Choosing The Right Financial Aid Package

During the months of March and April, High School Seniors are faced with the ever-present decision on selecting the best college for the right value.  There are a few things to keep in mind when reviewing these Financial Aid offers.

All Offers are NOT the Same!

The actual offer from the colleges will have their own look and feel.  This can be a bit confusing to the family, so carefully consider each individually and read it carefully to determine the nature of each offer.

Parent Loans and Student Loans

Each institution handles Parent and Student loans differently.  This depends strongly on the amount of institutional aid or outside scholarships and grants are included in the equation.  Some colleges utilize them right out of the gate, while others consider them as a last resort.

Watch Out for Work-Study

Work-study is a GREAT opportunity for students to gain a little spending cash while off at college.  But parents — BEWARE!  On the Financial Aid Award Letter, work-study is considered as a portion of the equation for paying the bill.  It should be noted that work-study must be paid for FIRST, that is, up-front, before an hour is worked.  The idea here is that work-study dollars could potentially be turned back over to the institution once worked — but, it may be better served as spending money!

Biggest Offer Doesn’t Always Win

Remember that the biggest bottom-line doesn’t necessarily mean the best deal or the best value.  Each institution starts with a different number (COA or Cost of Attendance).  Given the varying figures and the varying aid values, it shouldn’t be a surprise how different the award itself might impact the bottom line.

-Mark Cruver

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