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A Quick Guide On College Financial Aid
Monday, January 21, 2013

Financial aid is every college student's best friend. Going through the process is no breeze, though. Students can easily get lost in all the unfamiliar terms and find the process too difficult to go forward with.

While in college and after graduation, you'll realize just how important the financial aid you're eligible for will prove to be extremely helpful after you graduate. When you know how to navigate your way through it, applying for financial aid won't seem so overwhelmingly complicated.

Don't let financial aid confusion deter you from collecting your share. Save yourself the trouble, and more importantly the thousand of dollars in school costs, with this reference guide on some of the most common financial aid terms that students should know.

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid): Filling out a FAFSA is the first step in getting the financial aid process going. The application figures out how much you or your family will be paying along with what financial aid may cover. After completing the form, you'll be able to see how much you'll be able to get from either work-study, loans, or student grants. The form is already free and the results can save you more than you expected.

EFC (Expected Family Contribution): This term refers to how strong your family's finances are and how much of your college will be paid for by them. This amount is determined by a formula that takes into account taxed and untaxed income, assets, benefits, family size, and the number of members attending college. The results for this calculation is provided when you fill out a FAFSA.

Award Letter: Award letters arrive by mail and tell you how much financial aid you'll be receiving. You can expect these to come in around mid to late April and basically outline your financial aid package. The problem with these letters, however, is that they don't often include ALL the information you need. Some may underestimate the cost of attendance and your package seem more appealing than it really is.

Financial Need: Your financial need is based on your total cost of attendance that isn't covered by your EFC or other forms of contribution such as scholarships or outside grants. You have to be able to demonstrate your financial need in order to be eligible for this type of aid.

Loans: Taking out a student loan is one of the most common ways that students get financial aid. Essentially, you borrow money to get you through college while you're enrolled and pay it back after graduation. There are a variety of loan types which FAFSA usually determines the best one for you. Most loans allow you a 6-month grace period after graduation to repay the loan and any interest that may have accrued with it.

Grants: Grants are free money. That's right, money that the government, your school, or a private source awards you that you don't have to pay back. Grants too, are calculated in the results when filling out a FAFSA.

Scholarships: Scholarships are kind of the in-between of loans and grants. The money is free, but you have to work for it and it isn't guaranteed. Depending on the certain criteria for the scholarship, you may have to write an essay or participate in a specific project. In general, scholarships are awarded for academic merit which allows all students a chance to earn money without repayment.

Work-study: The Federal Work Study program makes funds available to students who work part-time. In this case, the school or employer pays up to 50% of your wages while the federal government covers the rest. Students are often employed by the college itself or by another organization.

How to Find a Better Job Than the One You Already Have
Monday, January 07, 2013

In tough times like these, you would be crazy to think about giving up any job even if it isn't one you really want. The security alone can be satisfying enough, knowing that there's a paycheck out there with your name on it. But that's essentially the problem.

This sense of security causes many people to fear taking the risk of making changes. They end up settling for what they have instead of going after what they truly want. But if you've ever read into the background of someone who has made it big, many of them had to take majors risks in order to get there. There's a saying that "there's no reward without risk," and those who have taken them know just how true this is.

Whether you're ready to get started on your new career path now or wanting to wait it out until the moment is right, the following tips will be useful to you when you do decide to make your move:

First and foremost, ask yourself this question: how badly do you want to leave your job? If the entire time you are at work is spent wishing you could be somewhere else--anywhere else--then the answer is pretty clear. But if you notice that even though you don't like it, you stay because it's a generally desirable position, you might want to instead ask what it would take to make the current job you have more enjoyable.

Don't let one bad day question whether you want to keep your job, bad days are unavoidable no matter what the job is. Instead, think about how your job makes you feel. You might not like the fact that you're waiting tables or taking orders at a register, but does it actually get you down? A good time to start thinking about change is when what you're doing is making you unhappy.

When you do start taking steps toward finding your new job, make them baby ones. Taking your time will help you to continue thinking it through as you go and avoid jumping into anything you'll regret later on. Create a plan of action and be strategic in where you apply. Success from your search will be a result from how well you execute it, not necessarily from how many places you apply to. Spend the time making sure that you left no room for error. You owe it to yourself.

In a job search where the seeker is unemployed, they want to let everyone know so that any and every opportunity may come their way. In your case, though, you need to be selective about who you share this information with because it could cause some rifts between co-workers and supervisors. Remember not to incorporate anyone from your current job into your search for a new one. This means leaving them out as references and refraining from updating them on upcoming interviews.

Speaking of interviews, be careful when scheduling them. Take a personal day if you need to, but don't try to squeeze it around your work schedule. Should there be an unexpected time change, you'll want to have the liberty to be flexible.

So now you might be thinking that seeing all of this through is impossible given your time constraints with work and well, life in general. Consider all the responsibilities you already have. At one time or another they weren't there and yet you found a way to incorporate them into your life. Your new job search duties will require doing the same. Here's another quote to add to your job search notes: "With great power comes great responsibility" (yes, the same quote from the Spiderman movie). More risk, more reward, and of course more responsibility.
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