How to understand financial aid letters

If you have gotten to the stage where you are looking at a financial aid offer, congratulations 🥳! Make sure to first celebrate your acceptance before thinking about next steps. It is a big accomplishment that you should feel proud of!

Once you have celebrated, you should sit down and seriously evaluate each college’s financial aid package and figure out how you are going to cover the costs of college.

Either with your acceptance letter or after, you will receive a financial aid letter that describes what is called your “financial aid package.” If you haven’t received a financial aid letter, make sure you have submitted the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to your college. If you have already done that, see if there is information on your college’s student portal. If not, go ahead and call the financial aid office at the college to see what’s the status of your letter.

Then, you will need to compare your offers against each other. We wish there was a standard format for these letters. Unfortunately, colleges use these letters as a marketing tool, so they like to put their own spin on them to stand out. As a result, we see countless students confused and unable to compare their offers against one another.

To help with understanding your offers, we can do all the hard work for you 💪🏽!

We can create a standard report to help you compare apples to apples and make it clear what is grant money that you don’t have to pay back and what amounts are loans!

Once you create an account on our website, you will see a My Awards section. On this page, you can click the button to answer a few questions and upload your award letter.

Once we have processed your letter, you will have access to your own dashboard where you can compare which college will cost you the least amount of money!

Then, when you click on a college, you can see a consistent and detailed break down of the costs and your grants/scholarships. Finally, we have a section for you to budget for work study (if you have been offered that by colleges), part-time jobs, federal loans, private student loans, and other ways to pay. You can find more details on each option with the (i) icon.

When thinking about your budget for college, here are a few tips:

* If you are taking out loans, remember to always start with loans from the federal government before any private loans (even ones from your college)! Government loans always have more protections behind them. For example, the government has paused student loan payments for most of 2021, but this doesn’t apply to private student loans.

* Try not to work more than 20 hours a week when you are taking classes, especially a full-load of classes. We see that students who work more than this are likely to struggle with their classes and on the brink of dropping out.

* Make sure your scholarships are renewable! Most scholarships last for 4 years. However, some are only one-time payments. This can include scholarships that your college has offered you.

* Subsidized loans are better than unsubsidized loans! Subsidized means the government will pay your interest while in school.

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