women is a priority.

 

Creative or Writing Scholarships

Essay contests, portfolio reviews, and performance arts-based scholarships exist for students in the arts. They often vary based on the school and focus of study, but there are many available. Don’t pass up searching for scholarships if you’re going into the arts or humanities, or even if you are a good essay writer and want to search for writing opportunities that might help you get a scholarship for college.

 

Community Service Scholarships

Community service covers a huge array of possibilities. If you’re passionate about helping your community, see if you can get involved with some projects, start one of your own, or search community service scholarships now to see what you could be doing that would make you eligible.

 

Unusual Scholarships

From scholarships for tall women to people with red hair to fans of HAM radio, there are all kinds of unusual scholarships for college out there. Check out lists like this one at Scholarships.com to see what you might qualify for that you never would have thought of!

 

Look for Upcoming Parts to This Guide

If you’re looking for scholarships for college because you want to save on your student loans for college, we’ll be posting more information soon to help guide you!

 

Jobs to Reduce Student Loans for College

 

NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites

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.

 

 

[1] https://www.studentdebtrelief.us/news/average-cost-of-college-2018/

[2] https://www.campusexplorer.com/college-advice-tips/E66537B4/Costs-Of-A-Bachelor-s-Degree-Program/

[3] https://www.bestmastersdegrees.com/best-masters-degrees-faq/how-much-does-a-masters-degree-cost

[4] https://study.com/articles/How_Much_Does_a_Doctorate_Degree_Cost.html

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Dad with Parent PLUS loans hugging daughter
2020-09-16
Should You Refinance Private Parent Loans in 2020?   

Are you a parent who took on student loans for your child to attend school? If so, you are not alone. As of 2019, over 3.4 million people have Parent PLUS loans. The payment of the loans may become burdensome as the desire to save and enjoy retirement approaches. If extra money in your budget could help, Parent PLUS loan borrowers may want to take advantage of the current low rates and refinance the student loans they took on for their children.  

Types of Parent Loans

Before you decide whether refinancing is beneficial for you, it’s helpful to know what types of loans you have. Parents may have private parent loans that are borrowed through a private lender such as a bank, or Parent PLUS loans that are borrowed through the federal government. Parent PLUS loans are also known as Direct PLUS loans. Here’s a breakdown of how the two types of parent loans differ:
  • Interest Rates: Typically private parent loans will have a lower interest rate than Parent PLUS loans. Parent PLUS loans can have an interest rate as high as 7.06% in recent years, whereas private parent loans can have an interest rate of around 4%.
  • Loan Terms: Private parent loans can also have a fixed or variable interest rate and have a loan term from 5 to 25 years. Parent PLUS loans have a fixed interest rate and an origination fee. The loan term can last from 10 to 25 years.
  • Additional Benefits: Since the Parent PLUS loan is through the federal government it is eligible for an income-contingent repayment plan, meaning the payment is based on your income and family size.
 

Current Benefits for Parent Loan Borrowers

Currently, Parent PLUS loans are eligible for benefits through the federal government due to the CARES Act passed by Congress on March 27, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The benefits are set to expire on September 30, 2020, however, an executive order was issued on August 8, 2020, directing the benefits to continue through December 31, 2020. The protections provided by the CARES Act, and continued through the executive order, for Parent PLUS loans include:
  • The interest rate on the loan is temporarily reduced to 0%. No interest will be accruing on the loan during this time. However, interest will begin accruing again at the previous interest rate on January 1, 2021.
  • Administrative forbearance - This provides for a temporary suspension of payments during this time. Payments are set to resume in January 2021. This means you can save money to make a lump sum payment on your Parent PLUS loan when payments resume. Alternatively, you can use the money as an emergency fund if payments become difficult to make.
  • Stopped collections - Any defaulted loans would no longer be subject to collections during this time period.
 

How to Know Whether You Should Refinance

With these benefits currently in place, it is fiscally responsible to take advantage of the federal protections provided for Parent PLUS loans rather than refinancing at this time.  However, private parent loans are not eligible for any federal protections, making them prime candidates for refinancing. Currently, interest rates for refinancing are at an all-time low because of the Federal Reserve lowering interest rates in response to the pandemic. This makes it a great time to take advantage of these low interest rates for private parent loans.   Refinancing rates for private parent loans are as low as 2.39% for a variable interest rate and 2.79% for a fixed interest rate as of September 14, 2020. This new rate could lead to significant savings depending on your current balance, rate and loan term. At ELFI, you can prequalify to see what rate you would be eligible for. You can also use our Student Loan Refinance Calculator to get an estimate of your savings based on a range of interest rates.*   Not only does refinancing private parent loans save you money monthly by securing a lower interest rate, but refinancing to a lower interest rate also saves you in interest costs over the loan term. In addition, the other benefits of refinancing private parent loans are:
  • Combining multiple private and federal Parent PLUS loans into one loan with one payment
  • Changing the loan term length by either shortening it to save on interest costs or lengthening it to lower your monthly payments
  If refinancing sounds right for you, it’s important to know the eligibility requirements. These will make you more likely to qualify for the best rate at ELFI:
  • A strong credit history, with a minimum credit score of 680
  • Steady employment with a minimum income of at least $35,000
  When you refinance student loans at ELFI there is never an application fee or origination fee. You will also never pay a prepayment penalty.

Bottom Line

Although interest rates are at a record low, it is advantageous to benefit from the current Parent PLUS loan protections for the time being. Then, in 2021, you can take advantage of the low interest rates if you choose to refinance. If you have a private parent loan, now is a great time to lock in a lower interest rate and start saving some money.  
  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.   *Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.
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.
Check out these 8 apps that can help you pay off your student loans
2020-08-20
8 Apps That Can Help You Pay Off Your Student Loans Faster

Over the past few decades, student loan debt has skyrocketed. That’s no secret. Fortunately, at the same time, hundreds of tools have been created to help make paying off student debt easier and faster. Many of them can be accessed entirely through your phone, turning student loan relief into a mobile, accessible service. We’ve compiled a list of several apps that can help you pay off your student loans. Take a look:  

Mint

There are dozens of fantastic budgeting apps, and Mint is among the best. It allows you to track and plan for expenses by providing easy access to statistics and other information about your spending.   How does this pertain to student loans? The answer is simple. Proper budgeting and paying off student loans go hand in hand. Being able to set aside portions of your income every month for your student loan payments is key to successful financial management. Plus, by looking at your budget and determining where you can cut spending, you’ll be able to put more money toward your student loan payments, allowing you to become debt-free faster.  

EveryDollar

Created by personal finance guru Dave Ramsey and his team, EveryDollar is another great budgeting application. Designed to be simple and efficient, EveryDollar is a very effective budgeting tool. As with Mint, maintaining a budget is key to every quick student loan payoff. EveryDollar is best used to identify where you can spend less money in order to reallocate that money to your student loan payments, and with all the information laid out in front of you, it’s hard not to see where you can make some improvements.  

ChangEd

Built by two individuals who struggled to pay off their student loans, ChangEd is an app that links to your credit and debit cards. When you make a purchase with those cards, ChangEd rounds up to the nearest dollar, taking that change and sending it straight to your student loan provider when you reach a minimum threshold. While seemingly a small amount, this extra change adds up. It’s more money going directly to your student loan payments. Who would turn that down?  

Qoins

Qoins functions very similarly to ChangEd. You connect your credit and debit cards, and after every purchase, Qoins will round up and send that money to your student loan provider. The difference between Qoins and ChangEd: there’s no minimum threshold to reach, all the extra money goes straight to your loan provider. That said, it charges a higher monthly fee than ChangEd to do this.  

Undebt.it

Undebt.it is a handy app that allows you to track all your debt in one place, then it provides a plan to help you pay it off in the most efficient way possible. One way is the ever-popular debt snowball method, where you pay off all of your smallest loans first, but you can also choose from a variety of repayment strategies. You can choose whichever works best for you. One highlight is the app's ability to show what a difference an extra payment makes.  

Debt Payoff Assistant

Debt Payoff Assistant is a debt tracker focused mostly on the debt snowball method. Input each of your debts, student debt especially, and a unique debt repayment plan is generated. The app offers great utility, with several built-in calculators, as well as the ability to view a payoff schedule, estimated payoff dates and more.  

Givling

Givling is a quirky way to deal with student debt faster. Twice a day, Givling hosts a trivia contest via their app. Winners earn a cash prize, and as one plays more, they help to crowdfund future giveaways and prizes. So if you’re good at trivia, this could be your chance to tackle some student debt. If you aren’t good, you’re still helping to pay off someone else's student loans. That said, the odds are against you winning big through Givling, and it’s definitely better to consider it a fun diversion rather than a serious solution for dealing with student debt.  

Google Opinion Rewards

A little like a side hustle, Google Opinion Rewards and other survey-for-pay websites are a different way to deal with student debt. When you complete a survey, you will receive a very small reward, but the rewards add up over time. It’s a great way to fill short periods with nothing to do. You can easily earn a little pocket change in a waiting room or while waiting for the tea kettle to boil. Put it towards your student loans, and you’ll be well on your way!   There are dozens more apps that can help you pay off your student loans, and undoubtedly there will be even more in the coming years. It’s never been easier to get organized and tackle your student loans head on, and with these apps, we hope you’ll get it done in style. If the apps don’t cut it, it may be time to consider student loan refinancing, check it out here.  
  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.