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Unique Scholarship Options You May Not Have Considered

Posted by Manuel Fabriquer on Fri, Mar 13, 2015 @ 9:25 AM
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Let’s face it: college can be expensive. But with the thousands of scholarship options out there, it doesn’t have to be. Although there are countless students just like you applying for these awards, if you work hard and choose the right scholarships for you, you can greatly increase your chances of winning.

There are many generic scholarships out there awarding big money prizes. Those are the ones that will see thousands of qualified applicants, and it may be more difficult to snag those. But what about specialized scholarships in your field of study? Local scholarships for students in your area? Prizes geared towards your specific talent? Scholarships that award students for an unusual trait? All of these unique and quirky scholarships exist. Why not consider applying for some of these scholarships? If you meet the criteria and can submit the right materials, you just might find yourself with more money for your college education in hand. 

The Writers of the Future Contest

Are you great in English class? Fancy yourself a writer? If you’ve got the linguistic chops, you may want to consider L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest. Stories of up to 17,000 words in the science fiction or fantasy genre could win you prizes of up to $5,000. This is a great opportunity to flex your creative muscles and try for some serious cash. The current contest ends March 31st, so get writing!

Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest

If you can get yourself to Kansas (and have a serious talent for duck calls) the Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest could be the scholarship for you. This competition, held each Thanksgiving week, is open to high school seniors and awards prizes for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th places. This scholarship has been around for 38 years and has awarded more than $60,000 to students in that time. Better get practicing!

The Miss America Organization

Pageants may have lost popularity in recent years, but the Miss America Organization remains the leading provider of scholarship monies for young women, awarding millions of dollars each year to competitors on the national, state, and local levels. Competitions take place in each state and are open to young women ages 17-24. Participants are judged in several categories, with the greatest weight given to the Interview and Talent portions. If you have a love of performing, your dancing, singing, violin playing, and more could earn you big bucks for your education.

Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest

Do you have an interest in fashion? Or do you simply fancy yourself creative with duct tape? The Duck Tape Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest runs in 2015 from March 15th until June 1st, and offers two $10,000 scholarships to a high school couple who attends prom wearing inventive outfits made entirely of duct tape. This highly unusual scholarship offers major money, and also donates $5,000 to the winners’ high school. Check out the website to view last year’s winners and get some inspiration for your own incredible entries.

These are only a few of the incredible unique scholarship options out there. For more options, check out 45 of the Weirdest College Scholarships. With a little searching, you may find the perfect contest for you, and win yourself some much needed funds for your higher education. 

 

Tags: scholarships, strategies for college, financial aid award, college planning abc, college consulting, college planning, college applications, College Planning News, money for college, Manuel Fabriquer, College Admissions, attending college, college scholarships

What Appears Online May Kill Your Chances of Getting Into College

Posted by Manuel Fabriquer on Tue, May 8, 2012 @ 12:48 PM

 

 

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For some time now we have all  been warned that what is posted to any social network could have potential career repercussions in the future.  Now it appears it is not only job opportunities, it can also affect a student's chances of getting into college or receiving a scholarship.  So, in response many people have made taken steps to make their accounts private with only selected friends being able to access their posts. 

Well, that preventive measure may not be enough these days.

A recent report from MSNBC's Red Tape Chronicles blog states that student-athletes at colleges around the country are being asked to "friend" a school official, giving them access to posts meant for friends only. 

Similarly, some employers are asking job applicants to logon to their accounts during the interview.  This is nothing new as a 2009 survey commissioned by Microsoft, 70% of U.S. job recruiters said they have rejected candidates based on information they found online.

Facebook doesn’t support this invasive practice and spokesperson Frederic Wolens said many such school and employer policies appear to violate the site's terms.  "Under our terms, only the holder of the email address and password is considered the Facebook account owner. We also prohibit anyone from soliciting the login information or accessing an account belonging to someone else," msnbc.com quoted him as saying.

Another story from The San Francisco Chronicle, reported that scholarship providers are going to Facebook and other social media sites to help vet applicants.

The Chronicle stated that about 75% of scholarship providers said they are on the lookout for behavior that could reflect badly on the provider.   This was based on a survey conducted by FastWeb and the National Scholarship Providers Association.

A picture of your student partying could cost you a college scholarship

Be careful not to allow pictures from high school parties where the student is being seen drinking or acting wildly to appear on the web.  It is very easy for friends to “tag” a picture and then have these appear on the web.

It is not just Facebook

About one-fourth of scholarship providers who responded to the survey said they use sites such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter to check out applicants, primarily just finalists.

Here are more details from the survey:

  • Approximately 3/4s of respondents are looking for behavior that could reflect badly on the scholarship provider, such as underage drinking, provocative pictures, illegal drug use or racial slurs.

  • Another 1/4 of the respondents wanted to verify information on the application.

  •  About 1/2 of the respondents wanted to know the applicant better or were looking for positive traits such as creativity or good communication skills.

  • 1/3 of the respondents have denied an applicant a scholarship, and a quarter have granted an applicant a scholarship, because of something they found online.

 Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Fastweb.com and FinAid.org. stated, “none of the providers were doing real extensive research or background checks on applicants," he says. "They are looking for red flags."

Online searches are on the rise

Although fewer than 10 of the survey respondents claimed they have denied a scholarship based on their online sleuthing, the practice could become more common and will increase according to industry trends.

What Parents and Students Can Do

As we have seen the odds of losing a scholarship are relatively low.  However, it is now time to manage your online reputation before your student needs to apply for a scholarship or a job.  Here are some steps you should take immediately:

  • Google your student’s name. Look for inappropriate material in the first 10 pages of search results. Correct any problems, if possible, by editing the content of the pages, not simply deleting them.

  • Make sure your student always uses an appropriate e-mail address.   Some students have email addresses that may be funny or lack maturity.

  • Make sure you student is avoiding using profanity on any posts.

  • Remove any inappropriate comments or post made by others on your student’s Facebook wall

  • Check Google Images for pictures of your student that may raise red flags

Many of these suggestions can be done easily.  At times, you may find some information that may be harmful and not easily removed.  When this occurs consider working with an online reputation management company such as www.zoomlocalsearch.comcan help overcome those problems.  Companies such as these can guide you through an online reputation clean up.

The bottom line here is the need for parents and students who plan to apply for college must be proactive.  There is no reason why any student should find themselves being questioned by what is found online.  The reason why online reputation is so important is the real possibility schools and scholarship providers are looking at whether the individual has good sense and will reflect well on their organization.

This is just a sample of the many tips and strategies that I share at my college planning ABC workshops.  Allow me to extend a personal invitation to check out the next workshop.

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Tags: scholarships, strategies for college, college planning, College Admissions, College Enrollment, online reputation

7 Common 529 PLAN Questions and Their Answers

Posted by Manuel Fabriquer on Mon, Nov 7, 2011 @ 9:25 AM

Many times at my workshops people will come up and ask me questions about 529 plans. I totally understand that there are many questions especially due to the amount of misunderstandings out there about this program.  So, below is a list of the most common questions I get and the answers. 

1. Do I have to use the money at a state school?
  Not necessarily. Your 529 Plan account assets can be applied at virtually all accredited
colleges and universities in the United States as well as to other eligible foreign institutions.

2. What expenses can I use the money for?
  You can use the funds for qualified higher education expenses like tuition, books, etc.

3. How and when can I take distributions from the account?
  Anytime you need it for your school related expenses. Now, please take note, distributions for non-qualified expenses may incur federal income tax and a 10% federal penalty tax. Qualified distributions include money for tuition, books, etc.

4. What about room and board?                                                                                             Good question. Here’s an answer that could help according to IRS Publication 970, it is written there that qualified education expenses are fees that are paid to the institution as a condition of enrollment or attendance.  So, a lot will depend on what the institution has noted as a condition of enrollment.

5. How do I withdraw funds from my 529 Account, and can I take loans against my 529 Account?                                                                 

 All you need to do is simply fill out the College Investing Plan Distribution in PDF form. Indicate the recipient or who is going to receive the money. You could be a parent who wants to send it to your child or you can be the student yourself requesting that you directly receive it. Now, please note, you cannot take a loan out against the 529 account.

TIP:

Always keep a record of your payments so you won’t have a hard time filing for your tax returns.

6. How about if my child earns a scholarship?
The amount of the scholarship award from your 529 Plan can always be withdrawn without worrying about the penalty; but remember that other taxes may still apply.

7. Will investing in 529 Plan affect eligibility for financial aid?
Based on the Expected Family Contribution calculator (EFC), 529 assets may have a relatively small affect on Federal financial aid eligibility as they are considered assets of the parent (Participant). Moreover, accounts can be considered assets of the child (Beneficiary), such as a UGMA/UTMA account, are most likely to have a greater effect on the Federal financial aid eligibility in the EFC calculation.  This is something that I always check and advise on for my clients.

This was just a brief overview and by no ways everything you need to know about a529 plans.  For more information on how you can use this tool, and other financial vehicles to pay for college, contact me, Manuel Fabriquer, at (408) 918 3068 and let me save you thousands on the cost of college!

 

Tags: scholarships, Blog, College Funding, money for college, College Admissions, college scholarships, secure financial aid

Updates on College Costs

Posted by Manuel Fabriquer on Tue, Nov 1, 2011 @ 7:24 PM

There is now a federal law that will increase the chance of getting college financial aid for families who will qualify upon application. This law will also help in offering grants to students who have plans of taking education as a course at the same time helping graduates to repay their student loans.

For Need-based Aid category also known as Pell grants, the news is that it will move up to a maximum of $ 5,400 annually for the next five years from its current maximum of $ 4,310. On the other hand, Stafford loans interest rates will drop by 3.4 % for the next for 4 years, which is half of the current rate.

For Loan Repayment category-

President Obama announced on Oct. 18 at the University of Colorado in Denver that college graduates would have an easier way to pay off student loans through the new “Pay as You Earn” plan.

The Pay as You Earn Plan, which was supposed to go into effect in 2014, will now go into effect in 2012 due to congress’s push by Obama. The plan will allow college graduates’ loans to not exceed 10 percent of the graduate’s discretionary income. After 20 years, any remaining debt will be forgiven, said Georgia Southern University’s Director of Financial Aid Division of Student Affairs- Connie Murphey

“Last year graduates (that) took out loans left college owing an average of $24,000. Student loan debt has now surpassed credit card dept. for the first time ever” said Obama in his speech addressing college students in Denver.

The old policy was that graduates had up to 10 years after they graduate, or leave school, to repay their student loans. College graduates also had to make payments of 15 percent, said Murphey.

The smaller payments will mean the payment time lasts longer, said GSU economics professor Anthony Barilla, Ph.D in economics.

“To the actual college graduate, if you kept their payments at 10 percent, that means they get to make smaller payments of their student loans and that also goes on for a longer duration, so there’s a plus and a minus to it,” said Barilla. “To the college graduate itself, it’s a longer duration of having to pay that loan.”

The college graduates that will not be affected are the students who received loans through private lenders such as banks and individuals, said Murphey.

“The ones that will not be affected is if students have a private loan through a lender, and a lot of students do. They go directly to a lender, they borrow money, it never comes through the school, it’s called a private loan,” said Murphey.

Moving on, the Public Service incentives category will help students in teacher-prep programs who are also committed to educate for four years after they graduate in the application for annual grants of $4,000 to cover the costs of going to college. Grants must be repaid in case they have decided to not pursue teaching.

Student borrowers can also have an incentive to go into a public position. This means that if they decide to work for a decade as a qualifying civil servant, the government shall then waive the loan balance of students to whose loan was provided directly by the government.

For more information on how your student can get money for college despite your income level, call me, Manuel Fabriquer, at (408) 918-3068.  College Planning Abc, is dedicated to helping students find and get into the best colleges in the nation while saving you the most amount of money.  Call today!

 

Tags: scholarships, college consulting, Blog, College Funding, College Planning News, money for college, college scholarships

Parents Are Not Saving for Kids College

Posted by Manuel Fabriquer on Wed, Aug 10, 2011 @ 7:25 AM

I wanted to share this article with you on research of what was discovered about parents saving for college.

http://www.accountingtoday.com/news/Parents-Not-Saving-Childrens-College-Education-59511-1.html&hl=en&geo=us

I understand that it’s tough to save for both retirement and college for the average American family. I have kids myself and it’s really a discipline of saving something every month. Things are tough right now with what is happening in the economy and the stock market.

The article mentions that parents plan to do the best they can to pay for college but are hoping that they are going to fund college on scholarships, academic, and sports scholarships.

In my opinion, I think that parents really need to get help with this process. I think that parents are naive about this whole process and how much parents can actually afford for college. I also believe that parents do not understand how much the cost of higher education is going to cost the family. In California, the cost for a UC College is roughly $30,000 per year and the average family will spend at least $120,000 per student. Most families that I see have 2- 3 children, some savings but only enough for one child. Most families have enough for the first child coming into college, but when the next child comes into college there is a massive problem. The problem lies with cash flow and being able to fund college on a monthly basis. Many families have a budget to pay for a portion of college, but the budget definitely is off when the next student enters college. The trick to college funding is how to keep funding retirement without sacrificing and minimizing education for their children.

What to do? Come to one of my upcoming Free College Planning Workshops or attend a conference call. Check out www.collegeplanningabc.com for events .

Tags: scholarships, Blog, College Funding, money for college, Saving for college