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Applying for Financial Aid and Scholarships in the US

If you are an American student or permanent resident, understandably you would be applying for Financial Aid and scholarships as a part of your application processes. This can be very complicated and mystifying. Applying for financial aid and scholarships can seem much more complicated than applying for school itself. This is because if you choose to apply for financial aid (rather than just simply paying out of pocket) it is a process that can involve multiple government entities, your school, as well as your parents. To further explain the process we will go through the proper steps of applying for financial aid.

1. Complete Your Taxes

By completing your taxes you will ensure that the information you need to apply for financial aid is both accurate and complete. Sure, you can apply to FAFSA without completing your taxes but that severely complicates matters quite a lot as you will then have to go back and provide additional documentation as to what your income actually officially was. Completing your taxes before applying for financial aid makes things much more straightforward.

2. Register for the Selective Service

If you are a male from ages 18-25 in the United States you must register for the Selective Service prior to receiving any financial aid. The Selective Service is a system which drafts men into the military during a crisis. Failure to register can result in significant fines and jail time. Females are not required to register at this time.

3. Apply for your FAFSA PIN

Both students and parents then need to apply for a FAFSA PIN, or Personal Identification Number. Applying for a PIN is a relatively straightforward process. They will ask you simple questions such as your name, social security number, gender, date of birth, address, phone, email, etc.

4. Apply for FAFSA

Once you have applied for your PIN and filed your taxes you can finally sit down and apply for federal aid using the FAFSA. Make sure you have your tax returns for both parents as well as student. Also make sure that you have any necessary information such as social security numbers. If you are a permanent resident or in the process of being granted asylum you will be asked to provide your alien registration number in addition to a social security number. When applying you will also be asked to supply the school code number for any colleges you have applied to. See your advisor if you need that number. Make sure to answer the questions honestly; not answering the questions honestly could have very negative consequences including jail time as well as fines.

5. Complete the Rest of the Financial Aid Package

Often in addition to the FAFSA your college will have their own financial aid paperwork and forms for you to complete. Your school may have additional merit or need-based scholarships for those who may qualify.

6. Search for Outside Sources of Aid

The last and most interesting step of the financial aid process includes applying for outside sources of financial aid. This can be in the form of many different grants and scholarships from businesses or charitable institutions. When you start searching for other sources of financial aid it may be of help to have a list of your accomplishments. Also make sure to mention any academic accomplishments or awards given by community groups.

7. Patiently Await Results

Usually it takes several weeks for FAFSA results to come in. The school will then receive the report and use the rest of the FAFSA information as well as their other forms to complete your financial aid package. The entire financial aid process can take several months from start to finish, including the applications for outside scholarships.

All in all, applying for financial aid is tough but it is worth it! If you have any questions be sure to see your school’s financial aid personnel with any concerns you may have.

Top Careers in the US for University Grads

Recent college graduates may be worried about finding a well-paying job that also has good long-term career prospects. To help them, we have compiled this list of top jobs and careers for university graduates in the US. For this list, we used four criteria namely median annual salary, workplace atmosphere, projected growth in the future and current employment details including remuneration.

Another important factor we took into account is bridgeability i.e. whether a university graduate can gain the necessary skills for a career with an extra year or two of re-skilling or study. In our top 10 list, five are related to computers and information technology. Read on to learn more about the top careers in the US for college graduates.

#10 Insurance Agent

Baby boomers are living for longer which means there is increased demand for insurance sales agents. There are about 337,000 insurance agents in the US, earning an average of $63,400 annually. You don’t actually need a college degree for this job as even a high school diploma can get you an entry position.

#9 Public Relations Officer

Though there are only about 201,280 public relations officers currently in the US, this field is projected to grow at a healthy 23% rate by the end of this decade. The average annual salary for a public relations specialist is $61,980.

#8 Management Analyst

Currently there are around 540,000 management analysts nationwide. This position’s unique expertise is required for all industries including nonprofit and government organizations. Projected demand is also high till 2020. A management consultant earns an average of $88,070 per year.

#7 Computer Systems Analyst

This is a hot career which scores high on all of our criteria. Currently about 482,000 systems analysts are employed nationwide and the average annual salary is $83,800 making it one of the more remunerative professions on our list.

#6 Elementary School Teacher

For sheer numbers, this job is unmatched. There are around 1,360,300 employed teachers in the US which is the highest number for a single occupation. Unlike other fields, a teaching job offers a stable career path. There is significant demand for teachers nationwide. In this decade, a large percentage of older teachers of the Baby Boom era are expected to retire which increases the job prospects for applicants.

#5 Computer/Network Systems Administrator

High salary and expected growth rate mark this out as an exciting prospective career. Offices and homes are relying more and more on technology creating a need for graduates with the requisite skills to excel in this job. Currently, there are about 350,000 systems administrators in the US earning an average of $76,320 annually. Additional manpower will be required given the growing importance of cyber-surveillance as well the need to tackle security threats.

#4 Accountant/Auditor

There is great demand for this job nationwide. There are around 1,129,000 auditors and accountants currently employed in the US and the field is expected to grow by 16% this decade. The average annual salary for audit and accounting jobs is $71,040 and this amount has increased by about $10,000 in the last three years since 2010. Graduates with financial aptitude can expect to excel in this promising career field.

#3 Marketing Specialist/Market Research Analyst

Currently there are about 392,800 marketing research analysts working in the US, earning an average salary of $67,380 per year. Though the pay may be less than the top jobs in our list, there is an urgent requirement for qualified candidates with an expected growth rate of 41% by 2020.

#2 Applications Software Developer

Application developers focus on the user side and they test and modify the software to get the desired results. Applicants need a bachelor’s degree in mathematics or computer science and strong programming expertise to excel in this job.

#1 Systems Software Developer

There is higher demand for systems software developers and they earn more too on average ($102,550 per year) which is about $5,000 more compared to an applications software developer.

Summary

We hope our list of top careers for college grads helps you choose the one for which you are qualified and have the requisite skills and aptitude. More than the remuneration, it is one’s passion and desire to excel that will ensure one is satisfied and happy at the end of a long work day.

Finding the Right Internship

Internships are an active part of college life, which let you gain valuable work experience, enhance your skills and build your CV. When you are actively looking for an internship, you might become exhausted by your search. Due to a number of options available; the following tips might guide you in finding the right internship match.

Interact

Talk to your seniors at college and to people who have interned recently or fellows who will apply for internships alongside you. Interact with them to find out how they plan to apply, how they have applied before and how their internship experience was. This will give you an idea about the application process and about resources which you can avail from. Join the specific groups online or use university sources to stay updated on any news.

Apply Everywhere

The one thing to remember when applying is to apply everywhere. Don’t apply to a selected number of places or keep your choices limited. Remember you may hope to get an internship at some place specific but there is no harm in applying. It will make your understanding better. If you get an interview call, the more interviews that you give will make you better each time you go in for a new one. You will be more prepared and know the possible questions which could be asked.

Start Applying Early

One mistake that many students make is that they start applying late. Start applying when your final year starts and don’t delay it. Understand that these processes take time and it may be a while before you land yourself an internship. Many good places start and end their internship recruitment process earlier than the lot. Keep a lookout and be active.
Meet Your Counselor

As soon as final year starts, make it a point to meet your counselor. They will provide guidance and resources on what possibilities lay out there and how best you can approach them. Every university has a career centre and they help you apply to possible places.

Use Other Resources

When you are applying for internships the first source is to meet your university’s placement centre. Next, browse the internet and relevant groups as there is a lot of opportunities there to get your hands on. Company websites always have a tab for their internship process and they post it what they’re internship hiring period is. Keep a lookout! Use the newspaper to identify ads and possible places where you can apply. You may also come across companies relevant to your interest and you may look them up online.

Build Your Professional Network

Take part in events or talk to professionals relating to your area of study. There are many sources online which help you in interacting with industry leaders. Make a profile on LinkedIn and be active. Reach out to people professionally. This will also help you polish your communication skills and build a professional network. You never know an opportunity lies there which you miss out if you don’t become engrossed and updated with the professional environment.

Your internship experience is a first step towards stepping into the professional world. It will give you exposure and an understanding of how things work professionally. The best you will get out of it is when your internship is aligned with your goals. Don’t be afraid to start at a small place as these places, although small with a few people provide the best learning experience. They made be understaffed, just a bit, but that means you will get to be a part of their work activities. Helping out in real and understanding your abilities and interest in performing that work.

6 Tips for saving money at college

College can be quite expensive even with financial aid. Students and recent graduates often find themselves with enormous debt. However, it is possible to avoid the predicament by managing expenses and money responsibly while at college. Given below are a few tips that will help you live cheap and save money:

1- Track your expenses

The first thing to do at college is to get a good checking account with a bank. Most banks today provide free student checking accounts. A checking account will allow you to keep track of all your purchases and manage cash better. Understanding the nature of your expenses is the best way to stay within your budget.

2- Get a job

Most students have a job today to support their expenses at college. Working part time does not ideally affect grades. In fact, a job will allow you to be engaged in activities that will further your career and provide you practical experience that will make you stand apart from others at an interview. More importantly, it will provide you a good source of income to manage your expenses at college.

3- Buy used textbooks

One of the biggest expenses at college is textbooks. New textbooks tend to be really expensive since new editions often cost up to $300. The best alternative to this major expense is to try and find bookstores in your town that sell used textbooks. College campuses often have several used bookstores and their prices tend to be considerably reduced. You can also check online for textbooks. The prices tend to be much cheaper even when you include shipping charges. Another option is to ask friends and past graduates if you can borrow their books.

4- Student discounts

Being a student has its own perks so make the most of it. A student ID can get you discounts on just about everything from computers and movies to travel tickets. Use your student ID to get discounts on your leisure activities and even for Greyhound and Amtrak tickets if you plan on traveling anywhere.

5- Accommodations

Although living an independent life outside the campus with a few friends sounds very promising, it can turn out to be a very expensive affair. Compare all your accommodation options carefully. Living in the dorm may actually turn out to be cheaper. However, if you decide to rent an apartment, get a few roommates so you can share the expenses. For furniture and appliances, ask friends or parents for their old furniture or appliances they do not use. Heating, water and electricity bills tend to be quite expensive so learn to live frugal. Turn off the lights, use water carefully and use heat and air conditioning sparingly.

6- Transportation

A car can turn out to be very expensive at college considering the money you will have to spend on gas, tickets and parking passes. Instead, take the subway or local bus. Your student ID will generally get you good discounts on public transit. If public transit is not available, consider carpooling with friends. You can also bike or walk to your classes.

What Not to Do When Apply for Financial Aid and Scholarships

Applying for Financial Aid and scholarships can be tricky at times, and downright confusing. There are many lists on tips on how to successfully apply for such aid but there are even fewer lists on what NOT to do. So, the following is a list on what NOT to do:

DO NOT apply late

Applying late can drastically hurt your chances at obtaining a scholarship. Many schools have their own financial aid deadlines. The official application deadline for the Free Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) is June 30th but students living in certain states have different deadlines to meet. Many other countries also have similar programs with similar deadlines.

What is worse is that if you are applying for a scholarship being late in your application indicates that you may not be hardworking or deserving of the scholarship. This is exactly the opposite of what you want them to think!

DO NOT forget to check all sources for a scholarship

Scholarships can come from many unlikely sources. Thoroughly check all of these sources. Many religious schools will offer ‘matching scholarships’ where the school will agree to match all funds donated by the student’s congregation. Unlikely scholarship sources also include banks. Also, many companies offer scholarships to the children of their employees. If you are a part of a minority or a disabled person there are scholarships available that can be used to your benefit.

DO NOT forget to check application for any potential errors

Nothing says “do not give me a scholarship or grant” like handing in an application with bunches of errors and mistakes. You want the scholarship committee to see the best side of you. You want them to see the polished, professional side of you.

Also, if you make a mistake on your financial aid application packet it could mean that you may miss out on money. It helps to have a family member or friend look over your application to see if there are any obvious mistakes being made. If you are dependent upon your parents for financial aid it is important to have your parents check to see if their section of the application is correctly filled out.

DO NOT forget to have the necessary paperwork available

Having the necessary paperwork available means that you can successfully avoid some of the common mistakes that people make. Applications like the FAFSA can be tricky and remembering the detailed numbers and codes can be a challenge. Having your paperwork organized, ready, and available will greatly reduce the stress associated with submitting the application.

DO NOT forget to be creative!

Okay, so it may be impossible to be creative when filling out the FAFSA but when it comes to individual merit or achievement based scholarships you can truly let your creativity shine through! Do not be afraid to talk about the strange and unusual experiences that you have dealt with in your life. No matter what the scholarship is for, the scholarship committee loves seeing things that prove that you are bright, witty, and creative. Everyone has some sort of quirk that helps them stand out from the crowd!

DO NOT be afraid

Applying for scholarships can be very daunting at times. It is important to remember that you are not the only one going through the scholarship and financial aid process. There are millions of students who have gone through this process unscathed. Chances are, you will do just fine and you will come out of it with great life experience even if you do not get any grants or scholarships.

Five Frugal Living Tips for Students

As a student you do not have to lead the life of an ascetic to make ends meet, whereas it is imperative that you are financially comfortable, to be able to better focus on your college coursework, indulging in a few luxuries does not have to break your bank account. A key contributing factor is the amount you manage to save on your daily expenses. Keep in mind no saving is too small, and every bit adds up. Below are some broad guidelines to help you keep on top of your expenses and make your money go further.

Student Discounts

Availing student discounts is a great way to save money. For example, the campus restaurant usually provides the best value for money in terms of price and quality. If you live in a college town, there are regular student discounts on offer for shopping, pizza delivery, event tickets and even laundry services. You can find details in the local magazine or the campus newspaper. Travel discounts for students are valid for airfares, trains and buses, as well as group tours. Amtrak, for example, offers a Student Advantage Card that gives students 15 percent off the lowest price offer.

Get Group Discounts

You can get group or bulk discounts – for shows, exhibitions, concerts and even restaurants – by buying in a group rather than individually. Many venues offer larger group discounts on certain dates or during specific hours of the day.

Books and Stationary

Your student card makes you eligible for a host of discounts on textbooks, stationary and everyday items at various stores on and off campus – your seniors will definitely know about them- keep a tab on such stores. Make optimal use of public and university libraries. These are free but excellent sources of books and other research and study materials like computers and the internet. Make extensive use of the internet in the libraries if you have a limited budget and would not like to pay for a subscription. There are several online websites offering used textbooks in good condition, so you do not have to spend money on material for each course. Don’t hesitate to ask students who have taken same courses before if they would sell you used textbooks. Computer shops also have regular student deals. You can find help with finding an affordable laptop in your area on the Lenovo website.

Get the Shopping Done Together

If you are sharing an apartment and are keen on saving money by cooking and eating at home, you can shop in groups. Find a person who has a car, or if nobody has one, get a taxi to the closest discount store together. This will save you money, as you can get BOGOF offers, as well as discount vouchers on the next shopping trip.

Get Your Coupons Together

Some people think that coupons are only for housewives, and students would surely not have enough time to collect them. The key is to “divide and conquer”. Designate teams to hunt down coupons and offers for a specific product or service. E.g. you might be in charge of “eating out” offer hunt, while another team could be in charge of supermarket or book offers. This is an effective way of stretching the dollar.

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