Getting Ready for College??

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Written By: Gienie Assink, Springfield Oregon

So its January… the start of a brand new year, and we all know what that means????  Or do we??

If you have a senior in High School this year, I bet you do!

The start of January means its time to start filling out paperwork for college… and oh how immense that pile of paperwork can be!

I remember filling out my first Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) form.  I went online.. and spent all the time answering questions… you know… the ones that wanted to know where I live, who I live with.. do I like long walks on the beach etc.

When I got to the end of the application I went to submit it, and the website asked me for my credit card to pay for the application processing.  I paid it… not thinking anything of it.

Until months later when I realized.. FAFSA stands for FREE APPLICATION FOR STUDENT AID!

These were the times I wish I had someone around to help me in all the confusion.

Times have changed a bit since I first filled out my applications (not that much.. I’m only 26 years old HA!).  There are so many different ways to receive and apply for money, and the process seems incredibly overwhelming.

Just this week, Governor Kulongoski announced federal funding would be cut short again because of the economic downturn.

The state, which has already stopped awarding new college grants, announced yesterday, it will reduce awards for the almost 40,000 students who received them in the fall. Full-time students will see their grants cut by $80; part-time student face a $40 reduction. New students for next fall won’t receive anything at all, unless they can find a way for the state to allocate funds for it.

Oregon tried to make college more affordable to a broader range of students by doubling the money for college grants this school year to $72 million.

The state also began a publicity campaign to promote it, which led to a sharp rise in applicants. The state expected to award 34,500 grants, but it turned out be 4,000 more.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski has proposed increasing the money for college grants during the next two years. But that’s a shaky bet given the predictions of recession-caused shortfalls in the state budget.

So what can you do to help your student receive the money he/she needs to pursue higher education.

Well, there are a number of alternatives to student grants and loans.  You can fill out scholarship applications, and there are literally thousands out there to choose from.

The best thing about scholarship applications, is that MOST require the same amount of work, so once you fill out one, you’ve filled them all out, AND there is no limit to the amount of scholarships you can apply for.

Usually the college financial aid department keeps a list of all available scholarships offered through that institution.  Its a good time to get started now, and have your application dated early.  The chances of receiving money are higher the sooner you get your information turned in.

You can save money too by choosing to get your two year degree at a local community college rather than a University.  The credit classes are much more affordable, and you’re taking the same general classes you would if you were enrolled in a University.

Of course there is always lots of help when filling out any scholarship or FAFSA form.  All you need to do is contact the college’s financial aid department and ask to speak to a representative who can help you fill out your application, or at least make an appointment with a guidance councilor.

Getting ready for college can be really rough.  BUT, the good news is, if you start early, and plan things out in advance, its not as overwhelming.  You’ll save money in doing so, and learn a whole lot of new things along the way that will help make easier transitions in the future.

Its just my opinion anyway… but It’s true!

Good Luck!