by Trenati Baker
For seniors, as tax season comes to an end, FASFA and IDOC are completed and updated, and financial aid award letters come out, college may seem like a confusing financial quagmire. This is especially true for students with large gaps in their financial aid packets, leaving them with unmet need that is the difference between attending and not attending the institution of their dreams. However, these three simple steps of applying for scholarships, saving, and budgeting can help students manage their funds.
When trying to close or reduce unmet need gaps, it is important that students apply for jobs/internships and scholarships. The money gained from these sources can be used to supplement college fees and are wonderful resume builders. To find 2016 summer employment and internship opportunities, students should go to the One Summer Chicago website (http://www.onesummerchicago.org) and click the “Apply Now” button to be redirected to an application with over 25,000 opportunities exclusively for Chicago youth. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) hosts a plethora of scholarship resources and applications, with some scholarships that are for and awarded to CPS students only, at their Choose Your Future and Academic Works website (https://chooseyourfuture.cps.edu & https://cps.academicworks.com).
When you have been awarded scholarships or receive paychecks from your summer employment, saving is a great way to help reduce unmet financial need. Please be advised that some scholarships go directly to the collegiate institution; however, other scholarship foundations may deliver the award directly to the scholarship recipient in the form of a check. If this applies to your situation, it is imperative that you open a free student savings account at an FDIC accredited bank, where the scholarship money can be insured and gain interest (see www.Plan2Achieve.org for a list of free bank accounts for students). Set a savings goal and review other financial literacy modules on the Plan2Achieve website (http:// plan2achieve.org/) and you could win a scholarship (see scholarship details on the P2A website).
This one goes almost without an explanation. When we analyze our spending habits and create realistic and wise budgets, we tend to spend and save better. High school seniors and college students alike can use the (FREE!) College Budget Builder (CBB) app to “get a handle on [their] money management plan for college” (http://www.collegebudgetbuilder. org/#/login). Students can use their financial aid award letters to plug figures into the CBB which will, in turn, help them conceptualize the actual cost of college. The College Budget Builder does a wonderful job of revealing the hidden costs of college to students, and it is an absolute must for any first year college students.