You did it! You’ve applied, competed your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and been accepted at one or more schools. You should be proud of yourself-but you’re not done yet!
Before making your final decision, you’ll want to take a very close look at your award letters. You’ll receive these either via postal mail or email. The award letters will come from financial aid offices at the schools where you’ve been accepted. They explain in detail the financial aid package you are being offered. While you certainly want to compare scholarships and grants that you don’t need to pay off, loans and interest that you must pay back, and expenses that won’t be covered at all, don’t lose your focus.
Although your dream school may be more expensive, if you can live within a tighter budget and cut a few corners, it may be worth it. Consider class size, quality of education, and the school’s reputation. It might be financially smarter in the long run to pay more to earn a degree from a prestigious school than to grab the most comprehensive financial aid package and graduate with a smaller debt. Consider both how employable you will be and also future earnings if you graduate from a top school versus earning your degree from a cheaper and less prestigious school.
There’s no question that the college financial aid package with the greatest amount of free money will be the first to attract your attention. Just keep in mind that scholarship money does have only one kind of payback. In many cases, you must maintain a minimum grade point average. In addition, most grants and scholarships also require that you complete a certain number of hours annually. If either of these things might be a problem, then the school with the greatest amount of free money might not be the best option.
After you’ve chosen the program that suits you best, pay attention to deadlines! Your financial aid package is an offer, but it’s one you must accept by the due date. In fact, once you’ve decided, don’t wait to notify the college just in case part of your offer is based upon a limited amount of funds.
Be sure to check carefully for additional instructions. Are there forms you must fill out, or documentation to supply? If you need help, the school’s financial aid office is just a phone call away. The staff is well-trained and very experienced. Almost any questions you have or problems that arise can be solved with a simple call!