Financial Aid and Funding Your College Years

Although the first days of a college career may seem far away at the moment (only 6 months!), now is the time to plan for it financially.  If you haven’t already done so, seniors, the search for scholarships is in full swing.  Most of the scholarship deadlines occur in the spring, so adopt filling out scholarship applications as a part-time job right now.  Several places to check regarding scholarships include: 1 – your high school guidance counselor, 2 – civic organizations in your community, 3 – your local church, church association, and denomination on a state-level, 4 – employers (yours and your parents’),  and 5 – scholarship websites, many of which allow you to create a profile so scholarship applications are matched to your criteria.

Other important sources of funding are the federal and state governments.  This funding, though, is only available through the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).  If you or your parents have not already done so, file your taxes as soon as possible.  I know it is easier to put it off until mid-April, but this is one thing that you should not put off.  The FAFSA has an IRS link that will autofill your information from the IRS, so file your taxes a couple of weeks before filling out the FAFSA to ensure that the IRS has your information.  Additionally, secure a PIN before trying to fill out the FAFSA; it will be needed as your signature (if you are a dependent, your parent will need a PIN as well).  You can obtain a PIN from the website www.pin.ed.gov.  To fill out the FAFSA, visit the FAFSA website at www.fafsa.ed.gov.  Be sure to list the colleges of your choice on your FAFSA so they will receive your results; Gardner-Webb’s FAFSA code is 002929.  Colleges and universities use the information from your FAFSA to add Federal Pell Grants, Direct Stafford Loans, other sources of federal aid, and state funding to your financial aid package.

Colleges and universities also typically have their own scholarships they award to students.  Check with the admissions counselors of the universities of your choice to ask about scholarships they award.  Gardner-Webb awards merit scholarships to accepted students based on GPA, standardized test scores, and class rank.  There are also scholarships for minister’s dependents and for those who plan to go into some form of Christian service after college graduation.  You can contact your admissions counselor at Gardner-Webb by calling (800) 253-6472 or (704) 406-4498 or by e-mailing admissions@gardner-webb.edu.

 

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You’ve Got Mail

As if you didn’t know this was your senior year, one sure-fire way to tell is the fact that you now receive mail, every day, whether via the postal service or the internet. Some of it you may have requested, but you will also receive information from colleges and universities you didn’t know existed. Educational institutions purchase names from standardized test centers, such as the SAT and ACT, of students who may fit their student profiles. Even if you are not familiar with a particular university, though, don’t instantly throw the information away. Take the time to read what that school has to offer you, then decide whether it is worth another look. Instead of blending in with thousands of others at a prominent state school, you may find the small, private school for which you are a perfect fit, academically, socially, and financially. And, to continue my mantra from last year, allow time to visit, visit, visit. Most of your mail at this time of year is probably inviting you to a first-look, preview day of the university. Many schools offer these days on the week-end. Take advantage of those, and start a list of what you want in a school. I personally invite you to Gardner-Webb’s first Dawg Day of the year on September 22, 2012. Come and check out the campus, the academics, and our new state-of-the-art Tucker Student Center, the “family room” of GWU. You can register at www.gardner-webb.edu/dawgdays.

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It’s Not Too Late

Although some of the larger, public universities adhere to a May 1st deadline for deposits and admission, there are many colleges and universities who practice rolling admissions, meaning they admit students and accept deposits year-round. A large portion of these institutions are private. Many families fear “private” colleges and universities because, to them, private equals expensive. The tuition at private schools is usually more than that of public schools, but private institutions also have access to endowed scholarships, which help close the gap on financial award packages, that public schools do not have. Private schools usually have smaller class sizes, too, which allow time for questions and discussions, as well as getting to know the professor, which can be very valuable as a student begins to apply to graduate schools and needs recommendations. Many of the same options for student involvement are available at both private and public schools, such as intramural sports, theatrical performances, community service, and study abroad. Gardner-Webb also offers undergraduate research opportunities, something that is typically reserved for graduate studies. So, if you feel you have missed the deadline and aren’t sure where you are going, I encourage you to check out some private schools. You are always welcome to visit us here at Gardner-Webb; contact our Visit Coordinator at visit@gardner-webb.edu or (704) 406-4498. I would love to see you on campus this fall!

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Funding Your College Years

As the refundable deposit deadline for many colleges approaches (May 1st), seniors need to be heavily evaluating their options of where to study for the next four years. Financing a college career is a major aspect of that decision. Here are a few steps to help you, Seniors:

1. Fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid) – The FAFSA is your key to federal aid, sometimes even state aid. First, both student and parent need to obtain a PIN number from www.pin.ed.gov. Then, the FAFSA can be filled out at www.fafsa.ed.gov. An “IRS pre-fill” option is available on the FAFSA if the student’s and parents’ taxes have already been filed with the IRS. (I encourage you to take advantage of this option, so do your taxes first.) After submitting the FAFSA, it will show you your EFC (Estimated Family Contribution), as well as an estimate for the Pell Grant and Direct Stafford Loans. Colleges and universities use your FAFSA results to award this federal aid.

2. Federal and state aid may not be enough to fully fund your college experience. However, there are many opportunities for “outside scholarships.” These scholarships can be a tremendous help in closing the gap between costs and what appears on a financial aid award. Of course, there are internet websites that pool scholarship opportunities (i.e., fastweb.com, scholarships.com, studentscholarshipsearch.com, etc.). Certain states also have a state-specific website for scholarship information (such as cfnc.org for NC). Get creative in your search, though. Check with parents’ employers, any employers you have had, your church, your church’s association on both local and state levels, civic organizations (Rotary Club, Lion’s Club, Elk’s Lodge, Ruritan, Civitan, etc.), and continually ask your high school guidance counselor for applications for all scholarships for which you are eligible. There are also major-specific scholarships; H&R Block offers scholarships for Accounting majors, Daughters of the American Revolution offers scholarships for History majors. If you are interested in a medical field, check your local and city hospitals for scholarship or internship opportunities. In addition, scholarships can be found for first generation college-goers, such as the Coca-Cola Scholarship. I hope this list helps you think of additional places to search for scholarships. You need to apply for many, though. If you only apply for one, your chances are not very high of receiving it. But, if you apply for 25-30, you may receive 2-3. Each one adds to your financial aid award. This process will become a part-time job, but there are many benefits to reap from it.

3. Summer jobs can help you build up your bank account to pay any balance that may be due, purchase books, and supply any personal expenses throughout the year. Check with seasonal employers, such as summer camps, your local YMCA, landscaping companies, and public or private pools for lifeguard opportunities.
Funding a college education is feasible if you plan in advance and save wisely. Good luck!

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Scholarship Interview Tips

This week and next week are busy but exciting times here at Gardner-Webb University. We will be hosting participants and their families for our University Fellows Scholarship interviews. The Fellows Scholarships range from 80% tuition to full room, board, and tuition for four years. In light of this time, I wanted to give you a few “Dos and Don’ts” regarding scholarship interviews.
1. Despite the “high stakes,” the most important thing to do in a scholarship interview is be yourself. Your academic record put you in the interview chair, but during the interview is the time to come off the paper and show the interview committee who you are and those things about which you are passionate.
2. Dress appropriately for the interview. For most interviews, you will need to wear business attire. And, please, please, please do not wear flip-flops.
3. Don’t chew gum (at least, not during the interview).
4. Make eye contact with your interviewers. It helps you come across as engaged in the conversation and confident.
5. Speak clearly (no mumbling).
6. Do your homework on the institution and ask questions of your interviewers.
7. Be punctual.
8. Take time while you are on campus to take a tour, talk to current students and professors, and gather as much information as you can to make a wise decision on where to attend.
9. Communicate with your parents, regarding the interview, the school, and your goals. Believe it or not, your parents may actually possess a small kernal of wisdom!
10. Most importantly, enjoy yourself. You are in the spotlight–shine!

Good luck to our University Fellows participants!

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Free Application Week!

Specifically for NC residents, CFNC Application Week is kicking off today! Throughout this week, participating colleges and universities have waived their application fees, so you can apply for free. Please take advantage of this opportunity. Many guidance counselors are setting aside special time for students to complete applications online. One of our Admissions Counselors may even be at your school to assist with this important week. If you see one of them, please take time to ask them of the benefits of attending GWU. If you don’t happen to see one, don’t let that stop you from having answers to your questions; call us toll free at (800) 253-6472. (Everything is free this week!) And, as always, you are more than welcome to visit us on campus. We would enjoy the privilege of giving you a campus tour and providing you with valuable information to help in the important decision of where to attend.

I wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Receive your college acceptance and scholarship now!

Fall is definitely settling in to the Carolinas; the NC mountains will be in peak season for fall colors in the next couple of days. For some of you from TN, KY, and VA, it would be a beautiful ride to come visit our campus. And, for those further south, you can take in the fall leaves after stopping in to visit us by travelling just 30-40 minutes into the foothills and moutains near GWU. Fall is a fantastic time to visit, so contact our visit coordinator at visit@gardner-webb.edu to schedule a convenient time for you.

Fall is also the perfect time to apply to colleges, as I have mentioned before. Gardner-Webb offers a free online application at www.gardner-webb.edu/apply; we have tried to make it as easy as possible! But, don’t stop at simply sending in an application. Make sure you follow through with sending an official transcript and your SAT or ACT scores and additional required information to complete your application file. At Gardner-Webb, after your file is completed, our admissions counselors can inform you of your acceptance within 2-3 days. You will also receive notification of your merit scholarship award, which is generated as soon as you are accepted. This arms you with an acceptance and valuable financial information as you compare schools and apply for other scholarships through your guidance counselor and community.

Speaking of scholarship opportunities, for those of you who are interested in majoring in music (whether it is performance, composition, or music business), GWU offers scholarships based on audition results. The first audition day is coming up this Saturday, Oct. 15th. If you are interested and want to reserve an audition spot, please contact the School of Performing and Visual Arts at (704) 406-4448.

Please be sure to contact us if you have any questions or if we can help you with anything! Our toll free number is (800) 253-6472.

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Beat the Rush-Apply Now!

By now, all schools are in full-swing and homework is a constant reality. Not only do I encourage you not to procrastinate on your homework, I also urge you not to procrastinate on applying to colleges and universities, Seniors. Apply now, in the fall, which will give you plenty of time to visit those from whom you receive acceptances and make your decision. Also, many colleges and universities have scholarships which are only available in the fall. GWU offers accepted students the opportunity to apply for our University Fellows Scholarship competition; students must have at least a 3.6 GPA and an 1150 (critical reading and math) on the SAT or a 25 on the ACT. Our top tier Fellows Scholarship is full tuition, room, and board for all four years! But, Fellows applications are accepted only until mid-December. Back to applying–when you do apply, remember to send in an official high school transcript and your SAT and/or ACT scores. Many colleges and universities require an application fee, so make sure you read “the fine print” on the applications. Gardner-Webb has adopted a different angle and offers a free online application at http://www.gardner-webb.edu/admissions/undergrad-admissions/apply-now/index.html.

If you have any questions, you are welcome to call one of our admissions counselors toll-free at 1-800-253-6472, or go by their table at a college fair near you. This week, our counselors will be in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale areas in FL with Florida Christian College Fairs, Duluth, GA with GA Probe, western NC, NC State, Elon U, and UNC-CH with CACRAO. We welcome your questions!

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Preparing for College

Another school year has started, and for some of you, this is your last year in high school! Enjoy the football games, homecoming, and teacher workdays. Also, adopt a different angle and see it as the preparation for your college career. Seniors, you should be signing up to take the SAT and/or ACT. Most scholarship committees assign great value to your GPA and test scores. In addition, apply to those schools in which you are interested (make sure they have your major). And, for both Juniors and Seniors, visit, visit, visit. (I can’t say that enough.) I have talked to several students who have moved back home, just after the first week of school, because they don’t like the campus or the food or whatever. (Fortunately, they can live at home and commute to GWU!) Please contact our visit coordinator at visit@gardner-webb.edu to set up your visit to GWU. We would love to have you on campus!

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