May 1st is known as national decision day.
That's the day when your student has to make their final choice about which college is the best to attend.
For some students, it may be as easy as comparing offers and choosing the best price.
But college financial aid award letters are often difficult to read and interpret. Is your student making the right decision?
Here are some questions to ask first:
Are your sources of aid mostly grants, or mostly loans?
Sometimes a source of aid is not clear. If the college uses terms or acronyms you don't understand, contact them to be sure a source of aid you think is a grant isn't actually a loan.
Is your financial need being covered?
The gap between the total cost of attendance and your EFC (Estimated Family Contribution) is what is known as your financial need. Colleges are supposed to meet all of your financial need, but sometimes the financial aid offer falls short (known as gapping), or sometimes they do meet your need but mainly through loans.
Is this school still the best choice for your student?
Students should never make their choice based on price alone. If the school doesn't offer the major they are interested in or has dismal graduation rates a hefty financial aid package won't make it a better deal.
Are there hidden costs to consider?
Traveling far away? High transfer rate? Consider some of the hidden costs associated with a school that isn't always reflected in the financial aid offer.
Is there an opportunity to negotiate?
Financial aid offers are not set in stone. You are free to accept, reject, accept parts of it (like the scholarships), or re-negotiate. If your offer seems low, or if financial circumstances have changed for your family, call the school and ask them to let you provide additional information that more accurately reflects your situation. Or simply ask them to match a competing institution's offer.
Do you clearly understand all of your offers?
College Factual offers a free tool that allows you to input financial aid offers, compare the results, and make the best decision. Use it for free!