Searching for Money
You may have been saving up for years, but it’s likely that, when it comes to paying for college, you’d love to find a little bit of extra change in the couch cushions.
If you’re planning to go to college in 2018, hopefully you’ve already submitted your FAFSA for initial review. (If you haven’t, now’s the time! Schools allocate money until they run out, so the early bird gets the worm.) You should expect a report back from the Department of Education in 3-4 weeks with a number they like to call your “EFC,” your Expected Family Contribution. What you may not know is that schools are not obliged to give you enough funding to cover the rest of the cost of attendance (also known as your “need”). You may, in fact, have a gap between what they offer you, what you’re expected to pay, and what the total cost of attendance is, not to mention personal expenses.
Most schools haven’t sent out any financial aid offers yet, so you won’t really know what that gap might be, but for most families, even the EFC seems like a pretty big sum to come up with. You might be tempted to pay for a scholarship search service that will help you search for just a little bit more money to help cover the cost.
Sadly, most of those services are scams. Instead of paying for private scholarship help, parents and college-bound seniors should sign up for free search services such as fastweb.com, finaid.com, or collegeanswer.com. You can also check out other useful sites such as collegeboard.com, scholarships.com, and fafsa.ed.gov for more information about scholarships and grants.
It’s important to note, however, that some schools will count outside scholarships as meeting a portion of need, and not reduce your EFC. You should confirm with your college’s financial aid office as to whether they will first replace loan funds or their own grants with any scholarship money you find. Hopefully they replace the loans and your overall cost of attendance goes down.