Lakewood, WA — If you’re like most parents, you might experience a bit of “sticker shock” when you hear how much it could cost to send your teen to college, however, according to Erica Hwang of Huntington Learning Center of Lakewood, there’s no need to panic.
“There are billions of federal dollars available to help students and families pay for college, not to mention many other sources of aid – state agencies, foundations and other organizations,” says Hwang. “No matter who you are, college is within reach, but you have to leave no stone unturned.”
Hwang offers the following tips for investigating all possible resources for financial aid:
Apply for federal financial aid.
Most student financial aid comes from the U.S. Department of Education. In fact, in the 2007-08 school year, the Office of Federal Student Aid issued $83 billion to ten million students attending 6,200 postsecondary institutions. To be considered for federal financial assistance, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is used to determine your teen’s eligibility for federal aid in the form of grants, low-interest loans and work-study positions, and is also used by states and colleges to calculate students’ financial aid packages (though they may require additional applications). Almost all federal aid is awarded based on financial need, not high school GPA or SAT or ACT scores. Be sure to apply as soon as possible after January 1. www.fafsa.ed.gov
Apply for state aid.
State education departments offer a variety of grants and scholarships to college students. Contact your state’s higher education agency to learn more about the types of financial assistance available to state residents and the application process. Visit www.ed.gov/Programs/bastmp/SHEA.htm to find your state agency.
Talk with the university or college financial aid office.
Most institutions award a number of academic, need-based and talent-based scholarships each year. Contact the financial aid office to find out what programs and scholarships are available and how to apply. You should also consider completing the PROFILE (www.profileonline.collegeboard.com/prf/index.jsp), a financial aid application service used by hundreds of colleges (and scholarship programs) to award nonfederal aid. You can check with the schools to which your teen is applying to determine whether they require applicants to file the PROFILE.
Investigate private scholarships.
Your teen’s high school guidance counselor should have information about local or national scholarships from businesses, professional associations or other community organizations. Many large corporations have scholarship programs or foundations, such as the Wal-Mart Foundation (awarded over $8 million in scholarships in 2009-10), The Coca-Cola Scholars Program (50 four-year $20,000 scholarships and 200 four-year $10,000 scholarships annually) and the Discover Scholarship Program (Up to 10 scholarships of $40,000 annually). There are also several free, credible scholarship databases online, such as www.fastweb.com and the College Board’s Scholarship Search (apps.collegeboard.com/cbsearch_ss/welcome.jsp).
When it comes to paying for college, Hwang says that being proactive and resourceful will put you and your teen at an advantage. “College is an investment in your child’s future, and while it may seem impossible to afford, there are many resources out there to help students and families,” says Hwang. “Explore all of your options and encourage your teen to do the same.”
For more information about Huntington Learning Center in Lakewood, please contact Erica Hwang at (253) 582-4901.