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Parents are lucky to have literally thousands of sources for college advice. From #Admissions to #FinancialAid, twitter is a great source for parents to get tidbits of data throughout the day.
However when your College Bound teen is a junior, it’s time to start watching out for the hash tags #Scholarships/#Scholarship. It’s used to find advice, requests for information, and real aid. But certain feeds truly kick out info on real scholarships on a consistent basis that are often updated and are solid sources for scholarship data. While parents can use scholarship search engines, books, and search locally, seeing the information in a twitter feed can potentially yield some information that could payout for your college bound teen.
(Quick Note: If you know of any other you like, DM me at @CollegeCashMan and I’ll take a look!)
Operated by ScholarshipExperts.com, this feed is a steady flow of scholarship information. The feed re-tweets relevant articles and relatively little promotion of its own site directly, relying more on the scholarships they list on the site. The site prefers to use informative articles and more than half of all tweets tend to be the real scholarships with dollar amounts highlighted. A great source of scholarship information and financial aid help. (note: they also post a ton of stuff on Reddit as well, so check it out)
This feed is about 95% tweets of actual scholarships with little retweeting. The links send users right to the sites of the scholarships without filter. Retweets are highly relevant and stay on subject. One of my favorite for just scholarship listings. This feed is maintained by a scholarship listing service/search engine TheScholarshipCenter.com.
Operated by Scholarship America, this twitter feed is chock full of great scholarship’s and tips as well. Scholarship America also has a huge presence in the scholarship world, as it operates the scholarship programs of many well-known programs. Corporations turn to this organization to help run the entire process, from processing to grading applicants. Their insight is highly relevant and not having this one on your twitter feed is a mistake no parent should make.
Operated by the Scholarships360.org, a free scholarship search engine service. The tweets usually link to the site. However the links always lead to the description of the scholarship with the links to real scholarship. Highly relevant and easy to use.
This feed is very new, but seems to be dedicated just to listing Military Scholarships for both vets and their families. It is attached to the site TheMilitaryScholarshipFinder.com and doesn’t tweet anything except scholarship info. The site itself focuses on the scholarships and I haven’t found any marketing information, so this may just be a volunteer effort.
The hunt for financial aid and scholarships shouldn’t end until the last year of college for parents. The hunt should be constant, because the money parents save by finding more outside aid, will save them in the long run over the long-term student and parent loans for college.
I grew up with a friend who is now a doctor at a prestigious hospital back home in California. “Tony”, always intended to become a doctor, and worked hard to get there. However, he assumed so much debt in Medical School, a huge part of his budget is dominated by paying them back. Don’t get me wrong, he makes good money now. He is one of the top in his field. However, when we recently talked, he mentioned how much he wanted to quit. A man of deep faith, Tony wanted to spend 3 years with Doctors without Borders doing “good works”. However, paying back his student loans has become his all-consuming goal and he can’t leave the hospital until the loans are paid off.
Welcome to what I call the modern “Golden Handcuffs”
What Are The Golden Handcuffs
In the business world, the term “Golden Handcuffs” refer to certain financial incentives that companies use to keep employees tied to their jobs. An example would be a vesting schedule, which allows the employee to own shares, but not be able to sell them unless they are still employed with a company past a certain date. Often this is 1 to 5 years. However, a new form a golden handcuffs have arisen in the student loan debt that is assumed every year.
Randal S. Olsen, a Ph.D. student at MSU decided to ask the questions, “Could you actually work your way through college“. Randal examined the trend of tuition at MSU and the rate of minimum wage pay in the US. He found (as many of us in college finance expected) that the likelihood of an average person working 35+ hours per week for minimum wage and being able to pay for the cost of attending MSU was nil. The inflation in the cost of college, coupled with the average spending power of a minimum wage worker, has made debt a part of the college experience.
How to Avoid The Golden Handcuffs
Avoiding the golden handcuffs of student debt requires the parents of college-bound teens to take charge of the college financing effort and be proactive on every front possible.
1) Find The Money Before Students Start College Classes
As I have said many times, the sordid love affair of matching a student and a school requires an approach that emphasizes the balance of college fit, with affordability, and aid. The college your student attends must be the one that wants them the most. The way a school shows their love of your student, is via the Merit Aid offered on the financial aid offer letter. The more aid offered from the school itself, the more they want to invest in your child’s success. Take the time to look at sites like CollegeAbacus.com and how looking at the net price calculators side by side will offer a realistic view of college expenses.
Working hard during the high school years towards earning solid grades, and earning higher SAT/ACT scores makes a difference, When coupled with searching for the gem colleges that will offer the best aid can help avoid student-loan debt in the long run as many merit aid awards are multi-year. And when offered, being willing to appeal the financial aid award offered, and/or have your child’s EFC reconsidered will make a difference in the cost your family will pay out-of-pocket
2) Be Proactive & Fight For Additional Financial Aid During The College Years
It’s not enough to get a good package during the first year of school and stop there. Being proactive every year is a must for cost conscious parents. Having your EFC reevaluated each year may make a difference. In addition, using EFC reduction strategies can make a difference in the aid offered. If a job loss in the family occurs, or your family business takes a financial hit, contact your financial aid office immediately. Beyond that, the hunt for scholarships and grants must never end. In fact, there are many scholarships that are not only multi-year, but only qualify for only after you have attended school for a semester. So a relentless pursuit of outside aid, coupled with already awarded merit and federal aid can make a difference between student debt and a debt-free degree.
3) Keeping An Eye On Cost Drivers
Most consider college costs fixed and non-negotiable. I’m here to tell you that college costs can be lowered if you use the right strategies. Everything from the meal plan your child chooses, to how often they come home to visit are factors that are controllable.
Living off campus with roommates, and sharing bills can keep living expenses lower. Letting Junior know they can’t drive home to visit every weekend can cut travel costs. Utilizing community colleges during the summer to cut the total cost of a degree can make a huge difference in tuition costs. Also, taking summer courses is key to the strategy of getting a degree in 3 years, not 4. If you think about it, by reducing the cost of a college education by a year shaves off an entire years living expenses and added fees.
Avoiding student debt while in college is a matter of finding and securing financial aid from every source you can find, coupled with a relentless eye for reducing costs. But this will only work when you and your student work as a team to constantly seek aid, while controlling expenses. As the parent of a college-bound teen, it’s up to you to take charge and get your student on board to the realities of heavy student debt and how to avoid it. It may mean the difference between putting on the golden handcuffs of student loan debt, & financial freedom for your student after graduation.
For a long time, I was a bit of a road warrior. Between 2003 and 2008, I owned an independent online textbook company that had to move inventory all over the midwest. I was in the car a solid two months of the year at one time. However, it after all that driving I fell in love with podcasts. I loved having constant content and making the most of my time on the road. Many middle class families have long commutes to work, with free time to listen to college prep and advice on a range of topics related to their college bound teens. To help parents narrow down the content that will help their children succeed and pay for college, I have narrowed down my top eight podcasts on the topics of financial aid, scholarships, and admissions.
I Also Podcast each week, but am not on the list. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great podcast, but I wanted to shine a light on who I listen to as well!
I came to twitter in 2011, a bit late for the party to some. When I started blogging it was a godsend, with feeds full of great info on scholarships and financial aid. It took some time to sort out the good and the bad feeds, those that contributed and curated over those that simply posted their own material. However, when I finally got it all sorted, I found I had a preference for the feeds of just a handful of people. I want to share my personal list that I keep separate from other feeds that offer killer content, advice, and curated articles as well.
All of these resources are ones that parents of college bound teens should follow now and keep an eye out for as you go through the process of college admissions, and funding college.
Quick note, this list is in no particular order. They are all outstanding in their respective areas!
Monica Matthews managed to help her son find over $100,000 in scholarships while he pursued his degree in Engineering. She hosts her own site at How2WinScholarships.com and her feed is full of great content. She has also published a book on her experiences, which is available on her site.
Jodi Okun took the initiative to get down to the Financial Aid office and learn the trade from the ground up. She has taken her experience and put it to work as a College Financial Planner. Her site, College Financial Advisors, has some great content on understanding the financial aid process for parents. Jodi even hosts #CollegeCashChat every Thursday at 10pm/EST. Parents and students can join the twitter chat and ask questions of Jodi and her guests.
Gyan Devi went back to school later in life as a non-traditional student. Gyan devoted herself to finding scholarship info for college students and their families. She believes students “should have the opportunity to graduate without mortgaging their future or majoring in student debt”. She has been counseling students and families as a financial aid coach for the past 14 years. Her feed offers a mix of curated and home-grown articles, and she has written two books with several more on the way.
Beatrice Schultz, CFP®, BSc, MSM founded Westface College Planning, as well as co-founder of Westface Financial and Insurance Services. She hosts College Smart Radio 1220am KDOW each week airing Saturdays from 3:00pm-3:30pm PST. Her feed is also a mix of curated and home-grown content via her site and blog, focusing often on the financial aspects of maximizing aid for families of college bound teens and the tax implications of college.
What I love about Sia Knight’s feed, is her no-nonsense articles that speak straight to the issues surround college admissions and the conduct of college bound teens. In an age where manners and social norms are evolving, she reminds parents and students how to conduct themselves when dealing with those working in education. Holding a Doctorate in Education, this former teacher, counselor and school administrator curates some content while focusing on her own articles on college prep, test prep, and building a students network before college. Her site can be found at www.siaknight.com.
Keith Maderer is an author and public speaker on a range of topics. His feed offers some great content from his own site on college finance and the tax implications, as well as scholarships and financial aid. He also does some content curation on the subject as well. His articles can often be found on e-Zine, and they offer deep information on the various aspects of financial aid such as the FAFSA and the EFC.
One source of information for me will never be enough. However, these 8 sources of information are going to get any parent 95% of the information they are going to need to get their child into college, and get it paid for. Next week I’ll be posting my top ten list of favorite podcasts on financial aid and admissions.
In addition, we talk Chris Long of Cappex.com, (@Cappex) sets us straight on being effective when searching online for scholarships. In addition, we answer a listeners question about their wish to attend their dream school, but its going to cost them about $134K.
On this episode we discuss the importance of debunking 5 big scholarship myths that tend to circulate among parents every year, and need to be put to rest so they can get to the job of the finding the money their students need to pay for college.
Our main guest today is Gyan Devi (pronounced Ghee-YAHN, rhymes with “neon”, and DAY-vee)
In addition, we talk about the myth involving the cost of attending public school over private colleges. Abigail Seldin of College Abacus (@CollegeAbacus) sets us straight on what she found when comparing several private and state colleges when it comes to affordability. In addition, we answer a listeners question about her wish to attend school at SUNY Buffalo or Long Island University.