Although your dream school may have all the things you want in a college, it also has is a price tag. As you move closer to graduation, you need an accurate picture of your finances to see if you have enough saved to attend the college you’ve chosen, and if you’ll need more aid to cover expenses like tuition or books.
You can think about your aid in one of two categories:
- What you have
- What you need
What you have
An award letter – After you complete your FAFSA application, your potential colleges will each send you an award letter which details the amount and types of aid available for you. Your award letter is an important tool to identify what free aid you have—usually in the form of school scholarships, federal scholarships, and grants—and what kind of aid you will have to pay back.
Any additional funds you may have—which could include additional scholarships or personal savings that you or your parents have set aside—will need to be compiled and factored in to complete your financial picture.
What You Need
A financial aid comparison calculator will help you compare the award letter offers for two or three colleges and may be very helpful when trying to decide which one is more affordable. One college may seem less expensive on the surface, but once you consider other variable costs, like living on or off campus, you can tell what the true cost is of each school.
Once you know how much school will cost, subtract out the amount you have received in scholarships and grants, as well as the amount you have saved to pay for college. Do you need additional money to pay for college?
Scholarships are a great way to cover the difference of what you have and what you need with money you do not have to pay back. Search Tuition Funding Sources along with local businesses and organizations for available scholarships. A federal work-study job may help cover costs, but check your award letter to make sure you have already qualified for it.
Student loans are also available if you need extra money to cover your education costs, with both federal and private student loan options. Ensure that you research all of your financing options carefully, so that you can compare all aspects, including interest rates, fees, and repayment options to select what best works for you. Check out our video Your financial aid journey in 5 steps for more details.
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