NerdWallet

7 Tips to Help You Snag a Scholarship

For the 2014-15 school year, nearly $17 billion was awarded to students in private and employer scholarships, according to the College Board. With so much money up for grabs, it would seem there’s plenty of free cash available to cover the costs of a college education.

Take it from members of the class of 2014, who carried an average of $28,950 in student loan debt, according to the Institute for College Access & Success: Scholarships aren’t a silver bullet. But a private scholarship (those that come from outside of your school or governmental sources) can greatly reduce your overall costs — if you can snag one

Tips for Filling out the FAFSA as a First-Generation College Student

Being a first-generation college student is a big deal and a huge opportunity. You’ll be the first person in your family to experience the lighter side of college — like experimenting with ill-advised late-night dining options — as well as the more serious ultimate goal: getting a degree.

Navigating the college experience is hard enough as it is, but many first-gen students face an even steeper uphill battle: English may not be spoken at home, parents may be working long hours, or affordable tutoring programs may not have been available. Those who do attend college may face higher dropout rates and take longer to graduate. According to the Pell Institute, about 11% of low-income, first-generation students who entered college in 2003 received a bachelor’s degree within six years, compared with 54% of non-low-income, non-first generation students who did

10 College Expenses You Didn’t Expect & How to Pay for Them

You’ve picked your college, and you’ve planned nearly everything: how you’re going to decorate your dorm room, the clubs you’re going to join, and how you’ll introduce yourself to your new roommate. Freshman year is going to be awesome.

You’ve also planned to pay for certain things out-of-pocket, including your housing deposit, your textbooks and laundry. But there are other expenses you might not have considered.

We’ve compiled a list of 10 such expenses so you can plan how you’ll pay for them before starting college. Some are unavoidable, but with careful budgeting, they’re all manageable

When and How to Appeal a Financial Aid Award

Your latest financial aid award letter arrives, and you tear it open, eager to find out how much money you’re getting — but you’re met with disappointment.

Maybe the offer’s less generous than the ones you’ve received from other colleges. Maybe it has way too many loans and not enough grants and scholarships. Maybe it prevents you from attending that particular school. But what if that school is your first choice, or your FAFSA no longer tells your whole financial story? Then the appeals process comes into play

How to Read Between the Lines of a Financial Aid Award Letter

Now that you have your financial aid award letter in hand, you’re probably pretty glad you filled out the FAFSA. Who doesn’t love free money, right?

But before you purchase that new college sweatshirt, it’s crucial to understand what’s free and what needs to be paid back. Not all financial aid award letters are created equal, after all