About Suzanne Shaffer

Suzanne Shaffer has been a member since April 8th 2011, and has created 987 posts from scratch.

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FAFSA Week: 10 Good Reasons to File the FAFSA


file the fafsa

Parents of college-bound teens look forward to filing the FAFSA as much as they look forward to filing their income taxes. It’s a federal form and all federal forms aren’t exactly user friendly. Many parents are so intimidated by the form that they choose not to file, telling themselves that their student wouldn’t qualify for aid anyway because they make too much. But don’t fall into that trap.

Here are 10 good reasons to file the FAFSA:

1. College is expensive

Even if you’re rich and can afford to pay for your child’s education, it’s expensive. Why would you pass up an opportunity to help with some of the cost?

2. It’s FREE

That’s right. It’s completely free to complete the FAFSA. You’ll spend some of your time completing the FAFSA and you could get thousands of dollars of financial aid in return. So one could say, it’s BEYOND free–they pay you!

3. Getting help is easy and FREE

If you get stumped, help is available using the online help tool or by submitting a question at the FAFSA web site or calling the help number listed on the site. Many schools even host a FAFSA day where they offer help to parents and students on how to complete the free form.

4. FREE money could be waiting for you

According to a recent Reuters article, about 1.8 million lower income undergraduates who might have qualified for aid neglected to file the FAFSA and missed out on financial aid. No matter what your income level, you should file the FAFSA because there is more money out there to be awarded than just need-based aid.

5. Federal money

The federal government provides over $80 billion dollars in grants, loans and work-study programs every year. The only way to get pell grants, perkins loans, stafford loans and other federal aid is by submitting the FAFSA. Federal loans offer the best interest rates and repayment terms for student borrowers and are superior to private student loans.

6. State money

FAFSA is the gatekeeper for state financial aid programs. Each state’s programs are different but they all require the FAFSA to distribute the funds. Check with your state’s higher education agency for deadlines and requirements. In some states the financial eligibility ceilings are much higher.

7. School money

Colleges and private scholarship sponsors offer billions of dollars in financial aid. Even if you don’t have financial need, you may be eligible for these awards. Some school and private scholarship programs are specifically designed for students who were rejected by federal financial aid. Some schools will not award merit aid unless you complete the FAFSA.

8. Scholarship applications ask if you’ve applied

In addition to the aid that a student may receive from federal and state agencies, many scholarship applications include a box to check asking whether the student has submitted a FAFSA. According to Monica Matthews of How to Win College Scholarships, “Scholarship providers want to know that the student is doing everything possible to get financial help in paying for college and submitting the FAFSA is a very important step in the process.”

9. You have two or more children in college

With two in college, your expected family contribution (what the parents can afford to pay) drops by 50%. Even if you didn’t get financial aid with the first, file the FAFSA because having a second child in college can net you some financial aid.

10. You really don’t have a choice

Look at it this way: FAFSA is the ONLY way to be considered for federal, state and college financial aid. Even if you don’t NEED the aid you still want to get it. Who doesn’t want FREE money?

5 Ways to Save Money for College


save money

Saving money for school is getting more and more difficult as the prices of school tuition get higher and higher. While some students are given a free ride with an academic or athletic scholarship, others rely on their parents or grandparents to pay for school.

For the rest, it is becoming a common occurrence for students to live at home with their parents for the first year while living frugally and trying to save up for the following semesters. While these students may save a lot of money, it is still possible to get private alternative loans to help cover the expense. Here are five ways to frugally save money for school and contribute to paying for room and board, books and tuition.

1. Save change in a bucket at the finish of each day. Never take it out to spend. Roll the coins periodically with free wrappers from the bank. Do not use a coin conversion machine. It removes a small percentage. Every coin counts.

2. Enroll in a 529 tax deferment plan. The student may be able to shop at certain stores and use their coupons to save money. A percentage of the money will go into a college savings account.

3. Pick up a part-time job. Any earnings will be directly deposited into an individual bank account used only for school. If the student already has one, this could be a second income set aside only for higher learning.

4. Spend less money on fun activities. Rather than going out bowling or to a movie, go to a free concert at the local park or go for a bike ride. Rather than going out with friends, invite them over instead.

5. Use coupons. Clip or download coupons on food, auto repair, and restaurants. Do not spend more money to save more, simply spend less. Using coupons to save money on clothes such as stores like even can be of great deal and also using coupons for stores like; You can save a lot of money.

Those looking to increase their financial well-being and savings should check out these money saving tips.

How to Write a Personal Statement

personal statement

If a private university or college is in your future, the Common App is your one-way ticket. You’ve got one shot at a winning application, and Ethan Sawyer, the College Essay Guy, is here to help!

How to Write a Personal Statement: A 3-Day Live Online Course is the ultimate course for students and counselors to help you knock out your Common App in one weekend.

Throughout the weekend, you’ll have access to:

  • Over 10 hours of LIVE sessions with Ethan, the College Essay Guy
  • Everything you need to write (or help a student write) a beautiful personal statement
  • Daily Q&A sessions to ask ANY questions you like
  • A chance to get feedback on your essay during Ethan’s live workshops
  • Links to recordings of the lessons so you can go back and watch them for a full year
  • The feeling of having completed your Common App essay. #nice
  • So much more goodness.

Click here for more info.

Can’t make a particular session? No worries: You’ll have video recordings of EVERYTHING.

Can’t afford it? Don’t worry, there’s a pay-what-you-can option.

Are you a counselor? You’re invited too!

Click here to reserve your spot.

October Is a Busy Scholarship Month



While you are thinking of fall colors and Halloween, there are so many opportunities to apply for scholarships. October is a busy deadline month for scholarship seekers. Take advantage of the many scholarships with October deadlines and score some free money for college.

According to Jessica Velasco of JLV College Conseling, “attending college can be quite expensive for students and their families. Luckily, there are many college scholarships and contests available to help pay for a college education. Students should seek out and apply for scholarships in which they meet the eligibility requirements.” Jessica provides a full list of scholarships with October deadlines.

Niche’s scholarship list of October scholarships allows you can choose a category and filter by states, majors, minorities and easy to apply. Or you can look at the entire list of scholarships with October deadlines.

Allen Grove, a college admissions expert for About Education says, “October is one of the busiest months of the college admissions process, and many applicants are so preoccupied with their college applications that scholarships aren’t on their radar. They should be. Many scholarship opportunities expire in October.” Allen provides a sampling of 42 scholarships with October deadlines.

Although October is full of frivolity, it’s also one of the best months for you to ‘carve out’ some time for scholarships. There are many fall programs available to high school and college students, but just like ghosts, they will evaporate soon. Unigo has compiled a list of “Spooktacular Scholarships with October Deadlines”. provides unique scholarship opportunities for you to make a difference in your community. After you participate in one of their campaigns you are entered to win a scholarship. These scholarships are great opportunities to blend community service with scholarship awards. Check out this list of DoSomething’s scholarship campaigns with October deadlines, has an extensive list of scholarships for students who need funding for college. They have provided a list of scholarships with deadlines in October. While you are there, check out their other lists of scholarships listing deadlines by the months.

Supporting Your Child After College Graduation


college graduation

If you have children who will be graduating from college, you may be wondering how you can support them on their journey as they enter into the real world and make adjustments to their new lives.

It is a scary world out there and if your child is entering a completely new career field, he or she may be nervous and unsure of what to do.

When it boils down to it, many students face college graduation with an enormous amount of student loan debt and what this does is it sets them up for failure in the real world if they are unable to pay the debt down quickly.

Imagine if your child had $30,000 in student loan debt and could not transition out of their minimum wage job and into their chosen career even with a degree. That is tough to think about, right? Unfortunately, it is the real world and this happens all of the time.

You may be sitting back right now scratching your head and wondering what it is you can do to help support your child once they have graduated college. We do have some ways that we think are feasible for the both of you and will help you two form a closer bond in the process.

Let’s take a look at some of the ideas below.

  1. Cosign on Student Loan Refinancing

If you have never dealt with student loans before, then you may have never heard about student loan refinancing. This is okay.

Student loan refinancing is a way for your child’s student loans to be reworked and the interest rate to be lowered. This results in a lower monthly payment and lower overall interest that needs to be paid on the loan itself. Sometimes, students are able change their student loan term period as well.

When it comes time to refinance, your child will quickly realize that there are some strict requirements to do so and if they do not meet these requirements, they cannot refinance. Your child must have a good credit score, good credit history, and a stable job.

Many new graduates do not have the minimum requirements for a bank or private lender to refinance them and they are told they need a cosigner. If you want to help support your child, you may want to consider being a cosigner on the loan, so that they can refinance it. It is possible to have your name removed as the cosigner later on down the road too.

Let’s look at an example to show you how much your child could save. Let’s start out with a loan balance of $20,000 at an 8.6% interest rate with 10 years to pay on the loan. The current monthly payment on the loan is $249 and the total interest paid over 10 years is $9,885.

If we refinance that loan, so $20,000 at a 3.25% interest rate for a period of 10 years, the new monthly payment would be $195 and the total interest paid over 10 years is $3,453.

Simply helping your child refinance in the scenario above would save your child a total of $54 per month and a lifetime savings of $6,433 in interest payments alone.

  1. Make a Payment Agreement for Debt

Another way you can help you student is by helping them pay down some of their debt. For instance, if their debt totals $15,000 and you have the money to spare, maybe you can use the money to pay off their debt and then work out a payment plan with them to pay you back.

This will benefit them because they will save money on interest payments. If you wanted to, you could charge interest on the amount you pay off too, but your interest charge is not going to be anywhere near that of a bank.

In addition, you may be able to work something out with your child where you will help pay off a credit card bill and in return they can install new fencing around your home and so on.

It is important that you and your child lay out the terms of the deal BEFORE any money is paid out or BEFORE any benefits have been had. You want to make sure you have a commitment from them that they will pay you back.

  1. Help Your Child Budget and Build Credit

If you have never taught your child about personal finance, now is the time. It is important for your child to have a solid foundation to build upon. Finances are not easy to manage when you do not know what you are doing.

You can help your child budget with the money they have as well. For example, sit down with your child and determine how much money they make, how much their bills are, and their necessities. From there, work with them on how to create a budget and where they should be sending their money. The more you help them, the more they will learn.

Lastly, make sure you help them build their credit and teach them about credit. The worst thing you can do for your child is let them blindly get a credit card and treat it like cash or like it does not have to be paid back. This will only breed bad financial behavior and your child will be confused when his or her credit score is in the 400 or 500 range.

Final thoughts on supporting your children after college graduation

As your child enters into the real world, he or she will need your support and it would be helpful for them if you were there. If you are unable to help them financially, you can still support them by providing them with the guidance they need to make payments on time, build their credit score, and not allow their loans to go into default.

5 Ways To Get Your College Student Home on the Cheap


college studentOver 3 million college students will attend universities outside of their home state this year. With the yearly costs of a private or out-of-state education starting at $24,000, any added expenses beyond room and board, books and tuition can be a real burden. Yet, not having your kids home for the holidays is unimaginable for many parents, so they find a way to make it happen.

For those already thinking about how to get back home “from” school, here are five tips to help your college student get home on the cheap:

  • Rack up miles and earn free flights. While fares during peak season can cost hundreds, earning free flights is easier, and simpler, than many think. RewardExpert helps travelers create easy-to-follow strategies by developing customized earning plans and maximizing frequent flyer rewards. The service makes it easy to earn free tickets in just a few months, making now the perfect time to enroll.
  • Carpool with someone headed the same direction.  College Carpool is amongst a handful off services that allow students to connect with others driving the same direction through private pages for each college. Through forums, students can find available rides, or proactively request one.
  • Enroll in a car share. Many traditional rental car services have restrictions for those under 25, however ride car services like Zipcar andEnterprise CarShare are available to university students. Monthly fees are low, and once registered, students can reserve a car whenever they need one.
  • Hop on the bus… Sure, the bus might not be the most glamorous option, but Bolt Bus, Megabus and Greyhound are cheap options with surprising amenities. Most have free wifi, power outlets and even reclining seats. Smaller-scale regional buses also offer student discounts, such as Short Line.
  • … Or the train. Taking the train home is another great option, withAmtrak providing service from 500 destinations in 46 states. The company offers a 15% student discount, along with the opportunity to earn points towards free travel.

No matter how far away or son or daughter may be, there are some creative ways to get them home without breaking the bank.