Your financial aid offer plays a key role in deciding which college you will ultimately attend. Obviously, you will want to attend a college that not only offers you the program and environment you are looking for but also offers you the best financial aid possible. But when you open up the financial aid offers, you will find that they are not so easy to understand. There are a lot of numbers and terms that don’t look very familiar. Making a final decision based on the mind-boggling assortment of acronyms and numbers on the offer letter can be even more difficult.
Understanding these 2 things about financial aid offers can help to reduce the overwhelm so you can make better decisions.
1. Different Colleges Follow Different Formats In Writing Their Offers
When comparing the cost of attendance or COA between different colleges, make sure you are comparing apples with apples. Some colleges will take all school-related expenses into the COA, including tuition fees, rent and board, and textbooks. Others may only calculate tuition and textbooks. When comparing the COA, you will need to create your own comparison chart listing similar factors. By creating your own comparison chart, you can see exactly what the expenses are and which school is offering you a better deal. Yes, this could take some time, but it’s worth it. It’s better to spend a few hours organizing your offer letters and figuring out which school is giving you more financial aid, than potentially taking out more loans than you need in the future.
2. Financial Aid Packages Are Not Written In Stone
You can negotiate financial aid packages with the school if you can provide compelling reasons. If your family suffered a financial setback since you first submitted your FAFSA, you can write to the school, letting them know your new circumstances and make a case for yourself. If the school is impressed by your application and if they have the funds, they will oblige. You’ve got nothing to lose by trying. Don’t waste too much time though. The earlier you apply, the higher your chances of getting a better financial offer. Again, there’s no harm in trying, as long as you apply early enough. When it comes to your financial aid and future financial circumstances, it’s definitely worth taking the time and effort to get as much aid as you possibly can.
One Last Thing
Your financial aid offer may also include federal student loans. If your scholarship awards, grant aid, and / or your college savings don’t cover the entire cost of college, consider accepting the federal student loans the college is offering. Federal student loans tend to be more forgiving, have lower interest rates, and have more repayment plans compared to private student loans. Private student loans are a last resort. Try to get as much financial aid and scholarship awards as you can.
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