A Look into the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is a government program that was created with the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 .

The goal was to help professionals working in public service who have more federal student loans than their public sector salaries allow them to easily repay.

It’s aim is to ensure that the best and the brightest don’t feel as though they have to leave these important jobs to join corporate America just so they can pay down their student debt.

Stressed out about your debt and hoping you qualify? Here’s some things you need to know about being eligible and getting your student debt forgiven.

Who is Eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program?

To qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), borrowers must meet the eligibility criteria. This includes:

Working for a Qualified Employer

Part of PSLF eligibility requires working for a qualified government organization (municipal, state, or federal organizations count) or a qualified 501(c)(3) organization is required. Full-time AmeriCorps or Peace Corps volunteers are also eligible for PSLF.

Some other types of non-profits also qualify, but not labor unions, political organizations, and most other non-profits that don’t qualify for 501(c)(3) status. Work for a government contractor? Unfortunately, that doesn’t cut it. You have to be working directly for the qualifying organization.

In addition to working for a qualifying organization, you have to work full-time. Generally, those who meet their employer’s definition of full-time or work a minimum of 30 hours per week. People employed at multiple qualifying organizations in a part-time capacity can also be considered full-time as long as you’re working a combined 30 hours per week.

Note that time spent working in religious instruction or worship does not count toward meeting the full-time requirement.

Having Eligible Loans

But working for the right type of employer is only half the battle. You also have to have eligible loans, which include any Direct loans such as Stafford loans, PLUS loans (but not Parent PLUS loans), and Federal Direct Consolidation loans.

If you want to have your Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) or Perkins loans forgiven, you may be able to, however, you’d have to consolidate those loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan first. However, any payments you made on the FFEL Program loans or Perkins Loans before you consolidated won’t count towards the necessary payments.

Private student loans are not eligible for Federal forgiveness programs.

Applying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness

There are a few hoops to jump through in order to pursue PSLF. To apply for the program,

1. Consolidating any FFEL Program loans and Perkins loans you want forgiven into a Direct Consolidation Loan. This is necessary because if you consolidate your loans afterward, you won’t get credit for any qualifying payments you made on those loans. Already consolidated your Direct loans? Consider consolidating your Perkins Loans separately and start making new qualifying payments.

2. Signing up for an income-driven repayment plan .

There are four income-driven repayment plans to choose from; There’s Pay As You Earn, income-based repayment, income-contingent repayment, or Revised Pay as You Earn. This will likely allow you to pay less per month toward your loans than you would on the standard plan.

There are separate eligibility requirements for these plans, so be sure to check if you qualify.

3. Certifying your employment. To do this, print out an Employment Certification form and get your employer to fill it out and send it in for approval. The Federal Student Aid website suggests filling this form out annually or at least every time you switch jobs.

You can also use the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Help Tool to find qualifying employers and get the forms that you’ll need to fill out.

4. Making 120 qualifying monthly payments on your student loans while you’re employed by a qualified public service employer. What if you switch employers? So long as you are still working for a qualifying employer, you’ll still qualify.

5. After you make the final payment, you can apply for forgiveness. You fill out an application , send it in, and wait. Then (hopefully!) you can celebrate your loan forgiveness.

The Current State of the Program

Because the program was created in 2007, the first people to qualify to have their loans forgiven applied for forgiveness in September 2017. But while the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the program could cost just under $24 billion in the next 10 years , and the U.S. Government Accountability Office believes that more than four million student loan borrowers qualify for the program, some aren’t aware that it exists. And even more graduates have gotten bad information from loan servicers that rendered them ineligible.

In 2018, just 1% of applicants were approved for loan forgiveness through PSLF. In November 2020, the US Department of Education released updated information indicating that 2.4% of applicants have been approved for PSLF.

Pros and Cons of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

The Advantages of the Program Are Pretty Straightforward:

1. Your balance of student loans are forgiven after a set time, which can be a relief. This works as a kind of bonus to make up for the low pay people working in the public sector may earn.

2. The amount forgiven usually isn’t considered income, so you aren’t taxed on it (that means you don’t have to save additional money to account for the IRS bill). There are other loan forgiveness programs that will forgive your loans, but you might see a big tax bill when they do.

3. You get rewarded for being a do-gooder (just like your mom promised you would). It will feel great to know that you’re making a difference, and your government appreciates it enough to give you a break on your federal student loans.

4. You may pay less monthly because you’re on an income-driven plan. This means paying out less of your hard-earned cash every month.

The Disadvantages of the Program Are That:

1. The program is only open to those with certain types of employers. And it’s contingent on you staying with a qualifying public service employer for 10 years, which might not be a guarantee.

2. Some people aren’t aware of the program, which is partly because of a lack of education by employers, loan servicers, and schools.

3. There are a lot of hoops to jump through to get your loans forgiven. Sounds fun, right? Plus, if you don’t jump through a hoop properly, you could jeopardize your forgiveness.

4. The extra money that could potentially be earned from working for a corporate employer may help you pay off your loans sooner than through PSLF.

5. You might end up paying more interest by making 120 payments than if you budgeted to aggressively repay your loans in less than 10 years. Also, if you enroll in the PSLF program and then stop working for a public service employer, you might be left with a larger loan to repay because of the interest that’s accumulated under the income-based repayment plan.

Alternatives to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

Another program available to some individuals is the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program. This program is available to full-time teachers who have completed five consecutive years of teaching in a low-income school. This program also has strict eligibility requirements that must be met in order to receive forgiveness.

These federal forgiveness programs do not apply to private student loans. If you are looking for ways to reduce your interest rate or monthly payments on private student loans, refinancing with a private lender could be an option.

It is important to mention that refinancing your federal student loans with a private lender may make you ineligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program should you choose that route.

The Takeaway

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program can be one way for eligible borrowers to have their federal student loans forgiven. The program has stringent requirements that cna make successfully receiving forgiveness through PSLF challenging.

Refinancing is another option that can allow borrowers to secure a competitive interest rate on student loans. Refinancing federal loans eliminates them from borrower protections.

Interested in seeing if you qualify for a lower interest rate? Check out SoFi’s student loan refinancing to find out.



IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

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7 Tips for Acing a Video Interview

Whether you just graduated school or are just seeking a new job, work interviews have modernized. Video interviews —conducted online— are increasingly common. In some industries, IRL interviews are (for now) a thing of the past—as more companies take on remote hires and millions are working from home.

And, with the rapid rise in digital job interviews, what are some ways to ace the video interview?

Here are seven tips for giving an impactful and memorable video interview—from practicing potential answers out loud ahead of time to tweaking the lighting for your camera.

There are various ways to get a first job after college. Being prepared for video interviews is one way to make a positive first impression.

Dressing for the Video Interview

For remote jobs, it’s quite possible that applicants may do a video interview through their tablets or computers. And, while the job interview location may now be a digital platform (and your couch), certain interview expectations stay the same—namely presenting yourself with professionalism and dressing for the job. Even when (especially when) you’re interviewing from home.

It may be helpful to ask about the expected dress code for a remote position. Asking questions like this may show a hirer that you’re aware that businesses have diverse expectations for professionalism. Even if they say you can wear whatever you want, you’ve shown that you’re unafraid of asking questions to grasp what’s expected of that role.

There’s an old adage— dress for the job you want, not the role you have. In a video interview, this could mean opting to dress a touch more formally—even if HR said the employees usually go for business-casual. (And, yes, you should wear pants during video interviews.)

It’s hard to feel like you’re going to shine if you’re in coffee-stained PJs.

It’s also not a bad idea to confirm the logistics of the video interview (in addition to outfit- planning). Some video interview logistics questions could include:

•   Will you get a calendar invite or event link for the interview?
•   What time zone will the interviewer be calling in from?
•   Which video conferencing platform will be used?
•   Will you need to download software to be able join the interview?

Knowing the answers to logistics can help bring more confidence to the video interview.

1. Practicing to Make Perfect

Different companies or organizations may use different platforms to host the interview—from Zoom to Google Hangouts to other programs. Don’t worry: You don’t need to become a pro at all the expert features. Still, it’s a good idea to become comfortable at:

•   Dialing in to scheduled calls
•   Checking the audio and the camera
•   Understanding what the interviewer can see
•   Ensuring the WiFi signal is strong enough for the video interview

If an interviewer mentions a program you’ve never used, it’s advisable to download and try it out well before the actual call. Opening up an unfamiliar program just before the interview only to realize it’s not compatible with your technology might create a positive first impression. So, make sure you double-check that you have all logins or passwords for the call. It’s best not to keep interviewers waiting because you failed to check the video interview details.

Try to make a mental checklist of digital distractions you’ve run across, as well. Then, see what you can do to minimize (if not outright eliminate) those common distractions before the live video interview. For example, you could turn off notifications or sounds for texts and emails during the interview time slot.

2. Setting the Surroundings

Generally, it’s a good idea to do a test call on the planned video-interview platform. This could help you assess how you and your surroundings appear via video. You may even want an extra set of eyes and ears–asking a friend or family member to do a “mock” call to ensure the audio and visuals are clear.

When prepping for a video interview, put yourself in the position of whoever will be interviewing you. Some questions to chew on:

•   What can the interviewer see of your space?
•   Are you easily visible or is more light needed?
•   Are there any distractions in the camera frame?

Some digital platforms allow users to record sessions. So, interviewees may want to record themselves talking and then watch and listen. You could run through the main things you want to say in the real video interview. Talking aloud on camera can help some people to become more aware of their own nervous tics and body language.

3. Taking Notes Beforehand

With job interviews, researching the company beforehand could give you ideas of how to connect previous work experience with the brand’s values or role’s job. One of the benefits of a video interview is that you can make these research notes quite literal.

Write out key points on a big piece of paper near your computer. Or, jot down some ideas or accomplishments on a sticky note next to your camera. It’s likely that the employer conducting the video interview will have no idea you’re looking at those pre-prepared notes—just make sure you keep your notes short, so you can naturally weave in keywords.

Talking points are a good idea. You may want to skip long sentences that sound like you’re reading.

4. Minimizing Off-Screen Distractions

Above all else, keep your on-screen image distraction-free. It’s worth remembering that the only person the interviewer wants to interact with is you–not your adorable pets, lovely roommates, or kid sister. You ask the folks you share a living space with to keep quiet or stay in their rooms during your interview. Plan ahead so the conversation isn’t distractingly interrupted by unexpected visitors.

5. Wearing Headphones

It would be a shame to have the audio cut out mid interview. Nothing can derail a smooth interview back-and-forth than the inability to hear the other person. It’s likely neither the interviewer or the job applicant wants to say, “What?” or “Can you repeat that?” during the video call.

There’s no need to invest in fancy, studio-quality headphones, thankfully—if you’re comfortable with earbuds, those should work fine. They also have the added benefit of not being visually intrusive.

6. Going Outside for a Breather

It’s hard to feel energetic and friendly if you’re cooped inside all day. A good way to minimize nerves is to get fresh air. Don’t just open up a window—put on sunscreen, maintain social distancing, and go outside. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes, a jolt of sunlight and breeze can reset the mind.

7. Remembering to Be Yourself

After preparing for the logistics of a video interview, it can be easy to forget one simple thing: Be yourself. While a strong WiFi signal and well-lit space won’t hurt your chances during a video interview, it’s helpful to recall that interviews are conversations between two or more people. Be prepared and share who you are.

Getting to Work

Acing a job interview—video interview or otherwise—is just one part of navigating life after college. Being ready for a video interview is just one new way to get noticed these days.

On top of looking for a full-time or better-paying job, some grads also want to find ways to reduce their outstanding debt balances—including long-term bills, like student loan repayments.

After exhausting federal options (like income-driven repayment or loan forgiveness programs), some borrowers decide to refinance their student loans with a private lender.
Refinancing student loans could reduce monthly bill payments or the amount paid in interest during the duration of the loan.

Learn more about refinancing your student loans with SoFi.



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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
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IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

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Financial Benefits of Going to a Community College

Attending community college instead of a four-year public or private university is a choice many students and parents consider because the student can live and eat at home and spend less on tuition.

This can translate to taking out smaller student loans and paying them off sooner after graduation.

Here’s a closer look at community college benefits.

What Is a Community College?

Community colleges, also known as junior colleges or 2-year colleges, provide a two-year course of studies that either ends with an associate degree or equals the freshman and sophomore years of a four-year college.

There were 942 public community colleges in the United States that enrolled 5.6 million students as of 2020, according to Statistica.

A four-year program isn’t the only way to be successful. Community college, trade school, apprenticeships, and entrepreneurship can be alternatives.

Benefits of Attending a Community College

What are the benefits of going to a community college? The first advantage that usually comes to mind is cost, but there are others.

A Smoother Transition

The transition from high school to college can be challenging, but attending a community college is easier for some people.

Community college classes are smaller and less intimidating. If you prefer smaller class sizes and not having to walk across a large campus daily with thousands or tens of thousands of students, then a community college may feel less overwhelming.

Transferring to a four-year college could also be easier for students who have taken classes from a community college.

Tips to ease the transfer:

•   Ensure that the credits earned will count at the four-year college.
•   Sign up for a transfer program at the community college.
•   Ask: Does the two-year college have a transfer relationship with any four-year colleges? Will the credits you earn be accepted at the four-year colleges you’re considering? What GPA and grades are needed to successfully transfer?

Flexibility

One reason that many students opt for community college is the flexibility. You can take as many classes as you want, and it can vary from semester to semester.

Community colleges also give students the option to enroll when they want, unlike four-year universities, where one needs to enroll by early fall.

Rolling admissions give students more flexibility in planning studies, especially if they are working part time or need to save money to pay for tuition and books. The community college website will include key deadlines and requirements, such as transcripts from high school or another college, and any prerequisite classes.

The schedules at community colleges also tend to be more flexible, allowing a student to work and take classes in the evening. If a break from classes is needed, the enrollment requirements are also more lenient.

A Possible Bachelor’s Degree

Ninety community colleges were recently offering 900 bachelor’s degree programs, according to Beth Hagan, executive director of the Community College Baccalaureate Association, a Florida-based trade association, in a Pew Charitable Trusts report.

As of late, 19 states allow at least one two-year college to offer a four-year degree, and a growing number of states have started offering this option, according to the Pew report.

This means students do not always have to transfer to another college after taking classes the first two years. While many of the degrees are focused on a particular industry or skill, community colleges are adding more degree options.

Obtaining a four-year degree at a community college could save a student the time of researching other universities and colleges, transferring credits, having to move, and accruing more student loan debt.

Community colleges are updating the type of degrees offered to meet the needs of the workforce and include ones in information management, nonprofit management, and health care.

Price Tag

The tuition at community colleges is significantly lower than public and private universities’. Tuition and fees average $3,730 a year at two-year public colleges, according to the College Board’s 2019 Trends in College Pricing Report.

Room and board add more than $9,300, on average, to the tab of a public community college student living off campus, according to educationdata.org.

So you can see the benefit of living and eating at the parental home or another relative’s, for free or not much, while taking classes. Even sharing an apartment or house with friends is likely more affordable than a dorm and meal plan at a four-year college or university.

Speaking of the four-year college route, the average price of tuition and fees alone for the 2020-2021 academic year came to $10,560 for in-state residents and $27,020 for out-of-state residents at public colleges, and $37,650 at private colleges. Room and board add more than $12,000 on average.

Taking classes at a nearby community college gives students the flexibility to work part time and earn income that they can put toward necessities. That could ease the pressure to take out higher levels of student loans.

Financing a Community College Education

Students can obtain both federal and private student loans to attend community college.

Those who move on to four-year colleges might find that scholarships, grants, and federal aid do not cover all of the costs leading up to a cap and gown. A private student loan can fill in the gaps.

The Takeaway

Going to a community college has its benefits. The price tag comes to mind, but a 2-year college can also be a better fit socially for some students, transferring to a four-year college could be easier, and rolling admissions offer flexibility.

If a private student loan is of interest, for community college or after a transfer, consider a SoFi variable- or fixed-rate loan.

Many undergraduates have a sparse or nonexistent credit and income history and can increase their chances of private student loan approval by having a co-signer. Both applicants can view the rates and terms by prequalifying.

Get a quote in just two minutes.



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Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Important Things to Know as a First-Generation College Student

It’s a common cliche that parents want their kids to walk in their shoes and end up in the same career as they did. But a lot of parents may want more for their kids than this—they want their kids to achieve more, aim higher.

Being a first-generation college student is something to be proud of, but it can also be nerve wracking. There might be high expectations that come with being the first in the family to attend school that add to the normal stress of attending college.

On top of that, there’s the fact that if nobody else in the family has done it yet, there are no family members to give advice, none to provide guidance. But there are ways to thrive as a first-generation college student. It’s a big deal to be the first one in a family to attend college, and getting prepared can help lessen the stress and pressure.

Challenges of Being a First-Generation Student

So, what is a first-generation college student? Being a first-generation college student means the student’s parents either did not earn a college degree or did not go to college at all. Since their parents may not understand much of the college experience, these students are embarking on a somewhat unknown path, which can lead to challenges that other students don’t face.

Lacking this direct source of advice can affect the student’s ability to complete school. It may be more difficult for a first-generation student to adequately prepare for college, both financially and socially. College can be stressful, and without a support system that understands these experiences the student may find it difficult to continue with school.

Some first-generation students may have other demographic characteristics, such as low economic status or low enrollment intensity (generally, being enrolled in a less than full-time course load), that also increase their risk of not finishing college. The usual stressors of college are enough to make it a challenging experience for anybody, but first-gen students may find these factors make it even more difficult.

Another factor that makes being a first-gen student difficult is not understanding the financial aid system. Students whose parents have gone to college may be more familiar with the process of applying for aid and looking for scholarships and grants. If first-generation students are already from a lower socioeconomic background as well as being the first person in their family to go to college, the financial strain could be more difficult to manage than it is for others.

There are other reasons that first-gen students may have difficulty completing their four-year degrees: They may be less prepared for the rigorous academics at the college level, they could be working full-time jobs, or they could have children.

First-generation college students can still be successful despite these additional difficulties. With the proper preparation and support, they can not only achieve their four-year degrees, but thrive in college.

Thriving in College

The saying “C’s get degrees!” describes students who get by in college by simply passing their classes, not looking to achieve anything other than that piece of paper at the end of it all. But if you’re a first-generation student looking to thrive in college—instead of simply surviving it—then here are some tips for you.

Study Tips

If students want to crush their academics, instead of being crushed by them, proper study techniques will be necessary. The lessons will be more difficult in college, and students have to depend more on their own self-discipline more than they did in high school. If it’s been a while since students have been in school, implementing good techniques and habits could help them adjust to the work again.

Here are some study tips that may help first-generation students adapt to college-level learning:

•   Picking a consistent study location, one that is comfortable and free of distractions. Once you’ve found the perfect spot, you might consider studying there consistently.
•   Writing down deadlines and important dates in a planner may help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and being caught by surprise when deadlines are approaching.
•   Scheduling consistent study times instead of cramming the night before an exam has been proven to be a better method of remembering subjects for the long term.
•   Finding a study group may make it easier to learn more difficult material.
•   Reviewing notes each day can help you remember them.
•   If you’re struggling with a certain class, asking professors for help during their office hours or seeking out available tutoring services on campus may help you understand the subject better.

Building Relationships

The connections you make while in college can become invaluable after graduation. Getting to know professors and classmates can not only provide a source of social support during the stressful college years but may also provide opportunities for future networking.

Most professors will have regular office hours they’re available to meet with students. These office hours can be used to talk about class material, to get to know your professor better, or to get their advice on your future. Usually, professors are happy to help students excel in class or discover the next steps in their journey.

Taking the time to get to know your classmates is also beneficial. When students make connections in class this helps give them support. Classmates can take notes for each other when someone needs to miss class, they can study together, and assist each other in the post-graduation job hunt.

Befriending classmates will not only provide academic support, but emotional support, too. Nobody understands what a college student is going through as well as another college student.

Avoiding Avoidance

Students who are juggling work, family, and school may feel overwhelmed by their college workload. Planning ahead and staying organized can help the student stay successful in school despite these extra responsibilities.

First-gen students could benefit from keeping a planner and scheduling study sessions ahead of time so they don’t fall into the trap of ineffective, last-minute cram sessions.

Staying ahead of schedule can also help in case other problems arise. Students who are parents might have child-related reasons for missing a class, but if they have assignments started ahead of time and are already on top of their study schedule, the absence will be less likely to negatively impact their grades.

Paying for College

College costs are an important piece of attending college, and it’s good to start planning as soon as possible. First-generation students may not have any immediate family members who have been through the process, possibly making information on how to pay for college more difficult to come by. There are a variety of ways students can finance college, with grants, loans, and scholarships available to eligible students.

The first step to financing your college education is filling out the FAFSA® (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This application will determine a student’s eligibility to receive federal aid for college. Federal aid can be both grants or loans. Federal grants usually don’t need to be repaid, but federal loans do.

Students must be able to demonstrate financial need to receive most federal aid, along with meeting other eligibility requirements .

If students are not eligible for federal aid, or if the federal aid they receive isn’t enough to cover all their costs, they might also consider applying for scholarships, which are available through different sources such as a student’s school, community organizations, or corporations. Eligibility varies for each one. Some scholarships are need-based, whereas some are merit-based. There are also scholarships available specifically for first-generation college students .

Another option available for financing college is private student loans. The eligibility for private student loans is based on a student’s credit history, income, and other factors. Federal loans come with benefits that are not usually available with private loans, so it’s recommended that students exhaust all federal aid options before considering a private loan.

The terms of private student loans will vary at each financial institution, so students are encouraged to do thorough research before choosing a lender.

Students just beginning their college journey, those on the graduate or professional school path, or parents of a college student may want to consider looking into private student loan options available through SoFi.

Checking to see what rates you might qualify for takes only a few minutes and is done completely online. SoFi’s private student loans offer flexible repayment options and have no fees.

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The ACT and SAT: Comparing and Converting Scores

Other than three letters and hours long exams, do the SAT and ACT have much in common? After taking both, students receive a score from each, but the ranges between the two vary wildly.

It’s possible to compare test scores across the two tests using a simple conversion chart or formula. It’s also worth understanding how the two tests are different, and what a student can expect when taking each test.

In 1926, the SAT was developed as the Army Alpha, to measure the IQ of Army recruits. Over time, the format and audience for the Scholastic Aptitude Test changed. The scoring method, format, and subjects have been adjusted over the years to better reflect the high school curriculum and college application process.

The current version of the SAT takes three hours (three hours and 50 minutes when including the essay portion) and includes sections on math, reading comprehension, and writing, and the optional essay section. The highest score a person can achieve on the SAT is 1600.

The American College Test, created in reaction to the SAT, was first administered in 1959. University of Iowa professor of education Everett Franklin Linquist developed the standardized test to better evaluate a student’s practical knowledge instead of reasoning skills that the SAT focuses on.

The modern ACT takes two hours and 55 minutes (add 40 for the optional writing section) to complete. The test includes sections on English, math, reading, and science, and the optional writing portion. The highest score possible is 36.

Colleges and universities generally accept both the ACT and SAT, but prepping for and taking the two tests is not the same. Understanding the differences between the ACT and SAT might help students decide which test to take and how they might best maximize their score.

How Do the SAT and ACT Differ?

Other than the score a test taker receives, the SAT and ACT have several differences that might inform a student’s decision to prepare for one over another. Students are taking both tests now more than ever, but preparing for each is different, and it’s possible to prefer one test experience over another.

Scoring

One of the most obvious differences between the two tests is the score. An ACT score ranges from 1 to 36, and there’s no penalty for getting a question wrong. The score is calculated by adding the raw scores of each section, then dividing by four to get the composite score (out of 36).

SAT takers get a score between 400 and 1600. Once again, there’s no penalty for answering a question wrong, and the score goes up with every right answer. Section scores are added together to yield the total score (out of 1600).

Type of Testing

There’s a common belief that students’ strengths in the classroom might allow them to test better on one standardized test over the other. The ACT, with a deeper focus on verbal skills, might be a better fit for students who excel in English classes. Those with strong math skills could prefer the SAT, with a bigger emphasis on math questions.

Both tests have a math section, but the SAT covers data analysis, while the ACT will have questions about probability and statistics.

Format and Subjects

Even when the essay portion is included, the ACT is shorter than the SAT. However, the SAT has 154 questions, while the ACT has 215—how does that compute? SAT takers have an average of one minute and 10 seconds on each question, compared with 49 seconds for the ACT.

Time per question could be important to a student’s test taking strategy, especially when factoring in the difficulty levels of each test. In the SAT’s math section, the questions become harder the further a student moves along. The same goes for the ACT’s math section, as well as its science section, where passages and the questions become more difficult as the test progresses.

The ACT has more sections than the SAT, including multiple-choice questions on:

•   English: grammar, punctuation, sentence structure
•   Math: algebra, geometry, trigonometry
•   Reading: passage comprehension on fiction, humanities, and sciences
•   Science: comprehension, including summaries, charts, and graphs
•   Writing (optional)

The SAT has fewer sections, with all multiple-choice questions about:

•   Reading: comprehension questions based on passages
•   Writing and language: grammar, editing, and vocabulary
•   Math: algebra, trigonometry, and geometry
•   Essay (optional)

The major differentiator between the SAT and ACT experience might be the ACT’s dedicated science section. The SAT includes questions about science, but they are dispersed across the test.

Pricing

The cost of taking the SAT and ACT is similar:

•   SAT: $46, $60 with optional essay
•   ACT: $50, $67 with optional essay

The cost of taking the test shouldn’t keep a student from doing so. Both the College Board and ACT offer fee waivers for students who meet the requirements.

Geography

Because the ACT was founded out of a Midwestern university, the test is somewhat more popular in middle America. The SAT has its origins in testing aptitude for admission to Northeastern educational Army institutions. Students on the East and West coasts are slightly more likely to take the SAT than the ACT.

Because of these geographic trends, students on the coasts might find more SAT prep courses than ACT prep courses, and vice versa.

Converting Test Scores

SAT to ACT conversion is a hot topic. Comparing the tests on their face is like comparing apples to oranges. However, if a student takes both, it helps to figure out which one they performed better on. That means finding a way to compare one test score to another.

Here’s how the ACT’s composite scores compare to the SAT:

ACT Score

SAT Range

36 1570-1600
35 1530-1560
34 1490-1520
33 1450-1480
32 1420-1440
31 1390-1410
30 1360-1380
29 1330-1350
28 1300-1320
27 1260-1290
26 1230-1250
25 1200-1220
24 1160-1190
23 1130-1150
22 1100-1120
21 1060-1090
20 1030-1050
19 990-1020
18 960-980
17 920-950
16 990-910
15 830-870
14 870-820
13 730-770
12 690-720
11 650-680
10 620-640
9 590-610

Other Important Numbers

With test scores converted, here are other figures to consider: college tuition, fees, meal plans, housing, books, parking fees, and so on.

Federal loans and scholarships are a first line of pursuit, but if all costs are not covered, or if a student does not qualify for federal aid, a private student loan from SoFi® can help. With no fees and a simple online application, students and parents can explore loans with competitive rates to finance an education.

SoFi® membership also means complimentary access to Edmit Plus. Using data-driven technology and tools, Edmit offers school recommendations, scholarship estimates, and post-college salary estimates.

Interested in financial aid to cover the cost of your college tuition? Apply for a private student loan with SoFi today.



SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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