Site Seer: Whither money for school?
June 6, 1997
Web posted at: 3:13 p.m. EDT (1913 GMT)
From CNN Interactive Writer Kristin Lemmerman
(CNN) -- Common wisdom has it that millions of dollars in
scholarship money go unused each year because nobody knows
the money is available. If you're getting ready to go to
school and you aren't independently wealthy, that untapped
funding can become a sort of Holy Grail as you try to
discover whether you might qualify for assistance because
you're an aspiring playwright, the child of an Avon
salesperson, or the descendant of a Native American tribe.
But the Federal Trade Commission says most scholarship funds
do not go unused; in fact, the myth that millions of dollars
is available for the asking has become the subject of
numerous scams. In your search for the elusive scholarship
dollar, plenty of companies may try to take advantage of you,
charging fees to send you lists of scholarships for which you
may or may not qualify. If you want to order those lists, go
ahead -- but that isn't the point of this Site Seer. You can
do the work yourself, and save your 50 bucks for next
semester's books. Unused or not, scholarship money is out
there, and you certainly won't get any if you don't apply.
If you only check one place on the Internet, go to FinAid.
This site lists several
scholarship search engines; lists of available grants and
loans and how to apply; and also includes a list of "special
interest" categories that might help you track down alternate
sources of funding. The special interest categories include
women, minorities and the disabled -- all of which are target
groups for educational institutions because they are
typically underrepresented in the ranks of higher education.
The FinAid site also offers several different financial aid
calculators, including one to help you figure out your
Estimated Family Contribution, or EFC. The paperwork to
apply for federal loans is contingent upon your EFC, and
although the calculator isn't guaranteed to figure out the
figures to the T, its calculation can be a helpful guide to
whether it's even worth it for you to plow through the
excruciatingly detailed federal aid forms. As if all this
weren't already enough to make the FinAid site a winner,
there's also a Scam Alert, an Ask the Aid Advisor column and
a FAQ file. All in all, if you've got a question about
financial aid, you'll likely find the answer here.
Among the scholarship search engines, fastweb is one of the best. fastweb finds
scholarship programs based on information you enter about
your interests, experiences and family background. It's the
same information you would give to a scholarship search
service, but in this case, the search is free.
One of the cooler features on this site is its capacity to
set you up with your own individual mailbox,
password-protected, which is updated daily with any new
scholarships or grants that have become available in your
areas of interest. New grants are added to the original list
of grants and scholarships; each item remains on the list
until the application date expires.
Meanwhile, if you decide that you need to change the personal
data your original search was based upon, you can do that
from your mailbox. If you expressed an interest in specific
schools, you can jump to their Web sites from a link in your
mailbox. And if fastweb finds anything else in its archives
that might interest you, it will provide a link in your
mailbox as well. For example, fastweb keyed in on the fact
that I identified myself as female in my test search, so in
my mailbox, I found a link to a story on the 100 best
companies for working women in 1997. (You might say there's
nothing like early planning to chart a successful
On the other hand, you may feel it's a little early to be
worrying about postgraduate employment -- especially since
right now, you can't even settle on a major. College Edge
is designed to
help you figure out what college to attend, what major or
majors to elect, and, of course, how to pay for everything.
You may not get anything detailed enough to nail down your
decisions, but then who said that all your choices should be
solvable with a mail-in form? Rather, this site gives you
enough information so that you can go on from here to ask
intelligent questions later.
Among the site's special features are a set of forums
(registration is required but free). Topics range from
prospects for various careers to dealing with college life;
there's also a section on financial aid and scholarships. A
section set up for parents to talk about their college-bound
kids is best described as 'slow-traffic' at this point.
And finally, the mother of all federal loans, Sallie Mae, has a Web
site which lays out all the basic concerns of finding
financial aid, whether you qualify as a "need-based" student
or not. The site includes a practical guide to planning
ahead for getting accepted to the college you want and paying
for it, starting with actions you should take in your
freshman year of high school, if you can.
A quiz helps you chart your financial savvy, and a series of
worksheets are available to help you develop a budget for
college and stick to it. There are also several calculators,
including the Estimated Family Contribution and one that
forecasts future college costs.
There are probably as many places on the Web to look for
college funding as there are entering college freshmen. If
you don't find some leads with the sites listed here, try
writing down a list of everything that makes you unique --
your ethnicity, clubs you belong to, organizations your
parents are members of, your parents' employers, your
hobbies, and even your state or county of residence might
offer leads to scholarships.
And if you've already narrowed down the list of colleges
you'd like to attend, check out their Web sites. Often,
scholarships and other special types of financial aid are
advertised on the sites.
Finally, if you've got more than a couple of years before
you'll go to college, try to find volunteer opportunities and
join student organizations that interest you. Write for the
student paper if you think you want to go into journalism.
Offer to be the assistant for the school basketball team if a
career in sports medicine or athletics interests you.
Anything you do in high school will help you down the road,
not only to get financial aid but to be accepted into the
college of your choice.
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All Rights Reserved.