Parents and students got a chance to learn about financial aid for technical, two and four year colleges and universities at Effingham County High School on Tuesday night.
Josh Dasher of the Georgia Student Finance Commission showed students and parents the college information Web site, gacollege411.com, and explained the resources available for students looking to attend a post secondary institution.
Dasher told students many colleges in the state are now using the Web site for admission applications, and the Web site has tutorials for the ACT, SAT and the GRE. The Web site is also used to apply for the HOPE scholarship, and a link to apply for federal aid.
He said planning tools are available for students, including one for career information.
“If you haven’t made a final decision you can go to our Web site to get information about careers,” Dasher said.
He told students there is a list of the fastest growing career fields and critical need fields as well.
“You can get special funding in (critical need) fields of study, so you need to research not only the HOPE scholarship, HOPE grant and federal programs, but look at some of your critical fields you may be able to get what’s known as service cancelable loans,” Dasher said.
He told students they could use their career choice to find what colleges offer programs in those fields and information about those programs. Students also can compare college entrance requirements for certain programs of study.
Dasher said there are study tools available on the Web site for the SAT, ACT, GRE and college entrance tests for colleges. The Web site also has a scholarship browser, allowing students to search for other scholarships.
“It is free money for you — all you have to do is apply for it,” he said. “That is not something that you can apply for through us.”
He told students this would include local scholarships through local civic organizations, churches and community service.
“Scholarships can vary anywhere from $100 to $1,000 to $2,500, but you have to search and research in order to find them. I’ve known some students to get as much as $10,000 by spending two or three weeks doing nothing but searching for scholarships,” Dasher said. “The money’s out there, several hundreds of thousands of dollars of scholarships that goes by the wayside because students don’t apply for it.”
Lue Healy, counselor at ECHS, said there are school resources for local scholarships. Students can visit the school’s Web site, click on the counselors link and then click on scholarships.
“You’ll see all the local and state scholarships that have been sent to us,” Healy said. “As we get them, we are putting them up on there for you. Most of that is local money, and I encourage you to go on and start looking at that. It changes almost daily.”
Dasher told students to pay attention to deadlines and to apply early to allow time for counselors to write reference letters.
He told parents and students that when they are considering the cost of college to remember the tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation expenses and personal expenses.
Dasher told students there are state and institutional resources to go to school.
“Check your institution’s financial aid Web site. Sometimes they offer institutional scholarships and grants, and you don’t know about them until you’ve gone online to their college Web site and look to see what information they may have and what grants and scholarships they may offer you,” Dasher said. “You may not qualify for federal and state aid, but if they really want you to attend their institution, they may offer you some institutional money.”
He told students if they did not qualify for scholarships and grants they can take out student loans, but to remember that they are loans that must be paid back with interest.
Dasher also recommended looking into work study.
He said there are also resources for members of the military and their family members.
Dasher explained to parents and students the process of filling out the Free Application for Student Financial Aid (FAFSA). He told those in attendance to make sure if they applied online to use the fafsa.ed.gov site. He said there are sites that charge and not to use those. He said there is no charge to apply for state or federal student aid.
Kurt Rodenberg, a parent in attendance, said the event was helpful.
“The application process for the HOPE scholarship and the FAFSA is confusing,” Rodenberg said. “(The program) helped clarify and answer a lot of questions.”
Healy said she thought the event went well. She said all of the students have been given information about the process, and hopefully this was not the first time the parents heard it.
She said the most important thing she would stress to parents and students is to complete the college application, scholarship applications and the FAFSA soon.