This is part of a sponsored collaboration with The College Board and DiMe Media. However, all opinions expressed are my own.
How do you want to make a difference for others, Queridos?
For me, it’s helping high school students get into the colleges of their choice. I’m currently working with a group of high school juniors and over the summer, we worked together to develop mobile apps in order to build their technical skills. Then, last month, I hosted an all-day college essay writing workshop for them. Throughout this rest of the school year, we will continue to develop both of these projects. Next year, when they are seniors, we will begin the college application process. And finally, but certainly not least, we will work on how to apply for financial aid.
Financial aid is money that the government and other organizations give you or lend you so you can pay for college. To qualify for financial aid, you have to apply. Apply at fafsa.gov.
Most full-time college students receive financial aid. Often, receiving financial aid is what makes it possible for students to attend college. For others, it is the extra assistance needed to be able to attend the colleges that students may have thought weren’t affordable to them. The average financial aid award in 2014-15 was $14,210. That amount makes a huge difference for any student’s college cost.
In our group of students, their college selections vary. Some want to stay local, some desire to attend top universities within the state, some students dream of the Ivy Leagues and others have their hearts set on heading out to the West Coast. On top of various tuition levels, there are other cost considerations such as room and board, books, meal plans, and transportation. Each student’s financial needs will be based on which college they choose to attend and their own family’s financial situations. For example, the student who lives at home while attending school will obviously have less room and board and transportation expenses than the student who lives on campus either across the state or across the country.
Tools to Assist Students Planning for College – Big Future and CollegeGo
As students begin to make these major choices, they need a lot of support and resources. Since college is a big transition for everyone, I encourage students to make a plan with their family.
To help guide everyone, students and their families can use BigFuture to search for and compare colleges, find scholarships, understand financial aid, navigate the college application process from start to finish, and receive personalized deadline reminders, tips, and guidance along the way.
The CollegeGo mobile app guides students through the essential steps in the college application process with an interactive interface that uses game, video, and search features to help students plan their college journeys.
NOTE: The College Board has also created Spanish language resources for parents and families to help their children plan for college.
Apply for Financial Aid using FAFSA
After evaluating the costs and creating a plan, students will have a better understanding of how to put that plan into action. Even if a student and their family believe they won’t qualify for financial aid, it’s important to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online. This application gives you access to several types of aid including:
- Grants and scholarships: money you don’t have to pay back
- Work-study jobs: paid, part-time work that’s generally on campus
- Loans: money you need to pay back, usually after you graduate
Like most things in life, students will want to get an early start on the financial aid process. Students can complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online using their family’s most recent tax returns. Completing the application early will give students a jump on other financial aid applications (state or institutional aid) that may have early deadlines.
7 Things You Need to Know About Financial Aid
Our group of junior year students are a year away from this process but we believe that gearing them up for it now is most beneficial. However, any senior year high school student who want to go to college, is encouraged to APPLY FOR FINANCIAL AID. Apply at fafsa.gov.
Queridos, reach out to the high school students in your life and share these resources with them. It will make a difference.