Monday, March 29, 2010

Alternative Ways to Cut College Costs #4

Transfer to a Community College:
This is one of the greatest savings and yet, many think of this wonderful opportunity as second best.

Having completed my lower division education at a community college and counseling for seventeen years at a two year college, has convinced me that it should be the first choice of many students.

The classes are smaller and the student gets a lot of personal attention. In addition, the instructors have at least one master's degree, many have two masters and a good number have a PhD.

You get a wonderful education and save tons of money.

I advise students to save their money for graduate school and choose the best (for their major) that they can afford. Future employers will be looking at your graduate degree when making a decision.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Alternative Ways to Cut College Costs #3

How about getting credit for service? The following are some organizations to consider: Americorps, Peace Corps (I had first hand experience and recommend this highly), and Teach for America. These all offer educational service awards to students seeking cash and a way to make a difference in the world. The best part? Unlike other scholarships and grants, these service awards won't affect your federal financial aid eligibility. Organizations including the National Health Service Corps, the Army National Guard and the National Institutes of Health all sponsor loan forgiveness programs that turn borrowed cash into free dough in exchange for post-graduate service.

The Coast Guard is also worth looking into if you want to get your education while training. I was really impressed with all of the benefits on this one.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Alternative Ways to Cut College Costs #2

Cash in on Tax Credits:
Scholarships, grants and loans aren't the only ways the federal government helps out. Education tax credits can save you thousands. Over a four year period, you can pick up $7,000.

Please refer to my previous posts to read about the HOPE, American Opportunity, Lifelong Learning and Interest paid on educational loans.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Alternative Ways to Cut College Costs #1

The easiest way to avoid getting hit with a two-ton tuition bill is simply to cut down on the amount of time you're in high school. Motivated high school students can earn up to two years worth of college credits by taking upper-level courses that offer both high school and college credit.

Students can earn college credit in one of three ways--through advanced placement, International Baccalaureate, or through dual enrollment courses. Beyond looking good on your college application, AP, IB and dual enrollment courses cost significantly less than traditional college classes (usually $100 or less per class) and oftentimes are paid directly by the student's high school, county or state.

Do not automatically assume that all of your credits will be transferable. Every college is different so be sure to check with the transfer college to determine if they will accept the courses.

(This informationn is from

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Learn to Save

Although this blog is intended to help you with your scholarship search, it is important to remember that saving money is critical to having the funds to attend college.

Try to get in the habit of paying yourself first when you are writing your monthly checks. Of course, you should open a savings account first at your local bank (check out the rates at several banks first) and designate it as a Scholarship Fund.

If $5.00 is all you can start with, start disciplining yourself to save. As soon as you can, increase that amount to $10.00 or $15.00 a month. The important thing is not to touch that money until after you transfer to a four-year college. Resist the temptation until it is an absolute college need.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Twenty-two Days to Filing Tax Returns

Hopefully, you have advised your parents and your tax preparer to be aware of the new changes in educational tax credits. Remember, having the necessary funds to attend college is more than applying for scholarships. Learning how to save and spend money wisely is critical.

One of the biggest mistakes when submitting your tax returns is using the old paper method. By not e-filing, you are more likely to make mistakes--the error rate is about 20%. The error rate drops to less than 1% when you e-file. The major reason is that the program takes care of the math and also prompts you to sign electronically.

Plus, you can get your refund within 10 days using direct deposit compared to 4 to 6 weeks when filing by paper and requesting a check. If you make $57,000 or less, use the IRS's Free File program ( Otherwise, lets you file federal returns for free. It's $15.00 for state returns.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Hope Credit

The Hope Credit--money for tuition and related expenses--can now be claimed for four years of college instead of just the first two, including the cost of course materials. The newly named American Opportunity tax credit lets you claim up to $2,500 per student, but starts phasing out with an income of $80,000 for singles and $160,000 for marrieds.

Also, don't forget to withhold the interest you're paying on student loans, although that deduction starts to disappear at $60,000 for singles and $120,000 for marrieds. Generally, if you paid more than $600 in interest to a financial institution, you'll get a 1098-E form as documentation. If you didn't, call the company servicing your loan and ask how much interest you paid in 2009.

Monday, March 22, 2010

COD Scholarship

Have you submitted your application to the COD Scholarship? Remember to write your personal essay in WORD and then edit, copy and paste. Please do not exceed the word limit. In fact, I would suggest writing less rather than more. Think of the scholarship readers and all of the time that it takes to review the hundreds of applications.

Make your essay come alive and make it interesting to read. Remember, you want to engage the reader. If you want to be a winner, you need to stand out. It is your job to sell yourself as the best candidate.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Student Loans (Income-Based Repayment Plan)

You may qualify to not have to pay off remaining debt after 25 years. Check out to see if you qualify.

Student Loans (Income-Based Repayment Plan)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

STDV 12 (Life Planning & Personal Exploration)

Just want you to know that I am ill today and will not be in class. CLASS IS CANCELLED today (March 18, 2010)

Please email me at if you have any questions.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

COD's Career and Job Fair

Please join us today from 10:00 to 1:00 at the Hilb Center for the Career & Job Fair. Eighteen employers plus a number of our COD departments will be represented.

There will be lots of activity and prospective jobs available.

Monday, March 15, 2010

To My Scholarship Class

Please be sure to be in class today. We will be viewing and discussing the COD scholarship which is now available.

Also, remember that the Pathways to Success Scholarship deadline is this Wednesday, March 17, 2010.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Deadline for Pathways Scholarship

Wednesday, March 17th (St. Patricks Day),is the deadline for the Pathways to Success Scholarship. If you are computer savvy, you may submit your application electronically but, everything must be submitted at the same time. Otherwise, your application will be disqualified.

You may drop off your paper version at the Career/Transfer Center if you haven't had a chance to mail it to the UCR Graduate Center on Cook Street. You can also drop it off at the UCR Graduate Center.

REMEMBER, you must have your application complete!! You cannot submit a missing document apart from the packet.

Follow the checklist to be sure that you have included everything. Although I am happy to review your application, this is a very busy week with the Career & Job Fair on Tuesday.

Make your application stand out--it should be neat and organized and show that you have given your scholarship essay a lot of thought. Your essay is the MOST important document.

Good Luck! This is the most exciting scholarship for our students--it is limited to students who live in Coachella Valley.

Friday, March 12, 2010

NOW (National Organization of Women) Scholarship Deadline

If you haven't mailed your application to NOW, you may drop it off at the Career/Transfer Center by 5:00 today.

Yesterday I spoke with Lori Adler, who initiated this scholarship, and she agreed to allowing us to receive the applications. Today is the deadline and the last chance.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Applying for FAFSA Before Attending College

Through the years, I have advised students to start applying for scholarships in their junior year of high school but, the question of FAFSA has never come up.

In response to an email I received from the parent of a high school student, I contacted the experts at FAFSA and received a positive response.

You may be aware of the fact that most scholarship applications require that you apply for FAFSA and have a student aid report (SAR). Since students don't apply for FAFSA until January 1st of the year that they will be transferring to a college, they wouldn't have a SAR for the scholarship application.

Well, the official word is that you can apply for FAFSA at any time. You are allowed to enter a maximum of ten colleges that you are considering. So, the good news is that high school students can apply for scholarships now--the junior year is a good time to start.

With that said, I do want to note that there are many scholarships and contests for younger students and even little children. (My grandson received a $1000 scholarship when he was nine years old. He wrote an essay on Father Junipero Serra.)

Please do not wait until you are in college to start applying. Even though it is never too late to start, it is a good idea to start as early as possible.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Exclusions from Income

You may exclude certain educational assistance benefits from your income. That means you won't have to pay any tax on them. However, it also means that you can't use any of the tax-free education expenses as the basis for any other deduction or credit, including the Hope and the Lifetime Learning Credit.

Qualified Education Expenses

For the purposes of tax-free scholarships and fellowships, these are expenses for:

Tuition and fees required to enroll at or attend an eligible educational institution.

Course related expenses, such as fees, books, supplies, and equipment that are required for the courses at the eligible educational institution. These items must be required of all students in your course of instruction.

However, in order for these to be qualified education expenses, the terms of the scholarship or fellowship cannot require that it be used for other purposes, such as room and board, or specify that it cannot be used for tuition or course-related expenses.


Qualified education expenses do not include the cost of:
Room and board
Clerical help
Equipment and other expenses that are not required for enrollment in or attendance at an eligible educational institution.

This is true even if the fee must be paid to the institution as a condition of enrollment or attendance. Scholarship or fellowship amounts used to pay these costs are taxable.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Correction on American Opportunity Tax Credit

Upon doing more research, I discovered that the tax credit lets you claim up to $2500 per student and NOT $2000 as I wrote yesterday.

For answers to any other questions that you may have, please Google American Opportunity Tax Credit.

Monday, March 8, 2010

American Opportunity Credit

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act(ARRA),more parents and students will qualify over the next two years for a tax credit, the American Opportunity Credit, to pay for college expenses.

The new credit modifies the existing Hope Credit for tax years 2009 and 2010, making the Hope Credit available to a broader range of taxpayers, including many with higher incomes and those who owe no tax. It also adds required course materials to the list of qualifying expenses and allows the credit to be claimed for four post-secondary (after high school) education years instead of two. Many will qualify for the maximum annual credit of $2,000 per student.

The full credit is available to individuals whose modified adjusted gross income is $80,000 or less, or $160,000 or less for married couples filing a joint return. The credit is phased out for taxpayers with incomes about these levels. These income limits are higher than under the existing Hope and Lifetime Learning Credits.

More information is available at Look up Tax Benefits for Education and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Saving your money is equally important as winning scholarships so, be aware of every opportunity to save. April 15th is quickly approaching. Be sure to apply for this $2,000 credit if you are filing your own tax returns.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Winning Attitude

You may be the best candidate but, there is no quarantee that you will be selected for a particular scholarship. However, it is important that you think like a winner.

Double talk? Maybe, but in addition to completing an outstanding application, you need to believe that you deserve to win. It is important that a winning attitude show through without sounding arrogant. You need to convince the judges that you are the best candidate.

Read the application carefully to be sure that you meet the eligibility requirements but, don't automatically disqualify yourself. Read the application a second time and ask alot of questions before you decide that you are not a good match for an award.

Then proceed with making your application as visually attractive as possible. Remember,your personal statement is the most important document in your scholarship packet. It is your job to sell yourself in the best light possible. You are the product. You need to show enthusiasm for what you are studying and project a positive attitude. You will be competing with other very qualified students so your application needs to shine. Think like a winner and it will show in your writing.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Letters of Recommendation

Please go to my website, and download the directions for writing letters of recommendation. You will also find more directions in this blog if you scroll down to the 2009 archives. If you have purchased the textbook, instuctions are also there.

Remember that the letters written on your behalf should be on letterhead and that they should be from a professional (professor, teacher, counselor, high school principal, employer).

In some instances, letters have worked against the student because they didn't address the issue or that they were poorly formatted. Please request that the recommender read carefully the Guidelines for Writing a Letter of Recommendation--you can download a copy from my website.

The writer will have little credibility if there are misspellings and grammatical errors. You need to read it thoroughly before submitting with your application.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Deadline for NOW Scholarship

March 12th is just a week away. If you are applying for this scholarship,you should have already started writing your personal essay. This statement will focus on answering the question on women's issues. For some of you this may present a problem because there is a strong slant toward women's reproductive rights.

Do not compromise your personal beliefs. You must write with conviction and that is difficult to accomplish if it goes against your values. Although $1500 is hard to pass up if there is a strong financial need, many are divided on abortion. Follow your heart and conscience and apply only if you support the views of the National Organization of Women.

Remember that this application is open to guys so don't disqualify yourself because this is a women's organization.

Let me know if I can help you before you submit your application.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

National Organization of Women (NOW Scholarship)

This scholarship application must be postmarked by March 12, 2010. Two scholarships of $1500 each will be awarded.

Application packets are available in the Career/Transfer Center. You will need two or more letters of recommendation. The following are the criteria guidelines:

1. Commitment to women's rights. (Candidate must express a strong pro-choice philosophy.)
2. Financial need.
3. Work and community activity.
4. Leadership/Membership
5. Academic performance
6. Academic potential
7. Professional and eductional goals and objectives
8. Recommendations
9. Family and life history

Pathways to Success Scholarship

This scholarship has a March 17th deadline so please concentrate on this one first. You need to be a full time student to qualify (at least 12 units)and it is NEED based so you must qualify for financial aid.

Be sure that you complete and submit your FAFSA by midnight today, March 2. You can access the FAFSA application on the College of the Desert website--click on financial aid and follow the prompts.

Go to for the application for the Pathways to Success scholarship. Remember that you have the choice of applying electronically or the paper version. The important thing to remember is that everything MUST be together before you submit. In other words, the application packet must be complete when Pathways receives it.

Should you want a copy of the paper application immediately, we have copies in the Career/Transfer Center. They are located in the plastic rack under the sign, What Can I Do With This Major?

In addition, you need two letters of recommendation. Please ask a couple of professors or someone who works on campus if they will feel comfortable writing a letter of recommendation for you. You can download the directions on my website a completed Personal Data Form, Scholarship Resume, unofficial transcripts and a letter requesting a Letter of Recommendation.

If you want your unofficial transcripts before tomorrow, please come into counseling and someone at the front desk will print a copy. Otherwise, I'll put a copy in your folder for the class tomorrow.

Make an attempt to start writing your personal essay but,on Monday,March 8th, I will do a class presentation on Letters of Recommendation and the Personal Essay.

You have fifteen days before the deadline so please do not waste a minute in getting started but, don't panic either. Come see me if you need help. You can get it done in time if you use your time wisely.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Welcome to the Scholarship Class

It is always exciting to start a new class!! I love new beginnings.

Please get in the habit of checking my blog everyday (except Saturdays and Sundays) for tips on requesting letters of recommendation; writing your personal essay; and general information relating to scholarships.

On occasion, I may write general directions for the class such as meeting in a different room or new directions on an assignment. On some days, I may do a little coaching on time management and organization. On other days, I may share an inspirational message.

Presently, there are several scholarship deadlines coming up in March. Namely, Pathways to Success, NOW (Nat'l Organization of Women and the COD Scholarship will be available on March 17th. The Girl Friend Factor is due the beginning of April and the LaQuinta Visual Art scholarship has an April 9, 2010 deadline.

I'm so glad to have you in class. Let's make this the best semester ever for winning scholarships.