Mapping Your Future: The bottom line on financial aid offers


The bottom line on financial aid offers

By Catherine Mueller

April 20, 2023

Choosing a college is an important financial decision.

After all, you are making an investment in your future. Therefore, it's important to carefully review all the financial aid offers you receive from the colleges you've listed on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Bottomline, you want to make sure the college(s) you are considering are affordable and offer the programs that best fit your career goals, and you can make that determination by studying the financial aid offers (also known as award letters).

Financial aid offers are not always alike and comparing the offers can be challenging. To effectively review offers, here are some key points to remember about financial aid offers:

  • Colleges may mail financial aid offers to you, but the offers are often delivered via an online portal, which a college creates for you as a prospective student.
  • You may receive a tentative financial aid offer that changes later. Changes to an offer can occur for several reasons, such as a change in your housing plans.
  • The offer should include information about the college's total cost of attendance. Make sure you know what is included in the total cost of attendance. If the information isn't on the offer, contact the college's financial aid office for the information.
  • Determine the amount of grants and scholarships that are included on the offer. Grants and scholarships are the best type of aid because they don't have to be re-paid. However, make sure you understand any requirements or obligations that come with accepting the grant or scholarship. Subtract the total amount of grants and scholarships to determine how much money you will need pay for your education.
  • Compare the net costs of the colleges you plan to attend. The net cost is the amount of money you will need pay out of pocket for your education.
  • The college may include loans in the offer. Understand the loan obligation and only borrow what you need to pay for your education. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of any student loan you accept.

By reviewing award letters carefully, you'll know that you've chosen wisely for your future when selecting a college.