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UA College Savings Plan, AK Performance Scholarship, FAFSA, and more!
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Special Edition, Fall 2013
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Planning for College
If you’re a high school student then you’ve probably heard it before – it’s time to start planning for college. College can be an expensive life experience, but if you plan your high school career well and know what to look for ahead of time, you can make the most out of college without stressing over financials. Here are some tips to get you started.

Trust us, it's worth the read!
Say "No" to PFD Specials
It’s tempting to spend your Permanent Fund Dividend on a new big-screen TV, but saving that annual check for school is a much better investment. The University of Alaska College Savings Plan makes it simple to save your PFD each year for school when you apply online for your annual dividend. Better yet, your money has the potential to grow and your earnings are tax free if used for qualified educational expenses. They even have an online PFD planner to see how much you could save for your education. You can also use the gift contribution slip to solicit additional contributions from friends and family members. 
Skip the Pottery Class
Many colleges have classes you are required to take in order to graduate. These classes often have prerequisites. Consider taking high school classes that will help you test out of these prerequisites. This way you’re not spending your time and money taking them in college. Although it’s easier and more fun to take guitar class your senior year, make the best of your free education by completing classes that will give you a head start in college. Talk with your adviser about the types of classes you can take now so you don’t have to pay for them later. The Alaska Performance Scholarship website has a great course checklist to help you stay on the right track. They advise taking math, science and English courses every semester in high school to better prepare you for college placement exams.
Make the Grade
The Alaska Performance Scholarship offers up to $4,755 a year providing you follow their criteria of specific high school coursework, GPA and exams. Visit www.APS.alaska.gov for more information.  By keeping up your GPA you’ll be qualified for many state and national scholarships. The UA Scholars Program, for example, offers an $11,000 scholarship to students who rank in the top 10% of their class at the end of their junior year as long as they go to school at the University of Alaska. That’s a great deal!
Get College Credit in High School
If you enroll in advanced placement courses in high school and pass the AP exams, you can receive college credit. AP classes can also boost your GPA since they are usually weighted. This means if you earn an A in an AP class, it’s worth five grade points instead of four. Another way to get college credit early is to take courses at your local university. Often seniors find themselves with a more open schedule during their final semester. It’s easy to sleep in and start summer early, but several universities in Alaska offer college credit to high school students. Finish out your remaining high school credits and earn transferrable college credit at the same time. Although you may have to pay for the classes, you’ll be shortening your overall time toward receiving a degree and that will save you money in the long run. APU’s program is called Early Honors, UAF has the AHEAD program and UAA’s is called Secondary Students.
There's No Place Like Home
If you are an Alaska resident, consider going to school in Alaska. You can save a bundle with in-state tuition. The average tuition cost for a private four-year college is about $29,000 a year, and that’s not counting books, fees and room and board. Tuition for a full-time student at the University of Alaska this year is around $4,286. UAF, UAS and UAA give daily campus tours. Call the admissions office to schedule a visit and find out if local is the way to go. To experience firsthand what UAA has to offer, check out their Preview Day November 15.
Take the PSAT
Not only does taking the PSAT better prepare you for the SAT, but if you take it the fall semester of your junior year, you are qualified to compete for nearly 10,000 scholarships through the National Merit Scholarship Program. It pays to know how to take tests! By taking the SAT and ACT early you’ll have more time to retake the tests if you want to try for a higher score. Scholarships and college admissions pay close attention to these scores.
Apply for Scholarships
A scholarship is a great thing. It’s money you don’t have to pay back. Scholarships may be based on academic achievement, financial need or both. Talk to your counselor or career adviser about local and regional scholarships such as the Alaska Performance Scholarship and the AlaskAdvantage Education Grant. The Alaska Community Foundation has a list of Alaska scholarships that's worth checking out. Keep in mind that many Alaska campus scholarship deadlines are February 15.

If you are part of a native corporation, be sure to apply for any scholarships and grants you might qualify for. The CIRI Foundation has a handbook with great college information.

Complete the FAFSA
Be sure to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for the academic year in which you plan to enroll for college. The FAFSA determines your annual eligibility for federal and state financial aid programs such as grants, scholarships, work-study and lower-cost education loans. It’s also required to qualify for many campus-based and private scholarships. It’s fast, free and easy to apply at www.fafsa.ed.gov
Apply for Student Loans (if needed)
A student loan is money you’ll have to pay back with interest, so only take what you need for the essentials such as tuition, fees, books, room and board. With most loans, you must start repaying them six to nine months after you either graduate, drop below half-time enrollment or drop out of school. Even if you can't find employment after graduation, you'll still be held accountable for paying back your loans.

You can sometimes qualify for a subsidized loan, which means you don’t pay any interest toward your loan until after you graduate. After you fill out the FAFSA you will receive a letter telling you the amount of subsidized aid you qualify for. If you are an Alaska resident, you can apply for the Alaska Supplemental Education Loan, which has a low fixed interest rate. Alaska also provides close relatives the Family Education Loan to help a student pay for college. State of Alaska loans take two to three months to process, so be sure to get your applications in by January of your senior year.
Know Your Resources
There are countless ways to find help with college planning online. Here are some great resources to get you started:
  • Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education is the top site for advice tailored to Alaska students. It offers free college and career advice to all Alaskans.
  • Department of Education’s College Navigator can help you figure out what college is best for you.
  • Federal Student Aid gives you access to the FAFSA and lots of tips on how to prepare for college.
  • Financial Aid Officer provides advice, scholarship information, and loan guidance. FAO will walk you through the entire loan process.
  • Going to College in Alaska is a great resource if you plan on staying in the state for school.
  • Go College is one of the oldest and most trusted online resources to guide students through the financial aid process.
  • College Board is one of the best sites to guide students through the college preparation and application process.
  • FinAid helps you find scholarships, grants, loans and other types of financial aid while helping you every step of the way.
  • US News has lots of tips, tools and resources to help you figure out how to pay for school.
  • StudentLoans.gov clearly spells out every detail of the student loan process.
Spirit of Youth thanks program partner University of Alaska College Savings Plan for their ongoing support and their contribution to the content of this issue of Youth Leadership Connection.
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