We asked parents to share their advice on the financial aid process, based on their experiences with their children. Here’s what they said:
“Keep a file folder with each piece of correspondence in it. That way you have a paper trail. Every time a new loan, grant or financial aid comes in, you may receive a revised bill. Also, make sure that you have all department phone numbers and the names of the people that handle your child’s financial affairs.” — Georgia Baldwin (student is at Johnson & Wales University)
“Write the financial aid office if there are any unusual family circumstances, like a parent’s illness or divorce. Each family is unique and the financial aid forms don’t always ask about these types of circumstances.” — Cathy Nichin (student is at Dominican University)
“Fill out your FAFSA forms as soon as possible in January. You can fill them out and add your income tax information later. You can also fill them out online. Make sure to read each section very carefully in order not to forget to add any important information.” — Traci Conner (student is at Savannah College of Art and Design)
“Make sure you know all the hidden costs of going to college including food plans, parking stickers, dorm fees, extracurricular activity fees and such.” — Cheryl Gray (student is at Jacksonville State University)
“Don’t rule out private colleges because of cost. We appealed colleges for further assistance and were surprised that the private schools were much more willing to work with us than public schools. The private schools were able to increase their aid package and offer a work-study program. They have a lot more resources available to them and less students competing for them.” — Tammie Dawson (student is at Illinois State University)
“Our son applied to many different schools and, when acceptance letters arrived, we reserved our decision until right before the financial aid deadline. By doing this, we were able to compare the aid offered by the different schools and use the information to negotiate with the schools to get a better aid package. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Let the schools you are considering know that you will be comparing aid offers from different schools. Also, try to get a package that is less dependent on loans.” — Thomas Cagle (student is at Mercyhurst College)
“Keep copies of everything.” — Donna Fagant (student is at Purchase College – State University of New York)
“If you’ve saved enough money for your child’s college education and you’ve been offered subsidized or unsubsidized loans, use the loans for paying the tuition. Then when they graduate from college they can use the savings to pay off the student loans. Your savings will grow at a faster rate than the loans will accumulate debt.” — Joseph Padavic (student is at Harvard University)
“If you are a single parent, child support must be submitted as income on your FAFSA. I ran into a long delay my daughter’s freshman year because I did not automatically include it on the form. Also, expect to pay for your child’s dorm room or first month’s rent and books. I thought financial aid covered all this up front, but was sadly mistaken. Financial aid will not be credited to your child’s account until the drop/add week of each semester/quarter.” — Traci Conner (student is at Savannah College of Art and Design)
“Don’t be afraid to call the financial aid office of the college your child wants to attend. I was a little intimidated at first, but they were nothing but helpful.” — Edwina Bailey (student is at Fairmont State College)
“Many institutions will not apply financial aid to study abroad programs. Some colleges limit financial aid to study abroad programs conducted by their institution, but a student may wish to go on another program more appropriate to his or her interests and career plans. In examining colleges, be sure to ask if financial aid is “portable” on study abroad programs. Does all of it transfer? While federal student aid is required to apply to study abroad, college-administered scholarships, grants and work-study can be applied at their discretion. Ask now, so there are no financial surprises when your student decides to study abroad!" — Jane Wemhoener (student is at Blacksburg High School)
“My advice to parents and students who experience any sort of ‘financial change’ after they’ve completed the FAFSA form and received their financial aid award letter is to write to the college and explain your situation. Be prepared to explain your circumstances no matter how private you may feel it is. Remember, the individuals at the financial aid office are there to help you and they can only do that if you are open and honest with them.
Also, send time-sensitive correspondence by certified mail, return receipt requested. That way you are assured that your letter arrived and is not just sitting in a pile in the mailroom." — Caron Lee (student is at Howard University)
“Think twice before investing in a state-run tuition fund. You may be better off investing your child’s college money in other markets that give you more control over how the funds are disbursed. In a state fund, the money is locked in and may not be used for any other purpose, including graduate school. If your child does not attend college, you can transfer the fund to another family member; however, if that person doesn’t go to college, the money is lost to you. Talk to an investment counselor before investing in a tuition program. If you do decide to invest in one, make sure you understand all the terms and conditions before you sign on the dotted line!” — Venita Helton (student is at University of North Alabama)
“Make sure that you contact the financial aid office and ask about work study placement. Larger universities have coordinators that can help you find a job faster than looking on bulletin boards.” — Robert Leathers (student is at University of Akron)
“Some students who are receiving various financial assistance, including student loans, may find themselves with a surplus or credit at the end of each semester. This credit can be refunded in a check or direct deposit to the student. I recommend that the student have the refunded monies sent back to their student loan lender, to reduce the overall student loan debt that will occur over the student’s college life.” — Marla Neal-Roberts (student is at University of Illinois- Springfield)
“Send and resend paperwork to the school as often as necessary. Don’t be ashamed to apply for special circumstances if it is needed. The people in financial aid are extremely understanding and will do everything they can to help. Call as often as necessary.” — Terri Lotz-Ganley (student is at University of Toledo)
“There are things that can be done to make this a less stressful experience. For those that have computer access, filing online is a plus. Before sitting at the computer, have your child’s social security number handy, as well as your most recent tax return. File as early as possible and if it seems to be taking too long for a response, call the appropriate 800 number to check.” — Karen Russo (student is at State University of New York at Oneonta)
“Establish a relationship with someone in the financial aid office who can answer questions and provide assistance. Freshmen should ask older students who they deal with in the financial aid office.” — Carol Smith (student is at Wheeler County High School)
“If you’ve gone through the financial aid process at one college with one child, do not assume that the second child’s financial aid experience will be the same. Every college has their own unique set of procedures and forms for their financial aid process.” — Jennifer Ritchie (student is at Loyola Marymount University)
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$2,000 “No Essay” Scholarship Rules
Summary of Key Rules
- Open to all high school, college, and graduate students and those planning to enroll within 12 months.
- Applicant must be a legal resident of the United States. International students with valid visas are also eligible.
- Must currently attend, or within the next 12 months plan to enroll in, a high school or college listed on niche.com, or be the parent of a student who falls into one of those categories.
- Only one entry allowed per person per month. A new winner will be chosen every month.
- Scholarships or prizes will be awarded directly to the winners.
- Winners will be notified by e-mail and posted on https://about.niche.com/scholarship-winners/.
Complete Official Rules
NO PURCHASE IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS SWEEPSTAKES. A PURCHASE WILL NOT IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING.
The Niche.com $2,000 “No Essay” Scholarship (“Sweepstakes”) starts on March 1, 2018 at 12:00 AM and ends on March 31, 2018 at 11:00 PM for online entry (“Online Entry Period”) and on March 31, 2018 at 11:00 PM for the postmarking of a mail-in entry. Fastweb, LLC is not a sponsor of or associated with this Sweepstakes. The sponsor of this Sweepstakes is Niche.com, Inc. located at 5830 Ellsworth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15232 (the “Sponsor”). The Sweepstakes shall be subject to these Official Rules, and by entering, all participants agree to be bound by the terms and conditions herein.
ELIGIBILITY: THE SWEEPSTAKES IS OPEN ONLY TO LEGAL RESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES or INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS WITH VALID VISAS, THIRTEEN (13) YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER AS OF THE DATE OF THEIR ENTRY unless specified differently in the “Summary of Key Rules” above. Employees and their families of the Sponsor affiliates, subsidiaries, parent companies, agencies and participating retailers (collectively, the “Promotion Parties”) and those living in the household of same are not eligible to enter or win. By entering this Sweepstakes, entrants agree to abide by all terms of these Official Rules.
The laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, United States apply to and govern this Sweepstakes and any claims must be raised and resolved in the Federal or state courts located in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, United States.
Void in Puerto Rico, all U.S. territories and possessions, overseas military installations and where prohibited or restricted by law.
HOW TO ENTER THE SWEEPSTAKES: There are two (2) ways to enter the Sweepstakes; (1) online (2) by submitting a mail-in entry.
HOW TO ENTER ONLINE: Please go to https://www.niche.com/colleges/scholarship/no-essay-scholarship to enter online.
HOW TO ENTER BY MAIL: On a postcard, handprint your first and last name, address, city, state or province, country, zip code or postal code, phone number, verify age eligibility, and (if applicable) e-mail address. Mail the completed postcard entry to Niche.com $2,000 “No Essay” Scholarship “Mail-in Entry”, 5830 Ellsworth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15232. ALL MAIL-IN ENTRIES WILL BE CONSIDERED ENTERED IN THE SWEEPSTAKES IN THE ENTRY PERIOD RECEIVED.
The Promotion Parties and any and all Internet server(s) and access provider(s), and each of their respective affiliates, subsidiaries, parent corporations, retailers and advertising and promotional agencies, and all of their officers, directors, shareholders, employees and agents, (collectively, “Releasees”) are not responsible for: any incorrect or inaccurate entry information; human errors; technical malfunctions; failures, omissions, interruptions, deletions or defects of any telephone network, computer online systems, computer equipment, servers, providers, or software, including without limitation any injury or damage to participant’s or any other person’s computer relating to or resulting from participation in the Sweepstakes; inability to access an entry site or any pages thereof; theft, tampering, destruction, or unauthorized access to, or alteration of, entries; data that is processed late or incorrectly or is incomplete or lost due to telephone, computer or electronic malfunction or traffic congestion on telephone lines or the Internet or any web site (including the entry sites) or for any other reason whatsoever; typographical, printing or other errors; late, lost, stolen, mutilated, misdirected or postage-due mail, or any combination thereof. Proof of entering information at an entry site or mailing entry is not considered proof of delivery or receipt. Illegible, incomplete, entries in excess of the stated number above and mechanically reproduced entries will be disqualified. All entries become the property of the Sponsor and will not be acknowledged or returned. False, fraudulent or deceptive entries or acts shall render entrants ineligible. By entering the Sweepstakes, entrants affirm that they have read and accepted these Official Rules.
WINNER SELECTION: Prospective winners will be selected in a random drawing to be held on or about April 15, 2018. Prospective winners will be notified by mail, telephone, posting on FACEBOOK and/or e-mail, within ten (10) days of drawing date and may be required to execute and return a Eligibility Affidavit/Release of Liability and (except where prohibited) a Publicity Release and (for U.S. winner) a completed IRS W-9 form within ten (10) days of issuance of notification or an alternate will be selected in a subsequent random drawing. Any prize notification or prize returned to the Sponsor as undeliverable for any reason will be awarded to an alternate. No substitution by a winner for his or her prize shall be allowed. All Federal, state, provincial, local or other tax liabilities are the sole responsibility of the winners. Acceptance of a prize constitutes permission (except where prohibited by law) to use the winner’s name, likeness and statements for publicity purposes without additional compensation or limitation.
PRIZES: One (1) prize of $2000 cash will be awarded each Online Entry Period.
The odds of winning are determined by the total number of eligible entries received. Only one (1) prize will be awarded to any one person and/or e-mail address.
LIMITATIONS ON LIABILITY: Releasees shall not be liable to winner or any other person for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, terrorist acts, earthquake, war, fire, flood, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal), labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor’s sole control.
GENERAL: By entering this Sweepstakes, entrants agree that Releasees shall not be liable for personal injuries, death, damages, expenses or costs or losses of any kind resulting from participation or inability to participate in this Sweepstakes or acceptance of or use or inability to use the prize or parts thereof including, without limitation, claims, suits, injuries, losses and damages related to personal injuries, death, damage to or destruction of property, rights of publicity or privacy, defamation or portrayal in a false light (whether intentional or unintentional), whether under a theory of contract, tort (including negligence), warranty or other theory. Winner releases the Releasees from any and all liability and responsibility with respect to a prize (including any property loss, damage, personal injury or death). Winner acknowledges the aforementioned individuals and entities have neither made nor are in any manner responsible for any warranty, representation or guarantee, expressed or implied, in fact or in law, related to the prize.
If for any reason this Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned, or if this Sweepstakes or any web site associated therewith (or any portion thereof) becomes corrupted or does not allow the proper playing of the Sweepstakes and processing of entries in accordance with these rules, or if infection by computer virus, bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, actions by entrants, fraud, technical failures, or any other causes, in the Sponsor’s sole opinion, corrupts or affects the administration, security, fairness, integrity, or proper conduct of this Sweepstakes, the Sponsor reserves the right, at their sole discretion, to disqualify any individual implicated in such action and/or to cancel, terminate, modify, or suspend this Sweepstakes or any portion thereof. In the event this Sweepstakes is cancelled, the Sponsor will conduct a random drawing to award all prizes from among all eligible, non-suspect entries received prior to the time of the action or event warranting such cancellation. If such cancellation, termination, modification, or suspension occurs, notification will be posted at the entry sites. ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE ANY WEB SITE (INCLUDING THE ENTRY SITES) OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THE SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND/OR CIVIL LAWS AND SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, THE SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK DAMAGES AND OTHER REMEDIES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. If a dispute arises about who submitted an entry on an Entry Site, the entry will be deemed submitted by the authorized account holder of the e-mail account entered. The authorized account holder is deemed the natural person who is assigned to an e-mail address by an Internet access provider, service provider, or other online organization that is responsible for assigning e-mail addresses for the domain associated with the submitted e-mail address. A potential winner may be requested to provide Sponsor with proof that the potential winner is the authorized account holder of the e-mail address associated with the winning entry and that all eligibility requirements are met.
NOTE: Internet entry must be made by the entrant only at the entry sites. Entries made by any other individual or any entity, and/or originating at any other web site or e-mail address, including, but not limited to, commercial sweepstakes subscription notification and/or entering service sites, will be declared invalid and disqualified for this Sweepstakes. The use of any device or software to automate the entry process is prohibited.
WINNERS LIST: For an Official Winner’s List or a copy of these Official Rules, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Niche.com $2,000 “No Essay” Scholarship “Winners List”, 5830 Ellsworth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15232. Vermont residents may omit return postage for Official Rules requests. Official Rules are also posted at https://about.niche.com/scholarship/no-essay-scholarship and the Official Winner’s List is also posted at https://about.niche.com/scholarship-winners/.