All of the financial aid packages are in from the various colleges to which you have applied, and now it is time to make a decision about which college to attend. Of course you want to think about the intangibles like how much you enjoyed the school and whether or not you think it will be a good fit for you, but the major factor in choosing usually comes down to the money. Here are some insights to help you compare financial packages to make sure you get the best deal:
• How to Read the Financial Aid Offer: Although the format may vary among colleges, the financial aid offer usually contains the same basic information. It will have a cost of attendance (COA), which will detail tuition and room and board, with estimates for other expenses. It will then list out your financial aid package which may include federal and state financial aid, grants, scholarships and work-study programs.
• Compare Schools: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has a great tool to help you compare costs. They worked with the Department of Education to create a Financial Aid Shopping Sheet for colleges which includes the financial aid information along with graduation rates, loan default rates, and median borrowing. Their tool works off this shopping sheet and shows an average four-year public university next to schools you add.
• Ask Questions: Don’t be afraid to politely ask questions if there is something you do not understand. Talk to the financial aid office at your college or a college financial aid advisor. Ask for their help in interpreting and comparing the financial aid offers you have received.
Make Your Case for Additional Financial Aid
If you have one preferred college you really want to attend that isn’t matching up to offers from the other schools, it’s time to make your case for additional aid. Form a thoughtful series of questions to determine what information the school used to make its offer. Ask whether you are allowed to submit any supporting documentation which might be able to bolster your case for additional financial aid. Strongly restate your interest in this particular college and reinforce the reasons why you think you will be a smart addition to their student body. Question them about strategies used by other students in situations similar to yours to be able to bridge the gap between the cost of attendance and available financial aid.
Since making your case for additional financial aid is so important, contact College Financial Aid Advisors (CFAA) as soon as possible. We will help you talk to the school and put together your case for increasing the amount of financial aid you will receive. We can also help you search for scholarships that might be able to fill any financial aid gap. If you need professional insights on any other component of the financial aid process, contact CFAA now for a FREE financial aid strategy session.