Colonial Agricultural Scholarships Deadline Extended!

The Colonial Agricultural Education Foundation has extended the deadline on their scholarships to March 30th.


Colleges that are still taking applications

If your circumstances are such that you are still considering your college choices, you might be interested to learn that many colleges are still accepting applications for the fall – well after the published deadlines. In Virginia, the list includes Hollins, Lynchburg, Radford, and Mary Washington, among others.

The full list is maintained by NACAC and can be found at this here:

College Openings Update 2014


Summer tips for high school grads

Congratulations on making it through a challenging year! If your plans for next year include college, we’ve put together a few tips for things to do this summer.  We hope there is something helpful here for you – including saving hundreds of dollars!

Summer tips

Save money on your textbooks

 Summer jobs and taxes


College panel resources

Welcome to visitors from the VCU Scholarship Sharing College Funding Panel!

We’ve put together this resource page to help you with some of the questions that came up at the panel. You can also send us an email with your questions and we’ll be happy to give you additional suggestions.

Student loan repayment

Paying for college


Out of college – now what?


Student loan repayment

  • Students have a grace period of 6 months from graduation before payments begin. You will be contacted by your loan servicer with instructions and repayment plan options. There are a number of choices but the standard repayment plan is fixed monthly payments for 10 years. You have 45 days from being notified of your options to make your choice, or the servicer will enroll you in the standard repayment plan.

  • Use this 6 month period to determine what your best repayment plan is. Login to with your PIN to estimate your payments.

  • Know what you owe by visiting This will show you all your federal student loan debt. If you have private student loans, you will need to contact your lender for similar information.

  • Do not automatically consolidate your loans. This is an important decision and it should not be done without a clear understanding of what you are doing.

  • If your income is low relative to your loan payments, you may qualify for one of the income driven repayment plans. This means that your loan payment is a percentage of your income and your payments change as your income changes. You have to apply for it each year and be approved. 

  • The most attractive plan is called Pay As You Earn. If you have not repaid your loan in full after 20 years of qualifying monthly payments, the balance of your loan will be forgiven.

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a plan that allows your loan balance to be forgiven after 10 years of payments if you work full-time in certain jobs, making the right kind of loan payments

  • Teachers have special loan forgiveness and repayment options.

  • Other careers also have special repayment assistance programs: Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Military, and National Health Service Corps.

If you cannot make your loan payments, contact your servicer immediately and talk about the options. Don’t wait to become delinquent. There are a number of options available to federal student loan borrowers.

  • Deferment means that you work out a plan with your servicer for a period where your payments are delayed. An example of this would be while you were looking for a job.

  • Forbearance can come into play when you do not qualify for a deferment. Forbearance means that you are given a certain period of time by your servicer when you don’t have to make payments. You have to ask for it, so if you cannot make your payments, talk to your lender.

Read more about deferment and forbearance here:

Deferment and Forbearance are not always the best choice. Think first about income driven repayment plans.

We can help you sort through the choices and make a repayment plan that fits with your current financial situation.

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Paying for college

There are two approaches to the cost of college: what you pay and how you pay. What you pay means to reduce what college will cost your family. This is done through scholarships and grants, managing your out of pocket expenses, and taking advantage of tax breaks for education. “What you pay” strategies do reduce the amount you pay for college.

How you pay is different than what you pay. How you pay is all about your specific funding plan. It means using your family income and assets, 529 plan, retirement account, student and parent loans, work-study, tuition payment plans, and other payment methods. How you pay is important but it does not reduce what you are paying to the college.

Together, what you pay and how you pay make up your college funding plan.

If loans, either student loans or parent loans, are part of your plan, you should be sure you have addressed future loan repayment as part of your decision making.

For more tips on paying for college, please consider subscribing to our free newsletter, On Course For College. We cover all these topics and more.

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We are huge fans of local private scholarships!

Our CFG ScholarBank database includes hundreds of local scholarships that you can search and investigate. For students currently in college, we maintain a shorter list (shorter simply because most scholarships are for high school seniors!) of local scholarships for college students.

Our free newsletter, Scholarship Spotlight, contains helpful tips and information on finding and using scholarships as well as special insights on different awards.

Area high schools also offer wonderful leads for students to investigate. Check with your counseling office to find out what information they have. J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College also has a fantastic scholarship blog that you surely want to check out.

How do you find scholarships that you have a good chance of winning? The best way is to apply to those that are closely aligned with your personal attributes. The better the match, the better the chance of winning. It’s your job to make sure the scholarship judges can see what a good match you are!

Look first in your own backyard. What groups, fields of study, civic associations, employers, stores, financial institutions, and religious organizations are you and your family members aligned with? Do any of these sponsor scholarships? If so, you’ll have a head start.

As good as scholarships are, you need to know your college’s policy on how outside scholarships impact your financial aid package. Many families mistakenly think that the scholarship will reduce their out of pocket costs. That’s unlikely. Here’s why. Some colleges want the scholarship money to reduce the grants the college awards you. Other schools reduce your loans, and other schools reduce unmet need. The impact can also be different depending on whether your aid is need-based or not.

Ask what your college’s policy is on outside scholarships. If your college will reduce unmet need, that’s good. If they will reduce loans, that’s good. If they reduce their grants, that’s not good.

For more tips and strategies on private scholarships, subscribe to our free Scholarship Spotlight.

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Out of school – now what?

College is in your rearview mirror and you are starting to realize that you have a number of financial decisions to make. What’s the “right” way to spend your money? How much should you be saving? Should you pay more on your student loans? What about filing an income tax return?

It’s pretty normal to have financial questions when you are starting out. The trick is in finding good answers to your questions. Most advice is cookie-cutter, save X% and spend Y%, that sort of thing. Most financial advisors don’t want to talk to you unless you happen to have a trust fund.

We believe it all starts with your personal cash flow plan. Identify your financial goals, both short term and long term. What’s most important to you? Getting out of debt? Saving for a house? Living within your means? Whatever your answers are, you can be sure that your plan will be personal to you.

Devising your personal cash flow plan is only half of the battle – good implementation is the difference between success and failure. We guide you through the options and assist you in setting up a system that works for you. It’s anything but cookie cutter!

In the end, you will be squarely on the path to achieving your financial goals.  If you’d like to know more about our personal financial coaching for young adults, please let us know.

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Common Application Problems

This goes way beyond “print preview not working.”  Obamacare and electronic benefits cards aren’t the only thing crashing these days.

The New York Times report on problems going on this weekend with the Common App:

Forbes gives an update after the website crashed on Monday:

Remember:  many CSS Profile schools require early admission applicants to file their CSS Profile early.




Common App Tips

1. Be a tech Luddite: In this day and age of “cloud this” and “swipe that”, we tend to take for granted how we push the envelope tech-wise. Not every website can keep up with all the browser variations and operating systems that are out there. You don’t want to find out that something about your computer doesn’t agree with the Common App’s computers.

The Common App lists system requirements on the homepage (look near the bottom.) If at all possible, pick one computer to use that meets these requirements and stick with it throughout the process. Once you’ve started, don’t rush to upgrade to the latest and greatest. Stick with an arrangement that works. For example, some people don’t like the Common App on Safari.

Have plenty of ink on hand for your printer. Most color inkjet printers these days require the color cartridges even to print black text.

2. Provide your best SAT/ACT scores in each area, even if they are from different test dates. If you plan on taking future tests, answer “yes” to that question so the admissions office will be on the lookout for those scores. It’s also a good idea to check the specific test reporting policy of each of your colleges which you can find on their websites.

3. Say yes to financial aid and merit scholarships, even if you don’t think you will get any aid. You can always turn down any financial aid that is offered so say yes now.

4. Submitting the completed application does not mean you are finished. You have to also submit the supplements to your colleges and you have to pay. Consider these to be three separate steps. Make sure you do each and then check your My Colleges page to be sure the status for each application is correct.

5. Print Preview matters – a lot! When all required questions have been answered, a PDF will be generated for your review once you click on “Start Submission.” Print it and read it carefully. Check each line to be sure characters were not cut-off. The fact that you could type the characters on the screen does not mean that they will print out correctly.

Bonus tip: Don’t wait until the last minute. If you are planning on doing the Common Application over Christmas Break, for example, many college offices are closed. That’s not the time to be trying to get your questions answered. The My Colleges tab will show you the deadline information for each of your schools.

Bonus tip #2: Add to your email contacts so important messages don’t get marked as spam.

Have questions? We’d be glad to help. Drop us a note at





Godwin, Tucker, Deep Run, and Midlothian Robotics Teams Advance

Congratulations to the Robotics teams from Midlothian, Tucker, Deep Run, and Godwin high schools for advancing to the world robotics championship in St. Louis!

Read the official press release here about Godwin, Tucker, and Midlothian moving on from the Virginia Regional.  Deep Run advanced by winning the Chariman’s Award at the North Carolina Regional.  Great job!

In addition to the technically challenging aspects of designing, building, and operating the robots, FIRST is all about building teams and building minds.

FIRST also is a pathway to a number of college scholarships.  The full list can be found here:


Money matters for teens

It’s pretty easy when you are living at home and don’t have to worry about rent, about food (other than Moe’s and Chipotle), about car insurance and maintenance, about laundry, cell phone bills and utilities and all the rest of it, to forget that you are just a few short years away from being financially independent.

You want to be independent in many ways, just not necessarily financially (yet).

But that time is coming fast, and the way you handle the money you have now will make a huge difference. Even if you don’t have a steady job, money passes through your hands. Gifts, allowance, part-time work, whatever the source, you are in control of a certain amount of money. When you get to college, that amount will increase. How responsible are you being with what you have spend right now?

Here are a few ideas.

If you have a checking account, balance it. If you don’t know what that means, send us an email and we’ll help.

If you use a debit card, write down your purchases when you make them. Don’t rely on online banking to tell you how much money you have. In fact, speaking of mobile banking, do you really think it’s safe and secure? Why?

When you make purchases, do you try to get good deals or do you just impulse buy? With sites like FatWallet, Slickeals and Retailmenot, it’s hard to defend not looking for bargains.

Have you ever talked to your parents seriously about money (and a conversation that begins with “Can I please have…” does not count)? For starters, try asking them about their regular monthly bills so you can get an idea of what you can expect in the real world. How much does this standard of living to which you’ve been accustomed cost?

On a bigger scale, do you understand or pay attention to what is going on in Washington? Do you see “the government” as some magical provider of benefits like roads, education, and health care, or do you know that the government just takes money in from taxpayers and lenders and then pushes it back out?

Finally, when you think about money and financial matters, what’s your biggest unanswered question? Finding answers to those questions now can avoid mistakes later.

As you start to treat money with a sense of responsibility, you’ll develop good financial habits that will put you ahead of the game. Please let us know if we can help you along the way.


Talking turkey

Where are you applying?

Why do relatives do it?  Why do they ask you so many questions about college?  And what should you do about it?

Thanksgiving has always been a great time with family, but you know this year will be different because everyone from Aunt Minnie to Uncle Earl will be asking you where you are applying.  You really don’t want to talk about it!  Aargh!

First, take a deep breath, and think about why the older relatives bring this up.  The primary reason is that this is the first topic in years that they feel they can talk to you about!  You don’t get together that often, and they don’t really know that much about what is going on in your teenage life (that’s a good thing).  That makes having a conversation difficult for them.

But now, this year, they can have a conversation with you on a topic they know something about.  College.  So when they ask where you are thinking about going, don’t be offended, it’s just their way of trying to connect.

Some people say you should nicely tell them you don’t want to talk about it.  I disagree.  You are moving into adulthood, you need to learn how to have difficult conversations.  However, that doesn’t mean you need to offer up your list of schools and hear Uncle Earl pontificate on what strange choices you have.

This is actually a great opportunity for you.  Here’s one way to approach it and have fun:

First, practice with your parents this week, before you get together.  Get on the same page so your parents aren’t working against you.  You don’t need your mom to call out, “Jessica, come tell Aunt Minnie where you are applying,” if that’s not what you want to do.   Talk about how much you are willing to divulge and how you can remain respectful and steer the conversation.

You can actually learn from your relatives.  Ask them where they went to college and what they liked most about it back in their day.  Ask them what other schools were in the running and how they made their final choice.  Ask them if looking back on it all, if they are happy with the choice they made.

You’ll end up honoring their desire to connect and learning something in the meantime.  And enjoy your turkey!


How Sandy might affect your college plans

Mom told you to get it done early!

Hurricane Sandy has shut down many businesses, schools, and families up and down the East Coast.  This comes as many students are facing a deadline this Thursday, November 1, that of early application to college.  You might think that students who are so certain of their number one choice would have their applications done early, but you’d be wrong in many cases.  As many as 50% of students wait until the last day, in some cases the last hour, to hit submit.  With no power, are you out of luck this year?

No.  A number of colleges have extended their deadlines, so if you are facing November 1 as a drop-dead date, call the college admissions office and see if they will grant you some leniency.  Here is a sampling of decisions:

UVA will accept applications for early-action through 11:59 p.m. Sunday

University of Maryland has extended the priority deadline of November 1 by an undetermined number of days.

Johns Hopkins has extended the early decision deadline of November 1 by an undetermined number of days.

Washington and Lee offers flexibility with the Early Decision 1 deadline of November 1.  If you will miss the deadline because of Sandy, please contact the school at (540) 458-8710.  Hopefully you have a friend reading this.

Duke has moved its early decision deadline to November 4.

Vanderbilt is offering flexibility for those impacted by Sandy.

Stanford has extended the deadline to 11:50 p.m. Pacific Time (not that you would wait to the last minute) on Monday, November 5.

Yale is also observing a November 5th deadline but says it will only apply to those in the Northeast.

Elon has moved the early decision deadline to November 5th.

Many other schools have made changes so please check with your school directly to verify the current deadline.  Even the above dates and times might change, this is too important to trust to a blog post.  Get on the phone and find out for yourself!

And, as Mom says, please don’t wait ’til the last minute!

Update:  The New York Times has published a more comprehensive list of extensions.  It can be found here.

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