DuTrac Community Credit Union is committed to your financial well-being. View the following financial tips to help you succeed financially.
- Tips to Help Generation X Improve Their Financial Situation
- Surviving a Layoff
- Helpful Tips for Job Interviews
- Understanding Credit Reports
- Young Adults – Watch Out for the Onslaught of Credit Card Offers
- Tips for Students Going Off to College
- Household Bills for College Students
- Making a Budget
- A Dozen Ways to Save your Paycheck
- Ten Ways to Track Spending
- Top Ten Ways to Save
- Five Steps to Credit Repair
- Avoiding Unnecessary Fees
- Increase Your Chances to Receive Scholarships
- How to Pay for College the Smart Way
Employees across all generations are experiencing financial hardship. From the Baby Boomers approaching retirement after a decade of weak stock and real estate markets to the Millennials facing poor job prospects and rising student loan payments. However, according to a recent generational research report, the smaller – and often forgotten – Generation X is the generation with the largest struggle on their hands.
While most Millennials were too young to own stocks or real estate during recent market crashes, and Baby Boomers had the opportunity to enjoy decades of growth in the 80’s and 90’s, many Generation Xers started investing just as both the real estate and investment markets were at their peak. This leaves many Gen Xers struggling with tough economic times during a particularly vulnerable stage in their finances.
A recent census reported a 59% decline in median household net worth between 2005 and 2010 for people between the ages of 35 and 44. A household in this age range is now 44% poorer than their counterparts of the same age in 1984 according to a Pew Research Center study.
This large drop in net worth comes when most Gen Xers own a home and have minor children, adding to the financial stress. In contrast, the younger Millennials have fewer financial responsibilities and may still be able to rely on their parents for financial assistance, while Baby Boomers are often empty-nesters who have built up emergency savings and other assets.
However, Gen Xers can take steps to improve their financial situation:
Take the necessary steps to protect your family. Ensure you have adequate life insurance and basic estate planning documents (a will, advance health care directives, durable power of attorney, a living trust, etc.) DuTrac’s partnerships with DuTrac Financial Group and First Community Trust gives members access to personalized retirement and insurance services, along with the ability to obtain trust and managed investment services.
Create a budget. Generation X tends to live beyond their means. The first step to resolving your budget woes is to look at your current expenses (look at previous bank and credit card statements) and categorize them on a worksheet. Be sure to include the annual expenses (such as vacations or holidays) by dividing their annual amounts by 12. Try to reduce those expenses until your spending is less than or equal to your net income.
Manage your cash flow. Creating a budget is easy – sticking to that budget is the real challenge. Track your spending online and set up alerts to keep your spending in line. With DuTrac’s Advance, you can have a complete review of your financial picture, along with a personal, online financial management (PFM) tool to assist you in budgeting, evaluating spending habits, tracking goals, and building wealth. In addition to online management, you could also use cash allowances each week or month. How you spend your allowance is up to you, but when the cash is gone, it is gone until the next scheduled allowance payout.
Pay off high interest debt. The amount of non-mortgage debt held by most Gen Xers is of concern to many. Make additional payments to the debt with the highest interest rate to increase your overall savings. As one balance is paid off, re-allocate those payments to the debt with the next-highest rate and continue until all high-interest debt is paid. Homeowners might consider refinancing their current mortgage or obtaining a Home Equity Plus Line of Credit to help consolidate debt.
Know how much you should save for retirement. Not saving enough for retirement is the top weakness of Generation X. However, you still have time to make a significant impact in your retirement savings if you start now and make smart decisions. Use a retirement calculator to estimate how much you should be saving or speak to a professional to discuss your best options.
- Consider contributing to a Roth IRA. A Roth IRA can be a vehicle for retirement savings, but also a source of emergency savings. (Click here to learn more about IRAs from DuTrac)
- Increase contributions to your employer’s retirement plan. In addition to saving on your own with a Roth IRA, your employers retirement plan is a great way to save for your future. Try to maximize your savings by contributing at least as much as your plan will match, if available (after all, the match is essentially free money). Increase your contribution each year, if possible – even a small percentage can make a large difference over time.
- Consider using a target date retirement fund. Designed to simplify the retirement investment process, these funds start relatively aggressively and automatically become more conservative as you near retirement. It is important to remember that long periods of low stock market returns are often followed by periods of strong returns, so matching your investment strategy with your current life stage is critical.
Losing your job because you were laid off is not your fault – you did not do anything wrong. Dealing with a layoff can be stressful and emotional, so allow yourself the time to deal with your emotions, talk about how you feel, and remember: you are not alone.
As many sectors of the economy struggle, many people and families are being affected by layoffs. If you see a layoff in your future, or if you have already been affected by a layoff, the following tips and topics may helpful:
Working together, your financial institution may be able to help:
- Set up a line of credit to tap into the equity in your home if that becomes necessary.
- Consolidate your high-interest debts into one manageable loan.
- Help you access community resources. You will find agencies ready and able to give you the planning, networking, and emotional support you need.
Some things you can do, perhaps with help from your employer’s human resources department:
- Take a look at your health insurance policy so you will know what to expect. (COBRA coverage offers temporary health insurance benefits so you can maintain health coverage at group rates.)
- File for unemployment benefits as soon as you receive word that you are out of work.
- Weigh your needs and establish priorities before making any purchase, and rank-order expenses to be sure you are paying the most important bills first.
- If you’re one of the many Americans directly affected by an economic downturn, call on us for help. We will help you take a look at your budget and review your debt situation. You even may be able to make interest-only payments on loans until things look brighter.
What’s the difference between a firing and a layoff?
Firings remove people, layoffs remove positions. People who are fired usually did something to deserve losing their job – theft, chronic absenteeism, refusing to do the assigned work, etc. People who are laid off did nothing wrong. Instead, their position or job was closed – usually, because there was not enough work, or because the company needs to rearrange positions to become more efficient.
What if I handled the news badly?
Everybody takes the news differently. Some clam up and say nothing. Some plead and beg. Some sob and cry. Some get angry and say things they later regret. Some are glad and cannot wait to start something new. There is really no wrong way to react. However, if you feel your initial reaction needs to be addressed, consider the following: The person who told you that you were being laid off is a professional. He or she knows losing a job is traumatic and that people react emotionally, not rationally. They try not to take your reaction personally.
After a week or so, if you still feel guilty about how you reacted when you were laid off, consider sending a short note to the person who delivered the news. Simply say you were surprised by the news and became emotional. Explain how you regret taking out your feelings on them. A short, hand-written apology says more about your character than all the tears and cursing of the original emotionally-charged meeting.
How am I going to tell my family?
Say it clearly and avoid being dramatic or timid. You might say, “I have sad news about my job. I have been laid off. The layoff is effective today and the decision is final.”
Stress that you were laid off, not fired. Layoffs are emotional and you will want to talk about it. Explain what happened – who laid you off, what they said, how you felt, what you said, etc. Do not be afraid to mention the names of the other people who were laid off with you, as well as those who were not, and how everyone felt.
Introduce some hope. Tell your family that most people find new jobs in a month or two and many find better jobs than before.
How am I going to make ends meet?
Try not to worry about your finances today. Put it off for a day or two. Use the tips above and work with your financial institution or creditors. Communication is an important tool when dealing with your finances during a layoff.
What if I am a wreck over the layoff?
Each of us lives in a “comfort zone.” This emotional “place” is where your work, family, and the demands of life in general are routine and comfortable. A layoff can suddenly smash your “comfort zone,” leaving you in an uncomfortable state of shock.
Losing a job high on the list of life’s major stresses, so everyone needs to allow time to heal. Most people will need a few weeks to get back on their feet – others who may have been deeply wounded by a layoff might need a few months. Deal with the emotions as they come – take it one step at a time and give yourself the necessary healing time.
Maintain Your Reputation
The loan officer keys your application information into the computer, but you are thinking of the new ride you are going to buy. Those thoughts are interrupted when the loan officer drops the bomb. You do not qualify for a loan; you credit report has too many negative events. Poof – the shiny red dream car disappears and you walk out of the office empty-handed and disappointed. Everyone who has ever had a loan or a credit card has a credit report, and the contents of that report can impact your financial plans for years.
A credit report is a tool that lenders use to decide whether or not to extend a line of credit. It tells lenders how credit has been used in the past by outlining payment history, the total amount of credit extended, and account balances.
Credit reports are compiled by the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – based on information from lenders. A credit report is created by applying for credit. One way to do this is to become a joint account holder on a card with your parents or by opening your own credit card. After a line of credit has been approved, the lender will regularly report its status (whether or not it is being paid on time, the remaining balance, etc.) to the credit bureaus.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that all three bureaus provide a free copy of your credit report every 12 months upon request – visit annualcreditreport.com. Once each credit bureau confirms your identity, the report is available to view, print, or (depending on the bureau) even save for later. Credit report requests can also be submitted in writing or over the phone.
Here is what to expect on your credit report:
- Identity information: Name, address, Social Security number, birth date, and other identity-verification information.
- Types of credit: Any loans, credit cards, mortgages, or other lines of credit, as well as the balance and payment history of each.
- Credit inquiries: If your credit report has been requested by a lender or employer, it is noted.
- Public record and collection items: Any ongoing or past bankruptcies, foreclosure, liens, or judgments.
Challenging the Record
When you review your report, you may find errors that need to be fixed: accounts you never had, incorrect balances, etc. Some of these are innocent enough. Everybody makes mistakes, and the people responsible for compiling credit reports are no exception. Clerical errors can result in false information being entered into the system, payments can be applied to the wrong account, or a Social Security number can be misread. Errors can also arise from using variations of your name for different loan applications (i.e. William as opposed to Bill).
All three credit bureaus allow credit report errors to be disputed online or over the phone. TransUnion and Equifax also accept disputes by mail. If you dispute errors online, print all correspondence. Keep track of any claim numbers and the date the dispute was submitted. If you dispute errors by phone, keep detailed records of all conversations.
The credit bureaus are required to investigate errors – usually within 30 days – and forward the relevant data to whoever supplied the inaccurate information (e.g. the lender). The lender then has to investigate and, if the information is inaccurate, report to all three credit bureaus to correct the error.
Here are the websites and phone numbers to use when disputing credit report errors:
- EQUIFAX: Equifax.com, 1-800-685-1111
- EXPERIAN: Experian.com, 1-800-397-3742, or contact the toll free phone number listed on your credit report
- TRANSUNION: transunion.com, 1-800-916-8800
A more sinister cause of credit report errors is identity theft. If you are a victim of ID theft, contact the fraud divisions of one of the three credit bureaus and ask them to put a fraud alert on your credit report (they will contact the other two). You are then entitled to a free credit report from each bureau – even if you have already gotten your annual free credit report – which should be scoured for inconsistencies. Close any accounts that have been tampered with. Be sure to speak directly to the credit lending agency in each case.
Once you resolve the disputes, request a letter from each company stating that the issue has been dealt with. Then contact both the Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov/idtheft) and local law enforcement to file a report with each. The FTC will provide information to law enforcement agencies nationwide so they can track down and stop thieves. You can use a copy of your FTC complaint and supporting documentation to help you file an “identity theft report” with local police. This entitles victims to certain protections – such as an extended fraud alert on your credit report. All of these steps will help prove that you have done everything possible to clear your name if there is a problem in the future.
Know the Score
A credit score is a number derived from the information found in your credit report and ranges from 300 to 850. You may have a different score from each bureau due to varying calculation methods and potential variations in your reports. Your credit score is not available in free credit reports from the credit bureaus.
The Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) developed the first credit scoring system; its most recent version is a standard in determining creditworthiness. According to FICO, the following percentages reflect the weight that each category has in determining your FICO credit score.
- 35% – Payment history
Have you made loan payments on time?
- 30% – Amounts owed
How much do you owe lenders?
- 15% – Length of credit history
How long have you been borrowing?
- 10% – New credit
How many credit accounts have you opened recently?
- 10% – Types of credit used
What kind of accounts – credit cards, car loans, etc. – have you opened?
Lenders use credit scores, as well as credit reports, to determine how risky each borrower is. This score is also used in determining interest rates. A higher score means you are likely to be charged a lower interest rate, saving you money in the long run.
The average person’s credit history is 14 years old. A lot can happen between applying for your first credit card and being approved for a mortgage. Pay attention to your credit report now to ensure that you are influencing future credit positively.
How To Improve Your Credit Score
Follow these simple tips to help raise your credit score:
- Pay your bills on time.
- Get current on any delinquent loans.
- Keep balances low on credit cards and other revolving credit.
- Do not open new credit cards just to increase your available credit.
- Re-establish your credit if you have had problems in the past. Start with a low-limit credit card, and use it to make reasonable purchases that can be paid on time.
- 37% of U.S. adults in 2009 admitted they did not know their credit score.
- 692 is the average U.S. credit score (out of 830 possible points) according to Experian’s latest data.
- 64% of U.S. adults in 2009 did not order a copy of their free credit report within the last year.
Brass Magazine – Summer 2010
Used responsibly, credit cards can be helpful in an emergency and for establishing a sound credit history.
Paying debts on time, including credit card bills, contributes to building good credit. If a card holder does not honor their payment agreement, your credit rating can be damaged and you may not be able to get credit again when you need it.
A poor credit history may affect an individual’s ability to rent an apartment, get a job, obtain car insurance or buy a car or house. People with poor credit usually pay higher interest rates for loans and the negative information stays on your credit record even if the bill is later paid in full.
Before making a purchase with a credit card, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I really need this item now?
- Do I have enough in my budget this month to pay off the entire purchase?
- If I use a credit card, what additional fees or interest will I pay if I do not pay off the entire balance?
- What might I have to give up in order to buy this?
- Stick to a Budget
The word budget scares off many adults as well as teens, but a budget is the best way to ensure discipline with your finances.
Start by estimating monthly expenditures for major categories such as school expenses, transportation, food, clothing and entertainment. Keep tabs on spending with an Excel spreadsheet or keep a record of expenses in a small notebook. Compare your records with credit union and credit card statements to ensure accuracy. Keep your budget current.
- Use Caution with Credit
Credit card companies are no longer permitted to issue cards to applicants younger than the age of 21 without an adult co-signer or proof of adequate income. But even if you can get a credit card resist the temptation.
An option is to obtain a debit card or a prepaid VISA gift card from DuTrac Community Credit Union. With a credit card you risk starting bad habits that can sink your credit score, make it harder to borrow money for a home and possibly cloud your financial situation for years to come. If you can’t pay for it with cash, you do not need it.
- Be Aware of Costs and Fees
A DuTrac Community Credit Union debit card is a convenient way to manage your money. You can deposit money into your account and the debit card functions almost like a credit card – with less risk.
You can incur penalty fees by overdrawing your account by using a debit card just as you can with a check, so it is incumbent on you to keep track of your daily available balance. Try to avoid fees for an ATM that is not part of DuTrac’s Privileged Status ATM network. Ensure bill payment on a timely basis with DuTrac’s PC Branch and Bill Pay or your may recognize late charges.
- Start Saving
As a college student with a part-time job, start a good savings habit by paying yourself first – a maxim that will serve you well if you follow it throughout life.
Consider setting aside 10 percent of every paycheck in a DuTrac Roth Individual Retirement Account. The earnings on this account will grow tax-free and the money can be used toward a first-time home purchase in future years …or continue to save for those long-awaited retirement years.
View an online budget form here or stop in to any of DuTrac’s convenient office locations to receive one of the following free booklets: Get CreditWise; Get InvestmentWise; Making Money Work for You; or How to Succeed in College.
Making a budget is the most important step in controlling your money.
A budget allows you to track your Income (the money that you have) and your Expenses (the money you spend). By writing down your monthly income and expenses, you can see how much money you expect to have for the month and plan for how much you can spend.
The First Rule of Budgeting
The first rule of budgeting is simple: Spend less than you earn!
If you earn $150 a month from your job, and earn another $50 from your allowance or birthday money, your income for the month is $200. If your savings account earns another $5, your total income is $205.
Now you know that you have to spend less than $205 for the entire month.
Structuring Your Budget
Determine your Income.
Estimate all “incoming” money, including salary from a job, allowance from your parents, and birthday or gift money.
Estimate Required Expenses.
Required expenses include taxes and bills that you must pay. Required bills may include your cell phone bill and gas money to drive to work or school. You should also include payment to your savings in the “Required Expenses” category. Whether you are saving for something specific (like a car or college) or just tucking money away for the future, it is critical that you get in the habit of paying yourself first! Even a few dollars each month helps build your savings.
Estimate Discretionary Expense
After you have paid your Required Expenses, you can use the money left over for some fun! Discretionary Expenses may include clothes, shopping, pizza, video games, gifts and any other expenditures that are considered “optional”.
Make your own monthly budget using this worksheet. Stay within your budget, pay yourself first, and you will always be in control of your money and your future!
- Pay yourself first! Decide on a specified percent of your take home pay for savings and set those funds aside before paying any other expenses.
- Collect coins in a jar.
- Bank your refunds. Rather than spending an income tax refund, use it to pay down a high interest credit card debt.
- Continue paying a loan. Once you complete paying off a car loan, for example, continue making the same monthly installment to yourself.
- Break costly habits. Make coffee at the office or bring your lunch rather than going out.
- Increase investment yields. Look for higher interest opportunities for your savings. DuTrac Community offers several high interest savings options to fit your individual needs.
- Sign-up for a Christmas/Holiday or vacation club account with DuTrac Community Credit Union. This will offer you reinforcement of systematic savings giving you the ability to save small amounts. By the time the holiday shopping season arrives or your long-awaited vacation is here, you will already have a head start above everyone else.
- Buy U.S. Savings Bonds. This is an ideal way to put aside small amounts of cash for long term goals.
- Take advantage of payroll deduction. This is the easiest way to save. Since the money is never in your hands or checking account you will not miss it!
- Deposit a windfall. When you receive an unexpected amount of money, the temptation might be to spend it on something extra as a treat. Another way to think about it is as an investment for your future. It is money you will not miss, since you were not expecting it.
- Crash Savings. Go without extras for a specified period of time. All the money that you would have normally spent on those items is put into savings.
- Set Goals. People who develop plans to reach savings goals have approximately twice the amount saved as those without plans.
- Keep all receipts and create notes to record payments without receipts.
- Keep an account book by expense categories. This way you will be able to see what areas you tend to overspend.
- Use envelopes for each category of expenses with an allocated amount of money for a set-time, like a month.
- Pay bills by check and keep running tallies of how much money is left for the allocation for each category. Be sure to stay within the allocated amount.
- Place sticky notes on credit cards with maximum amounts that can be charged per week or month. Subtract amounts of expenditures added to the card as you make purchases. Or purchase pre-paid credit cards.
- Use a certain balance in your checkbook as a red flag. If the balance drops below that particular amount you will know it as an alert to potential problems.
- Use a buddy for problems that you see as spending addictions. Establish a rule that the expense has to be verbally justified to the partner before the purchase. The buddy’s role to ask questions to bring a greater understanding of consequences or triggers of the expenditure.
- Use a calendar with large spaces to write both when pay is received and when expenses occur to determine a match or mismatch between income and expenses.
- Keep a log of “financial emergencies” for a few weeks to determine what they are, what triggers them, and then come up with ways to avoid them.
- Carry a small notepad in your purse, wallet or car to jot down spending.
- Being frugal does not always mean being cheap. Remember to keep this essential attitude. There is a greater reason for not spending money.
- Shop based on sales. Stock up on items that you use regularly when the store is having a sale.
- Know your prices. Compare prices of items commonly purchased for your home. Keep the prices written down so that you can look to see if something on sale is a good deal or not.
- Be cautious when shopping at warehouse club stores. Remember that no one store is the cheapest. Local grocery stores can often times beat warehouse stores prices.
- Plan menus around sales at your local grocer. Consult store flyers before making out the menu and grocery list.
- Stock up on things you use when they go on sale. Be sure to get six weeks worth. That is typically when the items will go on sale again.
- Cut back on meats. Try some bread and grain recipes, or have soup and bread one night. These also tend to be healthier.
- Cook from scratch. This can be up to six times cheaper that buying a mix, frozen meals or eating out and it is usually more nutritious.
- Do not spend money if it is not in the budget. Find the little nonessential expenses that up your budget such as fast food, toy stores, new fashions, etc. and eliminate them.
- Replace high cost entertainment with nature outings or family activities.
The first step is understanding how credit works and begin making a plan.
- Lock away your credit cards. Now, do not close your accounts just yet. If your credit rating is poor you may have a difficult time getting new cards. The first step is to stop using them and stick to your immediate goal of repairing your credit rating and getting out of debt.
- Find out where you stand. No one likes to focus on budgets and net-worth statements but it is a necessary first step, just like getting on the scale before you begin to diet. It will help you to measure your success.
- Make a plan. If you are going to repair your credit paying your bills on time is a must! That means you need to pay at least the minimum balance on each bill within 30 days. If this is not a possibility you may want to consider credit counseling.
- Negotiate with creditors. Most creditors will renegotiate terms with you if you are having trouble paying bills. Write a letter to the creditors describing your problem and requesting reduced payments. Then stick to your new schedule.
- Add pertinent information to your credit file. Your credit report may be damaged as much as the information that is omitted as by the information that is found there. Although creditors are not required to report information to the credit bureau, you are entitled to add information that you think will help your rating. According to the law, you are allowed to write a letter of up to 100 words involving any credit dispute. This might include details of loans that were paid on schedule, active accounts where you have a good record, salary increases, and information regarding your mortgage, car loan or the settlement of disputed bills.
By carefully managing your money, tracking personal finances and familiarizing yourself with your financial institution’s policies, you can avoid paying unnecessary fees. Take adequate time to ask questions and understand how much any institution will charge you to access your money. The money you save could mean the difference between an overdraft charge and a positive account balance.
Some examples of fees than can be avoided, along with sample questions you should ask of any financial institution, are as follows:
- Monthly fees: Is there a monthly fee for having an account? If so, is the monthly fee based on the account balance?
- Non-Sufficient Fund (NSF) fee: How much is the NSF fee?
- ATM fees: Will you be charged for using other financials’ ATMs? Does the financial belong to an ATM network that allows the use of surcharge-free ATMs across the country?
- Online access fees: Is there a charge to access your account information online?
- Bill pay fees: Will the financial institution charge for paying bills or transferring money online?
- Tele-banking fees: Are there fees for requesting transactions via the telephone?
- Teller fees: Are there fees for discussing your account with a teller?
- Overdraft fees: How much is charged for an overdraft? Are there fees incurred for overdraft protection?
DuTrac’s EcoPlus Account is a great way to avoid fees. EcoPlus has elements related to receiving loan rate discounts, savings rate premiums, surcharge free ATM usage, identity theft protection, free debit card usage and other benefits. More importantly, it can grow to sustain the financial needs of members as their financial needs change over time.
In addition, DuTrac’s EcoPlus Account has no minimum balance requirements or monthly maintenance fees. DuTrac offers many other products and services – all free of charge – to every member: online account access through PC Branch with MobileLink, online Bill Pay, telephone banking through AccessLine and much more.
To learn more about the EcoPlus Account and other money-saving products and services DuTrac Community Credit Union offers, call (563) 582.1331 or (800) 475.1331 or stop by one of DuTrac’s convenient office locations to speak with a highly qualified financial services consultant – fee free, of course.EcoPlus® Account is a Registered Trademark of DuTrac Community Credit Union.
If you are not living on campus, you probably have some household bills to pay. Even if you are living on campus now, you will have these kinds of bills to pay in the future:
Rent. Being a good tenant today can help you rent another place in the future. Most landlords research potential applicants with past references, so you do not want a landlord to say you were a bad tenant. Be sure to pay rent on time to avoid additional fees or possible eviction.
Insurance. Renters insurance covers your personal property (which is not covered by your landlord’s homeowners insurance) in the event of a fire or flood, and also your liability, if any, should someone be hurt in your apartment. Check with your parent’s homeowners insurance, as you may be covered under their policy. Although renter’s insurance is not always required, it is strongly recommended.
Utilities. Cable, internet access, garbage removal, gas, electric and water are some of the utilities you may have. Practicing conservation with many utilities can help keep bills from being sky-high. Always pay utility bills on time to avoid fees, collection activity and negative effects on your credit. If your utilities are shut off due to nonpayment, there is often a large fee – in addition to your bill amount – to turn them on again.
Roommates can make bill-paying more complicated, so establish how the bills will be paid from the beginning. Whether you split bills and each send a check for your portion of the amount due or have one person act as money manager and collect from the others, always remember if an account is in your name, know that you are responsible for making sure the bill is paid on time.
As high school graduation, and the expense of a post-high school education approaches, many students feel pressure to obtain as many scholarships as possible. As long as the recipient of the scholarship continues to meet its qualifications, the money never needs to be repaid.
High school students can improve their chances of earning a scholarship with these tips.
- Research Opportunities
Start looking for scholarships now. Although eligibility may not occur until becoming a senior, start becoming informed of various scholarship eligibility requirements as early as possible.
- Improve Grades
If not already making straight A’s in the most challenging courses the school offers, everyone can always improve upon their grades. Not all scholarships are based on academic achievement, but having a strong GPA will only increase the chances of receiving a scholarship. Keep in mind many athletic scholarships carry specific academic requirements as well.
- Get Involved
Becoming involved in extracurricular activities will also increase the opportunity to be selected for a scholarship. Many eligibility requirements for scholarships are based on participating in outside school activities, leadership experience or specific skills learned through non-school activities.
- Gain Experience
Become more skilled in those areas of expertise rewarded or recognized by scholarships. For example, if interested in a business scholarship, consider an internship or part-time job in a specific industry of interest. Gain further insight and experience through volunteer opportunities as well as extracurricular activities.
- Organize Your Materials
Keep a binder of scholarship opportunities, applications, essays and letters of recommendation. Organize materials by deadline to ensure submission in a timely manner
- Apply For As Many Scholarships As Possible
The best way to improve your chances of qualifying for scholarships is to submit as many applications as possible – and for those scholarships that best meet your qualifications or experience. Find opportunities through your school’s guidance office, local businesses and various civic organizations.
Remember, all these actions will benefit you in many ways. Make decisions that are “right” for you, rather than “right” for scholarship applications alone. Becoming prepared, more socially and academically well-rounded, and involved as well as community active will automatically make you a stronger scholarship candidate.
There are many types of student aid with varying eligibility requirements and options to consider.
- Federal Student Aid – There are nine different programs funded by the federal government.
- State-Based Aid – There are 605 different programs funded by individual states, with various eligibility requirements. To find all programs in your state, visit www.FAFSA.com/stateaid.
- College-Specific Aid – Most of the 6,500+ individual colleges have aid programs that award both need and merit aid.
- Grant – Money that does not have to be repaid.• Loans – Money that has to be repaid after graduation. Many loan programs have interest subsidized by the government.
- Scholarships – Money, usually awarded based on merit, that does not have to be repaid.
- Work-Study – On-campus jobs that pay the student a wage.
- Tax Benefits – Credits and refunds provided via the tax system for qualifying education expenses.
To qualify for state and federal aid all students must file a FAFSA.
To qualify for state and federal aid programs, students must file the application for federal student aid (FAFSA) each year they attend college. The FAFSA application is complex: It has up to 140 questions relating to both the student’s and parents’ financial situation. The process is similar to filing your tax forms and making mistakes on the FAFSA application can be costly. Errors can affect the amount of aid you are awarded or cause delays in getting aid. Your FAFSA application is subject to “verification” by the college financial aid office. The Department of Education provides a free website for filing the FAFSA (www.fafsa.ed.gov).
Follow these tips to maximize your student aid eligibility.
- File Early – Many student aid programs disburse funds on a first-come, first-served basis. With some student aid programs being underfunded and others having been discontinued, it’s more important than ever to file early.
- Beat All Deadlines – Most states and colleges have very specific financial aid deadlines. It is important that you file prior to these deadlines.
- Be Accurate – Just one wrong answer can affect your eligibility and potentially reduce your aid award.
Other options available to parents and their students are DuTrac’s Home Equity Options. These options include:
If you have further questions regarding DuTrac Community Credit Union’s products or services, please contact a highly qualified financial services consultant by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, in person at any of DuTrac’s convenient office locations or by phone at (563) 582.1331 or (800) 475.1331.