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Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Making Sense of Your College Financial Aid Package
Big changes this year to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) have meant that students can apply for aid three full months earlier than they had in past years. This means that they will receive notice of their aid packages earlier-in many cases before getting acceptance letters from universities.
The cost of college is often a deciding factor for students in selecting a university. The gap between the college acceptance notifications and the financial aid package notifications has long made this a difficult conundrum for college hopefuls. What good is a Stanford acceptance if your family can't afford to send you there?
Yet even beyond these positive changes in application timing, understanding a financial aid package can be confusing. Often, students are awarded aid in several forms-loans, grants and even scholarships. Deciphering which is which is crucial. Additionally, different universities itemize costs in different ways; for example, it may be that they build cost of living and tuition into their estimated costs, but neglect to factor in books or other required fees.
Consumer Reports recently advised students to take initiative with universities regarding ongoing aid. Colleges sometimes offer generous packages for the first year in order to entice students to attend, but those packages may be quietly contingent upon things such as GPA. Additionally, since FAFSA asks students to update income sources each year, the stream of aid is not always guaranteed.
Financial aid is a confusing but critical factor that most students will have to negotiate as they make their decision.
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