You just received (or will soon receive) your son or daughter’s financial aid award letter. You'll get one from each college you applied to and it will spell out your financial aid package with that institution. Through a combination of grants, loans and other financial instruments, the financial aid award letter is designed to fill the gap between what your family can afford and the cost of the college.
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But does it actually tell you what you’ll spend next year? Over 4 years? Financial aid award letters do not typically have a standard format from one college to the next, making it hard for you to compare options. In addition to the lack of standard formatting, there are a few other things to watch out for. See below.
Here are 5 reasons your financial aid award letter doesn't tell the full story:
1. Packages change if a student receives private scholarships on the side
2. Letters rarely list GPA, credit hours or income requirements necessary to keep the money
3. The letter may not list whether the awards increase with tuition hikes
4. Some schools list PLUS loans as an option while others do not, however, PLUS loans are always available no matter the school
5. Listed ‘preferred lenders’ may not be your best option
So before you sign up for a college and its financial aid package, make sure you understand the award letter in and out. For help with that, set up a free consultation and analysis of your letters with Stan Ezekiel, founder of the College Planning Group. Stan has been helping families prepare for college since 1994 and is a Certified College Planning Specialist.
Click here to set up a free consultation to analyze your award letters.