Seniors: Review Financial Aid Awards Carefully

As you receive financial aid offers (also called "financial aid packages" or "financial aid award letters") from the colleges that admit you, review these offers carefully. There is no standard financial aid offer or award letter format. Each college has its own way of reporting and itemizing your aid package. This can make it difficult to understand which combination of price and student aid award is best from offer to offer. Be a wise consumer! Make sure you understand what is being offered and what you are accepting.

For example, pay particular attention to how much you have been awarded in grants vs. loans. Note the proportion of loans to grants—and the actual amount your family will pay -- each year! Figure out whether the grants are for one year or can be renewed.

The College Board has a useful tool that will help you to compare financial aid awards from different colleges. You can access that here. You will also find a step-by-step explanation of how to evaluate and compare aid packages in Chapter 16, "Financial Aid", in College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step and a Financial Aid Package Evaluator online here.

And remember, if you do receive notification of admission this month, including a financial aid award, you have plenty of time to make a decision. May 1 is the National Candidates Reply Date. Pay attention to any deadlines outlined in your acceptance or aid award. But don't get so excited that you feel you need to respond before you have all the important information from every college to which you've applied.

And, as always!, if you have questions, check with your high school college counselor or the college financial aid office!


For more information about financial aid and how to evaluate your  aid award, see Chapter 16, “Financial Aid” in College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step


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