How to compare financial aid offers: Part 1

8 Mar

As you are weighing which college to attend, a big consideration can be the various colleges’ financial aid offer. Today we’ll look at Cost of Attendance (COA).

Carefully examine each college’s cost of attendance, which is the list of various fixed and other expenses. Obviously, the tuition is not flexible, but often you can whittle down some of the following expenses:

– Fees (some of those fees are optional such as parking, health services (if you provide proof of health insurance), and some student body fees.

– Books and supplies: Textbooks can now be borrowed from the library, as well as purchased used online (make sure the ISBN is the same).

– Rent/housing: Perhaps you can figure out another option than the dorm, although it’s usually recommended to stay in the dorm the first year so as to make connections and feel a part of the campus life.

– Utilities and cell phone: Be realistic about what these will cost, especially if you will be in an apartment.

– Transportation: I do NOT recommend that a freshman student have a car the first year. Every other person who does not have a car will want to borrow it (a mistake) or ask you for rides. Gas is expensive, as are parking tickets and accidents. Also, a college freshman with a load of kids is a recipe for weekend disaster.

– Clothing and laundry: Could graduation gifts cover these expenses? Find out how much the machines are in the dorm and estimate how much you really will need to do laundry.

– Miscellaneous: The temptation to eat out all the time is great — create a budget item and stick to it.

It may be possible to take a chunk off the college’s estimated Cost of Attendance (COA). Doing that may even eliminate having to take out a student loan or parent loan. Take time to sit down together and make a realistic monthly budget, so that you’re prepared for the coming year.

Coming: Evaluating financial aid offers — including hidden info financial aid offices usually won’t tell you!



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