The Nuts and Bolts of College Aid
How to Get College Aid
One of the most important factors seniors consider when weighing their college acceptance offers, is certain to be college aid. Today’s article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Making Sense of College Aid” is very informative in giving us a basic understanding of the process and the things to be aware of. This is especially pertinent for those students that cannot afford to attend certain colleges unless their financial aid is adequate. The sticker cost of attending some colleges can be quite high, and one should ask themselves, is the cost worth it? In order to make an informed decision, here are some facts to be taken into account:
- It is important to figure in transportation, textbooks, living expenses and food, along with tuition and fees, when calculating the cost of attending college. If necessary, add in car and parking expenses.
- When evaluating financial aid packages, be careful to distinguish loans (federal loans, parent loans, subsidized and unsubsidized loans) from other forms of aid that do not require repayment.
- You should be looking at your net cost after aid and how much you will have to borrow over 4 years (or possibly longer, depending on how long it takes to graduate).
- Some schools will automatically charge for health insurance in your bill. If you can prove that the student is already covered by another plan, you may be able to opt out, if done by the deadline. Make sure to check for the date and not miss it, as the deadline is firm.
- Costs should be considered over a 4 to 6 year period of time (depending on how long it takes to graduate) and also take into account inflation and the rising cost of college. You don’t want to find out later on that you don’t have enough funds to finish at the college where you start.
- If you are offered a merit scholarship, make sure to check out the specifics. Is the award for all 4 years, and what if any, other criteria must be met in order for the scholarship to be renewed each year? Will the amount in subsequent years be adjusted for inflation?
- Federal loans will offer the most favorable terms, but also have a ceiling on how much you can borrow.
- Parent Plus loans have become more selective in approving borrowers.
- If you are planning on attending graduate school, you should take that into account when deciding on how much you are willing to borrow for undergraduate education.
- If you still desire to attend a particular college, but their financial aid offer isn’t enough, consider filing an appeal with the financial aid office. However, you will need to present new information or bring to attention a possible oversight. This can include a change in family circumstances, unemployment, new medical bills, or even a one- time expense. If your academic record indicates that you fall in the top of their freshman class, this might be especially compelling. It just might work and it’s certainly worth a try!
- Many schools will offer work study as part of their financial aid package. Be aware, that you must first search for a job on campus or through their listings and apply. It has become more competitive, with many students applying for the same jobs. Also, the money is given out as a paycheck (as you complete the hours) and not given in advance. Many times, the hours are for on campus jobs that must be completed during the school day. This can add stress to a busy schedule and heavy workload, ultimately affecting grades.
- If you are trying to decide how much it is worth borrowing to attend a particular college, some factors to consider are the 4-6 year graduation rate, starting pay for recent graduates, loan default rate, graduate school placement, and how strong the job placement or recruitment is from that college.
If, after examining your financial aid offers you are confused, you can check a school’s website for further explanation or call the financial aid office at the university. Please feel free to contact me if you need additional assistance.