It’s not cheap to go to college. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average undergraduate tuition and fees and room and board rate charged for full-time, in-state students was $19,204. Full-time, out-of-state students paid, on average, $24,854, which is roughly a $6,000 difference in cost. Scholarships can easily offset these high costs but are often difficult to earn since most are competitive. On top of that, some students opt not to fill in the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), leaving money on the table that they could otherwise use. “20% of all undergraduate students failed to fill out the financial aid application in 2011-12,” explains TIME in 2016, and “among undergrads who didn’t seek aid, 44% said that they thought they were ineligible for such support, making eligibility concerns the most common reason why these students left aid.” Filling in the FAFSA is the ideal first step for any student’s scholarship search, especially since “more than $2.7 billion in aid” was left untouched in 2014, according to TIME.The U.S. Department of Education assists more than 13 millions student per year by providing more than $120 billion for federal grants, loans, and work-study for college. Because money is distributed on a rolling basis, it’s suggested that students turn in their FAFSA as close to October 1 (the application opening day) as possible, explains Nicole Straub, Vice President at Discover Student Loans to CNBC. Charlie Javice, founder and CEO of Frank, expands on this point by clarifying that, “‘aid is available for anyone with a household income below $250,000 a year,’” which means there are available funds that can assist low-income and some middle-class family students. After filling out the FAFSA, students should also look into scholarships available within their university or at the universities they are considering. Some private universities offer the Stamp Scholarship, which often covers the full cost of tuition and provides an additional stipend, for example.Most universities also offer help for students who are seeking financial aid through their financial aid office, like the Office of Student Financial Aid at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Additionally, using websites like Fastweb can assist students with their scholarship searching, especially since scholarship options can be easily tailored for a student’s grade level, area of study, and career interest. Of course, it’s the responsibility of the student to seek these opportunities out themselves and to fill out all appropriate applications. It’s time-consuming and admittedly eats up energy that can otherwise be expended on assignments or spending time with family and friends, but it’s also important to address the high cost of education by making use of all the possible avenues. Students should apply to scholarships as they are able and not leave billions of unclaimed money on the table.
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