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Four Financial Tips Every High School Senior Should Know

Financial planning is important for students seeking post-secondary education. Poor financial planning is one of the major reasons why students drop out of college. College is an investment. Studies point out that acquiring a degree increases lifetime happiness and earnings. However, the goal is to keep costs low.

by Afoma Okoye

The following are four tips that students should consider to avoid hefty debts.

Fill out the FASFA

The first step all students need to take during their senior year is to apply for FASFA. Completing the FASFA application is required for most scholarship applications. It also allows the applicant eligibility for federal student loans and Pell Grants.

Federal student loans must be paid back after college graduation, or in the event that the student drops out of college. A Pell Grant does not have to repaid, and it is calculated based on financial need.

Students should talk to their parents about ways they can contribute money towards their own education. Some parents have to pay their own student loans, credit card debt, and mortgages, so they may welcome their students’ contributions.

Some parents cannot afford tuition, but they can help by providing groceries, offering a home if their child wishes to commute, or they could help their child find local and national scholarships.

Parents and student should be attentive to the interest rates on the loans. If financial aid is not enough to cover the cost of education, students should make a call to the financial aid office of the school they plan to attend. Often the financial aid office can offer alternate payment plans and low-interest loans.

Focus on the college program, not the name of the college

While it may seem luxurious to attend a private school, it is important for students to consider costs when choosing a school to attend. State schools are typically cheaper than private schools. Rather than looking at the elite name of the school, students might want to focus on selecting a school for the ranking of the program it offers.

For students who plan to enter careers that require master degrees, it is important to know that when applying for a graduate program, the admission process heavily focuses on an applicant’s GPA, and GRE, MCAT, LSAT or GMAT score. If those scores are poor, admission to professional schools could be denied, regardless of the fact that the applicant attended an elite school for his or her undergraduate degree.

Apply for scholarships

There are many scholarships for prospective college students. There are thousands of scholarships available for students based on various factors. There is a false perception among students that they do not need to apply for a scholarship, and that they will be offered one as long as they perform well in school.

It is extremely rare to acquire a scholarship without applying for one. Every high school senior should apply to as many scholarships as possible. Student athletes should not rely on possibly getting sports scholarships; they should apply for academic scholarships as well.

Local scholarships have fewer applicants than national ones. Scholarships with a lot of essays and requirements typically yield higher chances of winning since many students will not take the time to complete them.

If a student has been accepted to the college he or she plans to attend, he or she should research the incoming freshmen scholarships that are offered by the college. Students should not believe the false perception that a student has to be a minority to win a scholarship. There are awards available for all types of students; they just have to be willing to research and apply for them.

Do not feel pressured to attend college

A student should not feel pressured to immediately enter college if he or she is unsure of a desired field of study.

Getting a post-secondary education is important for future salary expectation, but students do not have to attend college immediately if they are unsure of a future career path. An alternative to consider is an associate degree from a two-year college or learning a trade.

Most two-year colleges are cheaper than traditional four-year colleges, and they usually offer smaller class sizes and many of the degrees offer well-paying employment opportunities. A community college might provide the chance to “try out” college and see if the commitment of time and energy is one a student is willing to make.

Opinions expressed here are solely those of Afoma Okoye.

Okoye_HeadshotAfoma Okoye is a student at Georgia State University. She is pursuing a B.A in Journalism and Political Science. After owning her first book at the age of six, Okoye became a passionate pursuer of knowledge. She is a writer and a published and award-winning poet.

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