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Funding Your College Education: The Basics

Scholarships

"Scholarships are financial awards given to eligible students with no strings attached. If you win a standard scholarship your interaction with the scholarship provider ends when you get the check, unless the award is renewable. According to the IRS, if you are not in school for a degree, the scholarship is taxable. Scholarships used for tuition, fees, books, and supplies are not taxable. Any funds remaining after you’ve paid off your expenses are taxable. There should not be a service requirement or other stipulation attached to a scholarship, but always double check. Some scholarships require community service after receiving the award. Scholarships are offered in varieties such as sweepstakes, essays, or competitions for both traditional and non-traditional students" (Scholarships.com, 2015).

 

Student Loans

"Student loans qualify as financial assistance. Federal loans have the lowest interest rates. Loans are limited to financial need. Students who do not qualify for the Pell Grant but need financial aid have to take out loans. Interest and payments on certain federal loans does not start until at least 6 months after graduation.

Not all forms of financial aid are “free” money. Check out every option available, from college grants to student loans. Any form of financial aid will help pay for college. Remember, get as much free financial aid as possible before taking out loans" (Scholarships.com, 2015)

Grants

"Like scholarships, grants are cash awards that do not need to be repaid. There are federal grants, state grants, and private grants. Grants are often awarded to graduate students for research. The best-known undergraduate student grant is the federal Pell Grant. Grantees decide if the money is used toward tuition, research costs or other expenses" (Scholarships.com, 2015).

 

Fellowships

"Fellowships are for graduate and professional students. Fellowships require students to perform research as part of the deal. Most fellowship packages include stipends on top of covering tuition. Fellowships are lucrative and competitive. Students with exceptional merit are the top-runners" (Scholarships.com, 2015).

College Scholarship and Loan Scams

From Consumer Fraud Reporting, following are the warning signs of a college scholarship scam.  See their section on Scholarship Scams for more.

Warning signs of a college scholarship scam:

  • "The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back."
  • "You can't get this information anywhere else."
  • "I just need your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship."
  • "We'll do all the work."
  • "The scholarship will cost some money."
  • "You've been selected by a 'national foundation' to receive a scholarship" or "You're a finalist" in a contest you never entered.
  • "Millions of dollars in aid go unclaimed every year; don't you want some of that money?"
  • "Buy now or miss this opportunity."