Comparing Your Financial Aid Offers
The following questions, along with our Compare College Offers tool, will help you decipher your financial aid award offers to compare the net cost of each college in an apples to apples comparison.
With this information you’ll be able to make a more informed decision about which college you can afford, how much each college will cost you and potentially how much in loans you may need to borrow.
In addition, we urge you to ask follow-up questions to make sure you know requirements for any scholarships/grants that are offered and how private scholarships are handled (stacked or not stacked) by the college.
Let’s review your college offer school-by-school…
- What is the total cost of attendance? Type this number in the column titled “College Estimated Cost of Attendance”.
- You’ll need to sum up how much money is being offered based on financial need vs. your student’s merit accomplishments.
Look through each award and determine if the award is being offered based on your family’s financial need or based on your student’s merit accomplishments.
If this is not clear, write yourself a note to follow-up with the financial aid office to ask them to clarify.
How much is the award for? Is the award based on merit? If so, mark a “M” next to the award name and dollar amount. Is the award based on financial need? If so, mark a “N” next to the award name and dollar amount.
Is the scholarship renewable for all four years? Can you get this money automatically for each of the next four years? If not, say no. If so, say yes
Are there other conditions for each award? GPA requirement? Course requirements? Being a member of a sports team? Write these down. They won’t affect your calculation, but they are important to keep track of.
Repeat the above exercise with all the awards for a specific school. Sum up all the awards you’ve marked with “M”.
Type the number in the column titled “Grants & scholarships from the college, NOT based on financial need” Sum up all the awards you’ve marked with “N”.
Type the number in the column titled “Grants & scholarships from the college, BASED on financial need” When all award information is entered, proceed with the following questions…
- Were you offered work study? For how much money? Type this number in the column titled “Work Study Amount (Maximum amount the gov. approved)”
- Were you offered subsidized loans where the government pays interest while you are in school? How much? Type this number in the column titled “Subsidized”.
- Where you offered unsubsidized loans where the government pays interest while you were in school? How much? Type this number in the column titled “Unsubsidized”.
Now, let’s take a look at your totals at each school and then your school choices compared to each other.
Make sure you get answers to the following questions:
- Do private scholarships count against my total amount of financial aid? Does the amount reduce student loans or does it reduce the amount of money I receive in scholarships or grants received from the university or college?
- For each award they offered you, ask for conditions such as GPA, staying in a certain major, or athletic team. Take notes that you’ll add in to the electronic form.
- Ask if there are other scholarships you can still qualify for. If your income dropped or your family has incurred a medical expense, ask about where to find the special circumstances form. This form can help you appeal a financial aid award that wasn’t based on your current circumstances.