Pay for College, Resources

Spotlight on Ladder Up

No Comments 17 March 2017

Ladder Up is a community-based organization that provides people with resources and opportunities to move up the economic ladder. This organization provides participants with free programs to help students obtain financial aid to make their college dreams a reality.

This program is based in Chicago and visits local high schools — mainly Chicago public schools and charter schools — to give presentations on financial aid. With its Life-Improving Financial Tools (LIFT), Ladder Up helps participants and their families create a foundation for economic self-sufficiency. The sub-programs, Higher Education Access Initiative (HEAI) and Financial Literacy Program, help participants to secure financial aid for college and gain the appropriate skills to make smart financial choices. Participants learn about FAFSA, award letters, student loans, college finances and personal statements. One-on-one counseling also is offered for parents and students. Ladder Up offers counseling year-round for those who need it.

Students and parents alike can learn about financial aid opportunities through Ladder Up. Participants walk away with follow-up information about award letters, student loans and college finances. They also will learn how to successfully fill out the FAFSA. Keep an eye on Ladder Up’s website to see if they are hosting an event near you.

Ladder Up encourages financial responsibility going into college. Follow their mantra and check out your College Greenlight profile for the newest scholarships you are eligible for. College Greenlight regularly has been a beneficial scholarship resource for Ladder Up students.

Pay for College, Resources

How to Negotiate for More Financial Aid

No Comments 15 March 2017

If you are not happy with the financial aid package you’ve been offered, you do not have to settle for it. You have the option to appeal for more financial aid.

The first thing you need to do is come up with a plan. Study your college’s financial aid appeals process to know how to make your case. A common and effective way to do this is to write a direct letter to your financial aid office. Some colleges have a form to fill out.

These steps will guide you through the appeals process:

  1. Be as specific as possible when describing your financial situation. The financial aid office cannot help you if your appeal is too vague. Instead of saying you do not have enough money to cover tuition, you must explain why. Include facts, dates, figures and any other specifics that might help your case. Although you want to include details, keep the letter short. Do not bog it down with personal stories — write just the facts that affect your ability to pay. Be sure the amount you are asking for is reasonable as well. If a college thinks you are asking for too much, they may reject your appeal.
  2. List evidence and provide third-party documentation to back up your situation. Job loss, salary reduction, death of a wage earner or expenses for a special-needs child are among some of the reasons you could appeal need-based aid. Bills and receipts, letters of termination and bank statements are great examples of documentation. If you are looking to appeal for more merit-based aid, you can include a copy of a higher offer from another college, additional letters of recommendation or grades and awards. When the U.S. Department of Education audits colleges, they look at professional judgement appeals. They want to make sure any increase in financial aid is backed up by documentation.
  3. Mail your letter to the correct office. Contact the college and make sure you have the correct office. If you are sending a letter to appeal for more need-based financial aid, the letter should go to the financial aid office. If you are appealing for merit-based scholarships, contact the enrollment or admissions office. Explain to whoever you speak to that you want to initiate a Professional Judgement Review, which is the official term for an institution’s ability to review a student’s financial aid package and potentially increase it due to special circumstances. Do not try to begin the appeal over the phone – you just need to verify where to send the letter.
  4. Follow up. If you have not received a response to your letter within a week, follow up with the appropriate office. But remember, just because you are appealing your package, doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed more money. Some colleges do not negotiate. The decision whether to make an adjustment to your financial aid package is entirely up to the college. But with a well-written letter, you will have a better chance at success.

Apply to College, Find the Right College, Resources, Study, Volunteer

How to Utilize Your Spring Break

No Comments 13 March 2017

It’s never too early to start preparing for college. Spring break is great time to get ahead of the game. Between your Netflix marathons and beach trips, here are some tips for preparing for college during any grade.

Build a College List

Take some time to think about what you want from your college experience. What size campus do you want? What do you think you want to study? How far from home do you want to be?

Once you’ve answered these questions, research colleges that fit your requirements. From there, you can start to build your college list. Make sure your college list includes a variety of safety, match and reach schools.

Make Time for Extracurriculars

Utilize this free time to make your college application stand out. Reach out to a professional in your desired career path and shadow them for a day. Volunteer at your local soup kitchen. Grades and test scores are important, but colleges want to see who you are beyond those criteria. Show your dream college why you’d be a great fit in their community.

Practice for the ACT or SAT

Complete a few practice questions every day of spring break. Review some geometry concepts. Spend a little more time reading. The earlier you begin preparing for the test, the better you will likely perform on the test. Whether you’re about to take the test for the first, second or third time, any bit of preparation helps.

Look into Scholarships

It is never too early to start looking start thinking about money for college. Make sure your College Greenlight profile is up-to-date so we can match you to scholarships you are eligible for. We always are updating our scholarship database, so check in weekly to see what’s new on your list. Get creative with your scholarship search as well. Reach out to local businesses, your place of worship or leaders in your community to see if they are aware of any local scholarship opportunities

Pick Next Year’s Classes

Your high school courses should be selected with a bit of strategy. Aside from your required classes, think about what classes will best serve you in the future. Experiment with different subject matter to see if you can a course you’d be passionate about to study in college. If you are eligible, see where you can fit in a college credit or AP class.

Resources, Undocumented Students

California DREAM Act Applications Increase Despite Concerns

No Comments 03 March 2017

Despite initial concerns because of immigration changes by the Trump administration, the total number of applications for the California DREAM Act rose 5 percent from 2016. As of the March 2 deadline, 35,882 applications have been received by the California Department of Education.

The California DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Minors) is a state law that allows children who immigrated to the U.S. to receive state financial aid. To qualify, a student must have been brought to the U.S. when they were less than 16 years of age and lacked immigration paperwork.

The California DREAM Act provides state grants to undocumented college-bound students. Dreamers also are able to pay in-state tuition at any California college and receive fee waivers for community college.

Immigration reform by the Trump administration potentially could be to blame for an initial decrease in applications. The California Department of Education responded to these concerns by releasing a statement that reiterated the fact that Dreamer’s immigration status never will be released to the federal government. Dreamers also were assured that they do not need Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status in order to apply for the California Dream Act.

If you have applied for the California DREAM Act and have concerns, contact the California Student Aid Commission at 916-464-8271 or the California Department of Education, College Preparation and Postsecondary Programs Office, Career and College Transition Division at 916-323-6398.

Prepare for College, Resources

Spotlight on Bridges to a Brighter Future

No Comments 16 February 2017

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Bridges to a Brighter Future serves high school students of Greenville County, S.C., whose potential for academic excellence is hindered by economic and educational barriers.

Almost all participants are first-generation college students, and 70 percent of participants come from a household with an income of less than $25,000. The program ensures these issues will not stop students from going to college. Bridges to a Brighter Future students are prepared to graduate from high school, navigate the college admissions process and be successful in college.

Students are selected in the spring of their freshman year to participate. There are three components to this program – the Bridges Foundation, Saturday College and Crossing the Bridge.

The Bridges Foundation is a four-week academic program that begins the summer after freshman year. The program takes place on the Furman University campus, which also is located in Greenville. Students receive more than 100 hours of academic enrichment, team-building, cultural exposure and peer support. Students participate in the Bridges Foundation program each summer until college begins.

After students complete their first session of the Bridges Foundation, they participate in Saturday College. This aspect of the Bridges program takes place once a month during the school year. Participants receive tutoring in all academic areas and attend workshops that focus on college admissions, financial aid and SAT/ACT prep.

The last step of the program is Crossing the Bridge. This component takes places after high school. Participants attend a one-week program that gets them ready for their first year of college. Students receive ongoing academic advisement, support and career mentoring throughout college.

College Greenlight is an important element of Bridges’ programming. According to Danielle Staggers, Assistant Director for College Success, “College Greenlight has been a communication and resource hub for our seniors. Since we are not able to see our students daily, our students have used the features of College Greenlight to share their updated college list and any status changes. We advise our students to search for scholarships using the College Greenlight blogs.”

The program gives students self-confidence, resiliency and leadership skills by the time of college graduation. Bridges to a Brighter Future graduates are poised to graduate from college and make a difference in their community and beyond.

If you are a college admissions representative and you want to connect with Bridges, please contact Danielle Staggers, Assistant Director for College Success, Danielle.Staggers@furman.edu.

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