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Financial aid package components: Part 1

Learn how to crack the code of college financial aid letters! Discover the true cost of college, spot the free money like grants and scholarships, and calculate your net cost. Uncover work-study opportunities and understand loans. Get ready to talk money with your family!

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  • mr pink green style avatar for user 2045687
    What are the financial aid components?
    (1 vote)
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  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Reece Piersol
    What about the opening dates and priority deadlines?
    (1 vote)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      Some colleges have "rolling admissions". There may be a final date to apply, and a final date to accept your admission and financial aid package, but there is no restriction on how early after you have applied that the college can tell you that you are accepted for the following term.

      Of course, if the college expects to see you either in-person or in a hybrid classroom, there's an opening date, and of course, if you plan to reside in college housing, eat in the dining hall or park in the lot, there are deadlines for signing up (so that the school can make plans of its own).

      Each individual school will have its own set of dates by which time you should complete each operation. To put a list into a course like this, which is for all applicants to all schools, would be an exercise in being wrong most of the time.

      Once you have chosen to which schools to apply, you follow the directions of those schools.
      (0 votes)

Video transcript

- [Voiceover] We are here with Karen Cooper, the Director of Financial Aid here at Stanford University. Karen, thanks so much for being with us today. - [Karen] Oh, you're very welcome. - [Voiceover] Karen, one of the big things that students often struggle with in the financial aid process is they receive offer letters from several different schools and they come in several different formats. They all look different. So, as a student, what should I be doing to make sense of this information, organize it for myself so I can actually compare them across each other. - [Karen] That's a really good question. So, I think the important thing to do is pull out the information that you're gonna compare from each one and you might have to search around for it. But, what I would start with is the estimated cost of attendance. So, almost every school is going to have a full estimated cost of attendance right there on their award letter for you. That includes these components like tuition, room and board the things that we are billing students for. As well as allowances for books, personal expenses, transportation. So I want you to think about each one of those items and think about whether that's a realistic estimate of the cost at that institution for you. - [Voiceover] Great, so when I receive a financial aid award letter, they may give me the estimated cost of attendance, will they always include all of these items in their estimated cost? - [Karen] They may not break down all of the details for you and some schools might include just the direct cost, the tuition and housing expenses that they're billing you for, so you might have to go look for what's a good book allowance at that institution. But if it's not directly there on their award letter, it should be on the school's website somewhere. - [Voiceover] Okay, so the first thing I do is I really figure out what is the full cost to attend this university, tuition, room/board, books, transportation, other cost, add that altogether, I've got my estimated cost. - [Karen] That's right. - [Voiceover] Where do I go from there? - [Karen] Well, I think the next thing to look at is the free money. Where's the good money that they're giving you, that they've offered to you? So, you're gonna wanna look for any grants and scholarships and usually, those are very clearly identified on an award letter. So the total amount of scholarships from the school, if there are any federal grants being offered or state grants or any outside sources of scholarship funds. - [Voiceover] Great. And so once I have my estimated cost of attendance and I have my grants and scholarships, what do I do next? - [Karen] The difference between those two figures, I think is a really important thing to look at as you're comparing from school to school because whatever that cost of attendance is, less all of the scholarships and grants you've been offered, that is the amount that's gonna come out of your pocket one way or another. Net cost is another thing that that's often labeled. Now, you may be offered loans or work-study to help meet those net cost, but anything else that's not covered by grants and scholarships, you're gonna be responsible for it one way or another. - [Voiceover] Okay, so after we get that net cost number, before we talk about my family contributing, which is one of probably the toughest thing to do, what are some of the different options that the school will give me? - [Karen] I think the next thing to think about is have you been offered work-study eligibility? An opportunity to work during the year on campus that allows you, as the student perhaps, to cover some of those personal expenses that are listed in the cost of attendance. - [Voiceover] And during work-study, I'm still a full time student. - [Karen] That's right. Typically, work-study jobs, students are working seven to ten hours a week, so a reasonable amount of work that allows you to stay engaged with your studies. - [Voiceover] So, in addition to work-study, I know that oftentimes on financial aid packages, there's a Stafford Loan or a Perkins Loan listed, what exactly are those loans? - [Karen] Those are loans that the school is suggesting that you will need to help cover that net cost. They've determined that amount based on the information that you've provided on your financial aid applications. So, it's the amount that they're suggesting. It doesn't necessarily mean that that's all that's available so you might, if you are thinking about maybe borrowing more or working less, those kinds of options that you have available to you, you can talk to the financial aid office about that. - [Voiceover] Great. So now that we understand work-study and the Stafford and Perkins loans that might be out there, how do we actually get from net cost to what my family's actually going to have to pay on a yearly basis? - [Karen] Right. So, your net cost is just the overall picture of what you and your family are gonna be responsible for, but you, the student, may be able to pick up some of that net cost with the work-study and loans. You'll wanna subtract those amounts from the net cost and that remaining amount is what you need to sit down with your parents and have a conversation about how are we, as a family, going to cover these costs? Generally, the school is expecting that that remaining amount would be picked up by your parents.