Getting Your Financial Aid Award Verdict

I’ve been hearing from parents of high school seniors lately who are either elated by their financial aid awards or utterly depressed.
Here are some examples:

  • A dear friend of mine is thrilled because her son Geoffrey received a very large need-based aid package to Macalester College, which is where he is heading in the fall. (Gosh, I just love Midwestern liberal arts colleges!)
  • A former journalist and colleague of my husband, who is struggling financially, just got word that her son is getting a need-based aid packages to Occidental College, another excellent liberal arts college, that will cover all his expenses.
  • I heard from a reader today who is freaking out because the award package that her teen received was such a low-ball offer.

While I love hearing about financial aid success stories, most families aren’t going to get as much money as they’d like. That leaves them with these options.

  • Parents can compare award letters to see what is the best option.
  • They can try to negotiate with colleges for more money.
  • If they are forced to borrow, parents can calculate what the true monthly costs will be after graduation.

Today I want to share two resources that can help.
Mark Kantrowitz, the founder of FinAid, just released a six-page reference guide to help families evaluate financial aid letters. Here it is:
Quick Reference Guide to Evaluating Financial Aid Award Letters
I’d also urge you to check out the website of SimpleTuition, which has just unveiled a free tool called the College Cost Adjuster.
The tool analyzes the financial aid award from any college and reveals what the total monthly payment for all borrowing would be for both the student and parent after graduation. A parent can adjust sources of college funds such as work-study, cash, scholarships and loans to see how each change will impact the student’s and family’s finances.
Tomorrow I’m going to share a post that I wrote last year that explains how you can negotiate for more financial aid.

Read More on The College Solution:

Deciphering a Financial Aid Award Package
Deciphering a Financial Aid Award Package, Part II
Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller. She also writes a college blog for CBS MoneyWatch. Follow her on Twitter.
Financial aid award letter image by jay d. CC 2.0.

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