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What You Need to Know About College Scholarships: Part 2

May 10, 2019

Part 1 of this series covered the basics of searching for scholarship money to lessen the cost of college and the average cost of college. Part 2 looks at scholarships available through the federal government and gives you additional information about qualifying and applying for these opportunities to help you achieve your educational goals.

 

Federal Scholarships for College

 

It’s a big part of the American Dream: graduating from college to pursue a productive and rewarding career. In fact, Americans value a college education so much that our federal government awards over 120 billion dollars in annual aid to help students achieve this goal. Much federal financial aid is in the form of student loans, work-study programs, and tax credits for education. However, the government also awards “free money,” which often doesn’t have to be repaid. Instead of calling this type of award a scholarship, the government calls it a federal grant. Grants are awarded based on need, plus special conditions and circumstances. A federal scholarship or grant could be your ticket to a great education at a lower cost.

 

Federal Grants & Private Scholarships: What’s the Difference?

 

You may be eligible for both federal grants and scholarships from your college, state, service club, foundation or business. One of the main differences between the two types of aid is the application process. Each private scholarship has its own process, and you must carefully adhere to the instructions and meet all deadlines if you hope to qualify. Eligibility for a federal grant is determined using the comprehensive FAFSA® form, which students submit to apply for all federal student aid (grants, loans, work-study and other types of federal assistance). An exception to this is military ROTC scholarships and VA programs, which have varying application processes. ROTC and VA applicants must go through the appropriate service branch or agency to apply.

 

Private scholarships are frequently awarded on merit (scholastic or athletic achievement), specified condition (area of study, heritage, college or state) or financial need. Sometimes, more than one criterion is used to determine the award. Federal grants are based primarily on need, although some federal programs have been established for specific purposes like promoting teacher education or community service. Such grants may have additional requirements, like academic achievement and service commitment, in exchange for education benefits. Likewise, scholarships awarded through U.S. military ROTC programs come with a specific commitment to serve.

 

How Do You Apply for a Federal Grant or Scholarship?

 

Application for federal grants begins by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. To apply for scholarships through military ROTC programs, you must apply with the associated military branch. Application for VA benefits can be accessed through the Dept. of Veterans Affairs website. The Dept. of Defense also offers scholarships and graduate fellowships with their own application process. Links to these federal sites are listed here:

 

 

Resources for Grants & Scholarships Through the Federal Government

Check out these federal grant programs that could help you lower the amount of money you have to borrow to attend college.

 

Pell Grants:

These grants gave eligible students a maximum amount of $6,195 toward their education in 2019 – 2020. Students may receive this assistance for up to 12 semesters of college.

Available To: Undergraduate Students

Qualifications:

  1. Must show exceptional financial need.
  2. Have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree. May be eligible if enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program.
  3. Must not have been incarcerated in a federal or state correctional institution.

Amount Received Dependent On:

  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Defined by the Department of Education as “an index number that college financial aid staff use to determine how much financial aid you would receive if you were to attend their school.” The FAFSA form information is used to calculate this. The formula takes into account your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets, benefits, family size, and the number of family members who will attend college.

Cost of Attendance – Expected Family Contribution = Financial Need

  • Cost of Attendance. Determined by your school for your program.
  • Attendance Schedule. Will you be a full-time or part-time student?
  • Are you attending school for the entire year or just a semester?

 

 

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants:

This is an additional grant program distributed by participating colleges and allocates anywhere from $100 to $4000 toward a recipient’s undergraduate education. Submitting your FAFSA early can have a direct impact on this type of grant. Each school sets its own deadline for campus-based funding. You should be able to see the deadline on the school’s website and if it’s not there be sure to speak with a member of your financial aid office.

Available To: Undergraduate Students

Qualifications:

  1. Must show exceptional financial need.
  2. Have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree.

 

 

Teacher Education Assistance for College & Higher Education (TEACH) Grants:

You must also be pursuing a career in teaching. In order to qualify you will need to teach at the elementary or secondary level school in a high-need field in a low-income area after graduation.

Available To: Undergraduate Students, Post Baccalaureate Students, or Graduate Student (Attend a Participating School)

Qualifications:

  1. Enrolled in a TEACH-Grant-eligible program.
  2. Meet academic achievement requirements (scoring above the 75th percentile on one or more parts of a college admissions test or maintaining a cumulative GPA of at least 3.25)
  3. Receive TEACH counseling to explain the terms and conditions of the service obligation. Must complete counseling each year you receive a TEACH Grant.
  4. Sign a TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve.

 

Iraq & Afghanistan Service Grants:

Eligible students who lost a parent in military service and do not meet the need-based threshold for a Pell Grant can apply for additional college funds through this program.

Available To Qualifications:

  1. Not eligible for the Federal Pell Grant due to Expected Family Contribution.
  2. Meet Federal Pell Grant requirements for eligibility.
  3. Parent or guardian was a member of the U.S armed forces, who died as a result of military service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11.
  4. Under 24 years old or enrolled in college at least part-time at the time of the parent or guardian’s death.

 

 

SMART Scholarship Program:

The Dept. of Defense offers undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships to encourage participation in the STEM sciences and recruit future civilian employees for the DoD.

Available To Qualifications:

  1. Must be a U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or United Kingdom Citizen at the time of application
  2. As of August 1, 2019, must be 18 years of age or older.
  3. Ability to participate in summer internships at a DoD facility.
  4. Willingness to accept employment post graduate for DoD
  5. Minimum of 3.0 on a scale of 4.0 and in good standing.
  6. Pursuing one of these disciplines for undergraduate or graduate degrees.

 

Jobs to Reduce Student Loans

 

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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.

 

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Use your student discounts
2020-07-27
Amazon, Apple, Best Buy, and More: Getting the Most Out of Student Discounts

Student life can be expensive, but the good news is, most businesses are aware of that. Many provide college student discounts and special offers.   With the new school year rapidly approaching, now is the time to take advantage of the many deals available to you. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of student discounts to help you save some money during college.  

Music Streaming Services

If you’re into streaming music, you’re in luck. Many music streaming services provide large discounts to students.
Apple Music, Spotify, Youtube Music, and Tidal all offer 50% discounts to students for up to eight semesters. Some subscriptions even offer additional benefits, for example, Spotify provides student members with access to both Hulu and Showtime.  

Apple

Apple is currently offering a variety of back to school deals for students or and teachers. Qualifying product purchases, including many models of MacBooks and iPads, come with a free pair of AirPods.  

Amazon

Let’s be honest. We all love two-day free shipping. What a wonderful feeling it is to order something and have it delivered to your door in what feels like no time. The good news is, Amazon offers a Prime Student discount. After a six-month free trial, students can access Amazon Prime for $59 a year.   In addition to two-day free shipping, a prime student membership includes access to Prime Video and Amazon Prime Music. Canceling a membership is easy, so even if you don’t choose to pay for the membership, it’s worth taking advantage of the six-month free trial.  

Best Buy and Other Tech Retailers

If you’re on the market for some new tech, don’t miss Best Buy’s student discount program. From TVs to TI-84s, Best Buy offers student discounts on a variety of products. A number of other tech retailers, including Logitech and Lenovo, also offer student discounts.  

Clothing Retailer Discounts

If you’re a fashion icon, these retailers have your back. JCrew, Banana Republic, TopShop, H&M, and many other clothing retailers offer student discounts of around 10%-15%. Retail discounts will occasionally stack with other promotions, as well. For even better deals, check out your local Goodwill, as they, too, often offer student discounts.  

Software Discounts

A number of companies provide student discounts on software. For instance, Adobe offers a 60% discount on their Creative Cloud software for students. Github also provides a number of developer tools at discounted student rates. If you’re into producing music, Ableton Live offers a student discount. For note-takers, Evernote offers their premium accounts at a 50% student discount. If you’re not looking to spend any money, check with your college to see if they provide any free software. For example, many colleges provide access to Creative Cloud programs and the Microsoft office suite, accessible through your .edu email.  

News Sites

Several newspapers offer student discounts for current college students. The New York Times offers a discounted plan for students at $1.00 a week, which includes online access to the newspaper’s complete archives and articles. The Wall Street Journal offers a comparable student discount for digital access to the newspaper, and an additional option at $10 a month to receive a print copy of the newspaper six days a week.  

Service Discounts

When you think of service discounts, senior discounts often come to mind. Several service-based industries, however, also offer student discounts. Many museums offer free or reduced admission to students. Several movie theater chains such as Regal and Cinemark also offer student discounts.   If you’ve caught the travel bug, don’t forget to keep an eye out for travel discounts. Amtrak, for example, offers regional student discounts. Greyhound has a similar program, offering 20% discounts to students. Student airfare is even up for grabs, so make sure to check with your airline before you buy your tickets.  

Car Insurance Discounts

It’s no secret that car insurance is expensive for young people. Fortunately, many car insurance providers offer student discounts to help balance some of that cost. These discounts vary by provider, but often include discounts for good grades.   If you participate in any campus-sponsored activities, keep an eye out for organization-based discounts. For instance, Geico offers discounts to members of some fraternities, sororities, and honors societies.  

Cell Phone Plan Discounts

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless all offer special student pricing. Several of them also offer student phone discounts. However, these discounts vary, so it’s best to check with your cell service provider and university to find out what discounts are available for students.  

UNiDAYS

UNiDAYS is a great website for finding college student discounts on almost anything. It functions as a platform that shows student discounts as well as verifies the student. It makes it easy to apply student discounts to wherever you shop regularly.   By no means is this a conclusive list of all student discounts. If you’re curious whether a place you frequent offers student savings, the best thing you can do is ask. The discounts add up over time, so take advantage of them whenever you can.   If you’ve already graduated and you’re looking to save a little money, you may be out of luck on the student discount front. However, there are other ways to save money after graduation. One such option is refinancing student loan debt. Check out your student loan refinance options with ELFI.*  
  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.
2020 graduate cap
2020-06-10
Tips for 2020 Graduates Entering the Job Market

While your last semester may have been online, you’ve graduated nonetheless, and you’re finally ready to head out into the world and face the job market. After graduating amidst a global pandemic, you may feel a bit uncertain about your job prospects coming out of college. The fact is you’re entering the job market at a somewhat inopportune time – job openings on Glassdoor have dropped 20.5% after all, and articles are published weekly on the status of the 2020 graduate. However, there’s no need to panic. We’re here to tell you that you’re more prepared than you think, and there are still jobs out there for you. But just in case you feel uncertain, we’ve compiled 5 tips to help you seamlessly enter the job market.  

Be Practical

It’s no secret that the economy is on somewhat shaky footing, making it a little more difficult than usual to get that perfect job. Obviously, that perfect job is the ideal, but now is the time to be practical and expand your job search. Look in areas that you may not have considered before or in fields other than your major. These may be lower-paying than you’d hope for, but the work experience is still valuable, and stepping out of your comfort zone won’t go unnoticed when pursuing future opportunities. Search on job sites like Indeed for entry-level jobs and work from there. Your college also likely has a career center that can help you find employment. Reach out to them to see what help they can offer. Many colleges have partnered with platforms like Handshake that serve to link students with employers.  

Acquire Skills

If you want to hold out for a job in your chosen field, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Now is the perfect time to acquire skills that your employers will find valuable and that will benefit you in the long run. You might take this time to practice job interviews to improve your interview skills. The more interviews you do, the more comfortable you will be during them. As such, never turn one down, even if you aren’t interested. It’s still worth gaining the experience. As for skills that will make you more appealing to prospective employers, sites like Linkedin Learning can help you brush up on things you know or help you pick up new skills. Online classes can also serve as a way to pass the time while acquiring new skills. While building new skills doesn’t bring in immediate income, these skills will serve to make you more valuable to a prospective employer and could improve your income in the future.  

Polish What Employers Will See

Employers see a wide variety of things when looking at a prospective candidate. The resume is perhaps one of the most important. Now is the time to perfect your resume. Add in any relevant work experience you may have forgotten to add. Do some research on what employers are looking for on a resume. This should be an ongoing process. Your resume should be constantly evolving as you acquire new skills and experiences. Likewise, this is the perfect time to get your social media profiles polished. Many employers use social media as a vetting tool for prospective employees. Remove any material that could hinder you from being hired, and, in particular, get your Linkedin profile as professional and complete as possible. Employers love Linkedin, and as more and more of the hiring process is moved online, it has become an invaluable tool for them to look at prospective hires. Thus, it is important for your Linkedin to be filled out and representative of you and your workplace skills  

Expand Your Circle

As important as your skills, networking is essential is you are in the job market. Particularly in these uncertain times, an effective network can mean the difference between being employed and not. Reach out to people in your field via Linkedin or other social media outlets. Ask questions and demonstrate your interest. You may be able to get an interview with them. Even if a job doesn’t come of it, your demonstrated interest will place you in the back of their minds as well as provide you with valuable interview experience. Similarly, interacting with people within your prospective field on any of your social media platforms is beneficial to you. Employers want to see that you are engaged within the wider community of the field. Also, be sure to attend virtual industry meetups and conventions. The importance of becoming involved cannot be understated.  

Persevere

It’s important to treat your job search as a job because, for a time, it is your job. Stay at it, and constantly be reaching out to prospective employers. It can be hard to stay motivated in the job search, but remember that this is necessary. Plan out your job search and keep track of the contacts you make. They could be useful later on. Make sure to take breaks when necessary. Like any job, the job search is tiring and can lead to burnout, so make sure that you rest between sending out those surges of applications. Eventually, you will make it.   Congratulations on graduating. Now for your next challenge. It would be a lie to claim this as a great time to enter the job market, and it is certainly an unfortunate time for you to graduate. The job search will be difficult, but by working hard and following these five tips, you could certainly still succeed. You can do it. If you’re looking for more post-graduation tips, we’ve got you covered. Check out this article on saving money after graduation.  
  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.
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.