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Friday, August 15, 2008

Scholarships, Grants, Student Loans, and Other Financial Aid

I want to make mention of financial aid early in our discussions because many people who have a great deal of talent pass up higher education because they are not aware of financial aid options. If you are intellegent, talented, motivated, and willing to work to better yourself, you can get financial aid in many different forms. Financial aid offices at colleges and universities have the job of seeing that qualified people can afford to go to college. It is their job! So if you are qualified to go to college, do not pass up the opportunity because of money. The counselor at your high school should help put you in touch with the appropriate people in the financial aid office at the school where you plan to attend. And for those of you who are already out of high school and wanting to pursue higher education, call your old high school, talk to a counselor and ask for suggestions on getting in the loop. All the counselors I have ever worked with are honored that you remembered them and call for help.

There are many different forms of financial aid. Remember terminology. A loan has to be paid back. Scholarships and grants are free. Let's talk about scholarships and grants first since those are what I want you to try hard to get. Scholarships and grants are the grandest form of financial aid because each is a gift to the student due to some talent, activity, or skill. If you are still a high school student, work toward getting all the scholarship and grant money you can possibly get. Many different groups give scholarships and grants. Start at http://www.FastWeb.com/ to do a nationwide search for scholarships and grants. Remember that many of these will be for multiple years, but will only continue if you hold up your end of the bargain by being a good student in college. It is never too early to start applying for grants and scholarships. I have seen ninth graders win grants and scholarships. These are banked or held by the generous givers until you start college. Here is a list of additional Internet sites you can visit to search for aid.
These are but a few. If you search for a particular college online, you can then go to the financial aid office for that college. I suggest that you do your homework before going to the financial aid office. Know what is out there. Each year, millions of dollars go unused because no one asked for the money. That's why you need to shake every tree until you get the aid you need to go to college.

I suggest that you look locally also. There are clubs and various organizations in your local community that are looking for deserving students to whom they can give grants and scholarships. For some of these, you will need to write a paper or fill out a form that tells about you, your plans, and your need. Be honest! You need help to go to college. Don't paint yourself and your family as having everything. Its OK to ask for help to go to college. While I was assistant principal of a middle school, a young lady whose dad was vice president of one of the local banks received an abundance of scholarship and grant money because she asked for it.

Now, lets talk about loans. Remember that loans have to be paid back by someone. I firmly believe that students should get loans in their own name and plan to pay them back after they start working. Don't saddle your parents with that load. You will make the money from your education so you should pay for it. There is a good possibility that you will have to help your parents later in life, so don't start out by putting a strain on them.

For a good education on how to handle money and develop financial responsibility, I recommend you visit Clark Howard http://clarkhoward.com/shownotes/category/1/34/. Clark is a wealth of information about money for college and how to handle money while in college and after graduation. I need to mention here also that Clark is a wealth of information in many, many areas. Did I say that Clark Howard is a really smart guy?

Don't forget work! I worked while I was in college. It was good for me. Not that I had never worked before. I grew up on a farm and was the youngest of four boys. My dad was behind the learning curve on reducing the work load as the older boys left home. When the other three boys were gone, Dad and I did the work of five. I was amazed how quickly he converted to cattle from row cropping as soon as I went off to The University of Georgia. Working for someone other than my dad was a good learning experience. Dad told me that other people would expect me to work harder than what he had expected me to do. Everyone I ever worked for was amazed at my work ethic and my attention to details. That is not a gift from God. It is a gift from my dad. Clark Howard recommends that students work. He has the same feelings about students working that I do.

Please have your eyes open concerning the financial aid process. We have people who have borrowed $75,000 to get a job paying $25,000. That does not make sense. Be sure that you are preparing for a career that will put bread on the table and pay the bills. Just use common sense.

Before I leave the subject of financial aid, let me mention this little tid bit. You are on the front end of the financial aid process now, but in, what I assure you will be a short time, you will be on the back end of financial aid and your higher education. Put in the back of your mind that there is a process called loan consolidation of which you will need to take advantage. By consolidating your loans after graduation, you can usually get a lower interest rate. Making payments on time, over time will get an even lower interest rate.

A little aside here, I believe I have mentioned that I am retired from public education. I started out teaching drafting and math in high school. I later switched from math to computer science and still taught drafting. After 12 years in the classroom, I was given the job of technology coordinator for our school system. After doing that for a while, I was given the job of federal programs coordinator. While in that position the superintendent, who had been the principal at my high school the last two years I was in the classroom, asked me if I would consider preparing for building level administration. I jumped at the opportunity and started working on a graduate degree in Instructional Technology. I felt that I wanted to move back to the position of technology coordinator at some point. The next year, the superintendent asked me to be an assistant principal. At that time I was in the process of completing a EdD at The University of Georgia in Occupational Studies and Administration. I worked in that position for a while and then became a principal. I was then asked by the new superintendent to be the assistant superintendent. I spent my last six years in that position. I served as interim superintendent for six months--long enough to learn that I did not want that position. I said all of that to say this: I never applied for a job. I was invited to accept jobs.

That all occurred because I know how to work, I know how to work smart, I know how to get a job done, and I take extreme pride in my work. I believe anyone can have the same kind of career if they are willing to work hard and seek to excel in all they do. And by the way, my first degree was in landscape architecture. I worked in that field a short time before being drafted into the US Army and serving in Vietnam as an infantryman. When I returned from Vietnam, I went back to my old job but could not stand being behind a desk after spending a year living outdoors. I spent seven years in the landscape contracting business. That was long enough to get over my desire to always be outside. At this time, the vocational supervisor in our school system called me and asked if I would be interested in teaching drafting. The rest was my history in education.

If you have military experience, I invite you to visit my site that I have established for veterans and soldiers to write their experiences: http://we-were-soldiers.com/. Your story needs to be part of history. That is one of my latest passions. And it is good therapy for me and will be for any veteran or soldier who chooses to write their experiences.
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