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Comparing Financial Aid Offers

When comparing financial aid offers it is important to keep this simple fact in mind: The school that offers you the most money might not be offering you the best financial aid package. This might seem counter-intuitive, but here are some facts that you need to keep in mind to make sure that you are accurately comparing aid packages:

  • What is it going to cost you out of pocket? That is, a more expensive school may give you more money than another school, but it still may be more expensive. Determine the total cost of education at all schools, and then subtract out the aid packages. You may want to recalculate Cost of Attendance including just your billed expenses: tuition, fees, room and board. Schools have different budets for travel, books, and personal expenses.

  • How much are you going to have to pay back? While one school may give you more money, a good chunk of it could be in the form of loans. Compare how much "gift" money you are receiving from each school. Also, make certain the school isn't including a PLUS loan in your package and calling it financial aid. A PLUS loan is a credit based loan.

We have included a link to a worksheet that is available on the NASFAA website to help you make an accurate comparison between schools. Remember, if you aren't happy with a package, contact the school financial aid office to see if there is anything they can do to help you. This is the time to present an extenuating circumstance appeal, if you haven't already.