1. Applying for college can seem like a long and arduous process, so it's no surprise that students often fail to take advantage of free money available to them. It's just one more essay to do or piece of government paperwork to fill out. Unfortunately, these essays and papers can make hundreds of thousands of dollars of difference in the long run. Filling out that one piece of government paperwork, the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) could cut the cost of college for many students. But students often don't submit because they are unaware of the form. The money remains unclaimed, as students pay for college out of their own pockets.

    In fact, some reports say that as much as $2.9 billion dollars’ worth of tuition funding went unclaimed during the 2015 academic year. That number is just the U.S. federal government funding; many colleges offer additional funding to support students that have been accepted. Much of this money goes unclaimed as well, even though it is equally easy to access. A university's financial aid page is an excellent place to start looking for opportunities for additional tuition funding. Many scholarships and loans require ACT or SAT test scores, so students should make sure to take the tests (and hopefully earn a decent score) before starting the application process.

    Student Loan Application Form

    Loans

    To get access to money for college, students can start looking in many places. Many organizations offer scholarships to students. There are so many that it can sometimes be overwhelming, so the easy place to start is U.S. government funding. The U.S. government has multiple types of loans, which need to be re-paid, and grants, which do not need to be repaid. To simplify the process, students can apply for every single type of loan and grant at the same time by submitting a FAFSA. For more information on the application and loans, check can visit the FAFSA site. The government then determines, based upon financial need, which loans or grants are available to the student. Commonly provided loans and grants are: Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans, and PLUS loans. The Stafford loans come in two types: subsidized and un-subsidized. The subsidized are better terms, meaning that the government pays the student's interest while the student is enrolled in college. Otherwise, interest accrues while the student is in school (an un-subsidized loan). Interest rates vary from loan to loan, but subsidized loans are typically 6.8 percent. Perkins loans are similar to Stafford loans, except that the student's university is responsible for the loan amount and the interest rate is fixed at 5 percent. PLUS, loans are available to the parents of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as the students themselves. These loans have a fixed rate of 7.21 percent. As government programs, however, all of these loans have caps, or limits on how much can be given to each student.

    If the federal loans don't cover the cost the school, it's possible to fill in the gaps with private education loans. These loans are often from banks and credit card companies and are rarely subsidized. Starting with the FAFSA is a good choice because the government might offer better terms, like subsidized loans, than the private lenders. There are many sites where students can search for private loans and receive loan offers from major banks and credit card companies. Specialized loans are available for some career paths, like health professionals.

    Subsidized or unsubsidized, all student loans need to be repaid. They aren't necessarily free money, like scholarships or grants. Upon graduation, a monthly bill will appear in student's mailboxes. Because loans need to be re-paid, it's important for students to know their loans and recognize the differences. A low interest rate and subsidies make a big difference. Lower interest rates mean the student will be paying back less than money than someone who had a higher interest rate and the same amount of debt. Paying off loans can also require working with the lender, whether it's the government or a private lender. Sometimes a student can reduce the interest rate after they have made a number of payments. A good history of payments shows that the student is a reliable borrower. Lenders may consider lowering the interest rate at this point. Students should pick a feasible repayment option based upon how much income they expect to make after graduation. If a student has multiple loans, he should start paying back the most expensive first; these are loans with a high interest rate or principal loan amount. There are a couple of many methods that students can use to pay off loans faster and save money.

    Free Application for Federal Student Aid

    Grants

    But, loans are not part of that $2.9 billion in free money. Much of that money is allocated for grants, which do not have to be repaid. By submitting that same FAFSA form, students are evaluated for a federal grant called a Pell grant. This grant is available to low-income undergraduate students. The federal government also offers more specialized grants. One example is the Institute for Education Sciences funding, which provides research training. These and other grants are available to search online and apply. Each requires a separate application and may be specific to a cause or industry.

    Other specialized grants are offered by private institutions. For example, an aerospace trade association may offer grants to students majoring in aerospace engineering. Corporations also offer grants to fund students. A student's or parent's place of work is a good place to start looking for corporate grants. Corporations often fund students that could eventually contribute to the corporation as an employee or researcher. Students should start looking at corporate grants for corporations in their intended field of study. A student's university also can offer grants to fund students. Sometimes these are for specific research or artistic projects. The university financial aid page is always a good place to start looking for grants because they often list both local and national grants available to students.

    Scholarships

    Like grants, scholarships also provide students with funds for tuition that do not need to be re-paid. Like private grants, these scholarships are often specialized. Students have to be careful to make sure that they qualify. However, there are even more options than grants because many organizations offer small amounts of money for scholarships. Any extracurricular activities that students are involved in can be a potential loan source. Students should check with their religious organizations to start. Some churches offer small scholarships to students, particularly if they are pursuing a career path that will benefit the church, such as majoring in theology or social justice. Societies and clubs often offer scholarships to support their members. National Honors Society and Junior Classical League are two examples. Scholarships are also common for athletics. Exceptional athletes can often procure a scholarship that covers the full cost of tuition. This is often sponsored by the university itself. Some foundations also offer scholarships to undergraduate students, such as the $2500 scholarship offered by the La Grant Foundation. Even local business may offer scholarships to students. Students can begin their search in the local area and by searching online scholarship databases. These scholarships amounts are usually small, but they can add up over time.

    Some scholarships require a commitment, but offer a large amount of free money in return. The ROTC, or Reserve Office Training Corps, is an option for students that plan to enlist in the military. By committing to military service, a large variety of scholarship opportunities open up. ROTC scholarships are available for many branches of the military in the U.S. and remain a good option to fund college tuition.

    There are other scholarships that are offered based upon a student's demographics, to support disadvantaged populations. Many organizations offer scholarships to support people of color. Students with Native American heritage, in particular, have access to apply for special scholarships that cover a large portion of college tuition. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) offers a variety of scholarships too. Female students can also find scholarships set aside for women, especially if the student plans to work in a technological field. These scholarships are an often-untapped option because many students don't know that they exist. Searching a scholarship data often unearths unexpected opportunities for financial support.

    Students are often unaware of the enormous financial resources available to support their college tuition. $2.9 billion is a lot of money to go unclaimed. Thankfully, there are many ways to access these opportunities. Submitting a FAFSA is an excellent place to start, since it evaluates the availability of government loans and grants on the student's behalf. From there, students can complete their own research into local grants and scholarships offered by public and private institutions. These scholarships and grants are more specialized than the loans, but the sheer number of them make it likely that a student will find one that suits her unique situation. It's a bit of work to track down all the application, but it's worth it. There are billions of dollars out there for students to claim in order to finance their college dreams.


  2. Is a Balance Transfer Credit Card right for you?

    Published on January 27, 2017

    It’s January and the holiday season has come to a close, except for those credit card bills that are starting to roll in from the shopping, parties and traveling expenses. Many Americans expect to rack up debt during the holiday season and assume it will take months to pay it off. The amount of debt accumulated during the holiday season can lead to greater financial stress, as well as a greater likelihood of incurring additional debt.

    If you’re finding yourself in this situation, rest assured there may be money-saving options for you. Balance Transfer Credit Cards are not for everyone but they can be a money saver when used in the right situation. These credit cards are best used to transfer your current credit card balance with a higher interest rate to and then pay it off within a few months or within the intro period.

    Credit cards like the Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard® currently offer a 0% introductory APR for 15 months on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening. So if you transfer your current credit card balances onto the Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard®, you’d have 15 months to pay off your balance before paying any interest on your transferred amount, which could save you a lot of money in interest. Along with the balance transfer benefits, the Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard® also offers additional perks, including the ability to earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on every purchase. Plus, every time you redeem rewards, you get a 5% cash rewards redemption bonus to use toward your next redemption or you can redeem your cash rewards for a deposit into your bank account, a statement credit or gift cards. Redemptions start at just $50.

    To check out more of these great benefits for the Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard® go to CreditSoup.com!


  3. Shop Small Business Saturday

    Published on November 23, 2016

    Shop smart and shop small, as in small business, this Saturday, November 26th. Small Business Saturday takes place the Saturday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday and offers great benefits to not only the business owners but also the shoppers.

    By shopping locally, you can support your locally owned businesses as well as stock up on those gifts that may be one of a kind or handmade. You may find that many of those mom-and-pop shops will also offer personalized customer service that you may not receive at the big box stores. Customer service means a lot to a person, especially when you’re greeted by name when entering the business.

    Every purchase made in a small shop counts, and you could be making a difference for that business. When entering the store and making those purchases, you know exactly where your money will be going. It’s going to pay for things like the wages of those employed, the utilities, additional merchandise, and also any sales tax stays local supporting your local schools, police departments, and more.

    If you’re looking for extra benefits, use your rewards card while making your purchases. You could be earning rewards for yourself while purchasing gifts for others and helping your local small businesses. Whether it’s a restaurant, clothing store, tire shop or gas station, just remember to shop small for Small Business Saturday on November 26th and make a difference for those businesses.


  4. USAA offers great options for Veterans

    Published on November 10, 2016

    The USAA family of companies provides insurance, banking, investments, retirement products and advice to 11.7 million current and former members of the U.S. military and their families. Known for its legendary commitment to its members, USAA is consistently recognized for outstanding service, employee well-being and financial strength. USAA membership is open to all who are serving our nation in the U.S. military or have received a discharge type of Honorable – and their eligible family members. Founded in 1922, USAA is headquartered in San Antonio.

    When it comes to credit cards, USAA’s main focus is helping members make informed choices by providing them with a simple and transparent experience and integrated advice. Every USAA credit card comes with the ability to view and redeem points and cash back at any time on usaa.com and the USAA Mobile App. Points can be redeemed for affinity donations, cash, merchandise, travel, and more. All USAA cards have no foreign transaction fees. USAA also does not charge penalty APRs for late payments or raise interest rates for cash advances. Balance Transfer fees are capped at $200. USAA provides members tools to make the good financial decisions about using credit, such as the Money Manager tool, Emergency Fund goal tool and a free monthly credit score, free annual credit report and credit alerts based on changes in score.

    USAA does more than just credit cards. USAA offers free checking. Accounts have no monthly services fees and rebates up to $15 in ATM fees each month. USAA also offers homeowners insurance that protect members from fire, theft, vandalism, and many weather-related events. USAA offers competitive auto insurance rates, but USAA also provides members with special discounts such as safe driver and good student. Other advantages include roadside assistance and 24/7 claim service.

    USAA goes beyond regulatory requirements to help service members while they are on active duty. While the mandatory Service members Credit Relief Act (SCRA) rate is 6%, the SCRA rate for USAA members is only 4%. In addition, USAA waives all fees including balance transfer fees and late fees during active duty, including new debt incurred while deployed. USAA goes above the mandates of the act by extending benefits to one year after deployment ends. Members who have a Permanent Change of Station also receive a 4% APR on their credit card for 12 months. Any active military member that had any interest or finance charges accrue while participating in a military campaign is also offered a refund on the extra charges. Click here to learn more about all that USAA has to offer!

    Click here to learn more about what USAA has to offer!


  5. Earn Rewards Towards Your Next Vehicle Purchase

    Published on November 2, 2016

    Looking to purchase or lease a new vehicle at some point within the next 3 years? Then the BuyPower Card® from Capital One® might be for you. When using the BuyPower Card®, you get 5% earnings on your first $5,000 in purchases and an unlimited 2% earnings on every purchase after that. Not only do these earnings never expire, but they can be redeemed towards the purchase or lease of a new Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, or Cadillac. Earnings can even be combined with most current GM offers and incentives at your local dealerships for an even greater value.

    The BuyPower Card from Capital One® also offers a 0% Intro APR for the first 12 months as well as no annual fees. Along with the BuyPower Card®, a full suite of World Elite benefits from MasterCard® can also be enjoyed. Some of these benefits include no foreign transactions fees, 24/7 roadside assistance, $0 Fraud Liability if your card is lost or stolen, and luxury travel benefits.

    Check out the BuyPower Card from Capital One® today here at CreditSoup.com!


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