The O-town Scene

March 10, 2011

The O-town Scene - Oneonta, NY

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Trust Me, I’m a Counselor by Lisa Ryther You’re in college now, make smart money choices Applications, transcripts, recommenda- tions, extra-curricular activities, volunteer- ing, office hours, registration, dorms … the list goes on and on in the life of a college student. So, how are you going to pay for all of it? One option is FAFSA. No, I did not sneeze. FAFSA _ Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Let’s get one thing straight, though _ it’s not really free. At the close of your college career, if you happen to be one of the many students who have accepted federal aid, you will then be expected to pay it back. I know this seems pretty simple, but many students do not read the small print before they click the “submit my FAFSA now” icon. Take my advice, read it, know it, and borrow responsibly. Why? Have you ever pictured yourself years from now _ career, traveling, new car, mortgage ... monthly student loan payment. There are many ways that you can educate yourself and take charge of your financial aid. Here is some food for thought: Apply for scholarships/grants There are state-funded awards, national merit awards, awards based on academic excellence, talent-based awards, there is even a scholarship for people who are left-handed. The best part of receiving a scholarship/grant is the money you will save with no payments, no interest, ever. Bonus: These awards look great on your resume. Get a job already I know you will be working for the rest of your life, but consider some of the benefits of an on-campus job. You can work in between classes, make connections with campus fac- ulty and staff (sometimes it’s all about who you know), and many campus offices have their own scholarships. Double Bonus: Get a paycheck and a possible scholarship. Get to know your financial aid advisor Each student is assigned to a professional in their college financial aid office. Ques- tions, concerns? Make an ap- pointment, but don’t wait. Stay ahead of the game, know financial aid deadlines, file your taxes and FAFSA early _ some funding is first-come first- served _ and apply for federal loans first, they are the safest and most affordable. Bonus: If you qualify for Perkins/ Stafford subsidized loans, the govern- ment takes care of the interest while you are still in school. Save on college costs Head to your campus bookstore early be- fore they sell out of used copies, or purchase used books online. Choose your on-campus housing wisely _ bigger is not always bet- ter. Stick with the traditional double dorm room. More rooms, more roommates = higher costs, more drama. Leave your car at home. I, too, am a fan of road trips, but campus parking is costly, as is insurance, car repairs and gas prices. Take the bus and put the rest of your cash toward your tuition. Bonus: One less car on the road is good for the environment, so you can say you’re green even if you really are just trying to save money. Say no to drugs You heard me, did you know that in 1998 Congress enacted an amendment to the Higher Education Act that denies loans, grants and even work study to students who have drug convictions? Check out campus clubs and activities, meet new people, try new things. Drugs are not only illegal, they’re expensive. Save your money for something that won’t leave a smudge on your permanent record. Bonus: you don’t have to worry about showing up in the police blotter for drugs. That’s my advice, take it or leave it. _ Lisa Ryther Lisa Ryther is a counselor in the College Assistance Migrant Program at the State University College at Oneonta. March 10, 2011 O-Town Scene 7

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