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The way to Compare College Financial Aid Awards

Posted by admin on in College Advice |

CoCo 130819 0118 Congratulations in your college acceptances and success in getting scholarships and need-based financial aid! Unless you mind, I’d like to give you a little assignment.

Those financial aid statements and award offers are full of info, and it’s not always easy to evaluate offers. Some colleges may include student and parent loans on the actual financial aid statement, while others mention them in a cover letter accompanying the statement. The school’s financial aid and merit scholarship provides may arrive in different letters, or you may still be waiting to hear about one of the two.

So your assignment is this: create a spreadsheet, plus move the information on each of these unique forms into a format that allows you to compare apples to apples, instead of grants to pears! Once you have your own spreadsheet set up, follow the next 2 steps.

Step One: Determine your Personal Cost of Presence

Go to the school’s website and find their standardised Cost of Attendance. There should be a desk on their financial aid page that lists the various components of this very important figure. You’ll want to capture several information elements here:

  • Tuition and Fees : You can probably just use the school’s cited tuition plus fees for the program in which you might enroll. Most full-time students in the same class and major in a college will be charged the same expenses and fees.
  • Room and Board : The school will probably include a figure that assumes you’ll be staying in a double room and skipping breakfast. See if you can find the school’s actual pricing for dormitories plus meal plans, and write down the figure for the dorm and the meal plan you will most likely purchase. If you’ll live off-campus or with your household, write down estimates of these costs rather.
  • Publications and Supplies : The easiest method to get a sense of how much you’ll pay for these, based upon your major, is to ask students who are upon campus now. If you don’t have access to all of them, use the school’s figure, but think about if you are likely to be frugal and invest less, or do you know yourself good enough to predict you’ll spend more than the average student.
  • Fun and Laundry (also known as Personal Expenses ): You’ll have some out-of-pocket costs unrelated to the big budget items over. The school will set an calculate that you can use, or you can adjust it up or even down based on your personal lifestyle.
  • Travel plus Transportation: Make your best to estimate what your airplane, train, or bus costs will be if you’ll be going away to school, or your costs pertaining to things like public transportation, gas, insurance, plus auto maintenance if you will travel.

Add these types of up to get your own personal Cost of Attendance for each school.

Step 2: Calculate out-of-pocket expenses at each school for you personally and your family.

Now that you know how much college students who don’t receive grants or scholarships might pay at each school, it’s time to get an idea of how much you will. Gather up your financial aid statements and scholarship or grant letters, and add them to the spreadsheet you created of your potential educational costs. Let’s limit this only to grants and scholarships that you simply won’t have to repay.

Subtract the grants and scholarships you have been offered at each college from your personalized cost of attendance you calculated for that school. This figure is an estimate of the out-of-pocket expenses that you and your family will need to cover using your savings, income as it is earned, and/or student and mother or father loans. This is the best way to compare the financial implications of choosing one school over another.

If your favorite school has higher out-of-pocket expenses than one of the others on the list, consider negotiating. Check out our previous blog for some helpful hints about how to request more money .



Robert Weinerman is a member of College Coach’s group of college financial experts . Before joining College Coach, Robert worked as a Older Financial Aid Officer at MIT plus Babson College.

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