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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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college student refinancing student loans
2020-05-26
Can You Refinance Student Loans While in School?

If you have student loans you probably have wondered what’s the best way to handle them. Should you wait to pay them after graduation or start paying them while in school? Or maybe you have heard about student loan refinancing and are wondering if it is right for you. Read on to find out one way you can manage your student loans that will benefit you right now.  

What is Student Loan Refinancing?

When you refinance student loans you take out a new loan to pay off one or multiple federal or private student loans. You will have a new loan term and presumably a lower interest rate. You can refinance to a new loan with the same amount of years left as your old loan or stretch out the term to allow a longer time for repayment. If you increase the amount of time to repay this will lower your monthly payment but likely will cause you to pay more interest over the loan term.   

Can You Refinance Student Loans While in School?  

The short answer is yes, but it may be difficult to find a lender that you can refinance with if you are still in college. Many lenders require a Bachelor’s degree as an eligibility requirement for refinancing. The other
requirements to refinance* with ELFI include: 
  • You must have a credit score of at least 680 and a minimum yearly income of $35,000. 
  • Must have a minimum credit history of 36 months.
  • Must be a U.S. citizen, the age of majority. 
  If you cannot currently meet these requirements, you can have a cosigner that fits these requirements.     If you have federal student loans some may argue you should wait to refinance them until you graduate because they offer more flexibility with deferment and forbearance. However, some private lenders also offer deferment and forbearance options. Some other things to consider are:
  • If you think you will get a job in the public sector that would qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you may not want to refinance because you would lose the benefit of having your federal student loans forgiven under the program. 
  • If you think you will want to take advantage of an income-driven repayment plan when you graduate, you may not want to refinance because this is only offered for federal student loans. Tip: Be aware that when you take advantage of income-driven repayment plans, your monthly payment is lower, but you will end up paying more for the loan in interest costs.   
  There are many benefits to refinancing while in school to put you on a better financial path when you graduate. The average college graduate has $31,172 in student loans. However, you can work to reduce that amount by refinancing. Student loan refinancing can be beneficial for many reasons: 
  • Consolidate - Refinancing allows you to consolidate multiple federal and private student loans into one new loan. You can refinance some or all of your loans. Consolidation makes it easier to manage one loan as opposed to multiple loans. With only one loan you will be less likely to miss a due date, and avoid any associated late fees. 
  • Lowers Interest Rate - When you refinance you can potentially qualify for a lower interest rate. A lower interest rate saves you in interest costs over the life of the loan. 
    • If you have unsubsidized federal student loans (the ones where interest accrues while you are in school) your loans could be growing by an average of 4.53%. But if you refinance you may qualify for a lower rate, as low as 3.86%, and less interest would be accruing. 
  • Lower Monthly Payment - If you score a lower interest rate when you refinance you will be paying a lower monthly payment. To find out how much you could potentially save, use our Student Loan Refinance Calculator.*  
  • New Lender - Do you always have trouble with customer service when you want to ask a question about your loan? When you refinance, you can get a new lender if you choose. It’s great to find a lender with high customer reviews. At ELFI we pride ourselves on providing award-winning customer service. 
  • Fixed Interest Rate - if you have a loan with a variable interest rate it may be more advantageous to refinance and lock in a fixed interest rate. With a variable interest rate your payment can increase when interest rates increase, which could put a financial strain on your budget. 
  Important tip: if you refinance while in school and after graduation your credit score and income increase, you can always try refinancing your loan again to possibly get an even lower rate.*   

Conclusion

Researching how to handle your student loans while still in school is a great initiative to set yourself up for a strong financial future after graduation. Student loans may seem like a heavy burden, but utilizing resources available to you will make the monthly payments easier on your budget.  
  *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.
Former UT athletes obtain graduate degrees through the SouthEast Bank RAC Program.
2020-05-08
ELFI Parent Company Helps Former Student-Athletes Obtain Degrees

Empowering others to reach their full academic potential is an integral part of Education Loan Finance's mission, and this extends to its parent company, SouthEast Bank.   This was shown in a recent UTSports.com article highlighting how several former standout University of Tennessee athletes are set to complete their undergraduate degrees after putting their education on hold to pursue professional sports careers – these athletes, including former NFL wide receiver Peerless Price, were able to obtain their degrees with the help of the SouthEast Bank Renewing Academic Commitment (RAC) program, which helps former University of Tennessee student-athletes return to the university to complete their undergraduate studies.    As a company, we are proud to empower these individuals in achieving their academic goals and we congratulate them for their achievements both on the playing field and in the classroom.   Read the SouthEast Bank blog for more details on how this program has helped former University of Tennessee student-athletes achieve their academic goals.  
  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.
photo representing financial aid options for middle income families
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.