You’re not alone!
This is a really critical moment!
This is a moment of truth!
Right now, students across the country are in the process of choosing where to enroll. For many that decision is closely tied to a college’s financial aid offer. But with no current standardization of these offers, letters look unbelievably different from one school to the next. They’re often filled with confusing terms, and the numbers are all over the map.
Students and parents rely on these financial aid offers to make their decisions. Yet so many college aid packages look different, and are very confusing.
This is also when you weigh your options with student loans…which can follow you around long into adulthood.
There are a couple of big problems with financial aid award letters, if not more!
There’s a lot of jargon and terminology. Take something like the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan, which often appears on award letters. To be eligible, students simply have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Some colleges didn’t even use the word “loan” — they called it “Fed Dir Unsub” or just plain “Unsubsidized.”
The process should be really simple, but it’s not! There are so many institutions doing things differently.
More than a third of colleges don’t include how much it’s going to cost to attend…only how much the student was awarded. The first thing you’re trying to figure out is…how much the heck is this gonna cost me? You’re looking around for this number, and there’s nothing!
Seventy percent of offers put all the aid together, so it feels like one big gift. That aid can include money from loans even though students would have to pay that money back. Some schools lump in things like work-study, which pays students as they work throughout the semester and doesn’t help cover tuition when the bill is due at the beginning of the year.
To clarify how a particular school is using these terms, reach out to its financial aid office. They are there to help!
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