If you've done the work to apply to colleges in the fall by now you have a stack of college applicants and financial aid offers awaiting your approval.
Unfortunately, colleges don't make it easy to analyze and compare offers. There is no standardized method of displaying financial award offers. Many colleges do it differently, and some may even purposefully make your offer confusing to hide the amount of money they are asking you to take out in loans or pay out-of-pocket.
Because of this, students and their families are prone to making mistakes when reviewing their offers. Here are some of the most common:
Mistaking a loan for a grant
Some of your sources of aid may have confusing names or abbreviations that leave you scratching your head as to what it really. Don't assume your aid is a grant or scholarship unless you know for sure. Call the school and ask for clarification.
Only looking at how much financial need the school has covered, instead of how much you'll have to pay
Remember, your financial aid award includes loans as a source of aid. A school that appears to offer a generous financial aid award that covers most of your need may actually be packed full of loans. Your best offer will be the one that covers your financial need with discounts, grants or scholarships, not loans!
Getting tempted by large discounts
When you walk into a department store to buy a winter coat, there is no point in buying a pair of swimming trunks just because they are 70% off. In the same way, a large college discount doesn't always mean it's the best choice. Make sure the school is a good choice for you based on academics, location, and price along with other factors. Don't make your decision based on price alone.
Not asking for more
Most students and families don't realize that they can negotiate their financial aid package. If the school you really want to go to doesn't offer you as generous an aid package as a competing school, call them up and see if they will match it! More details on negotiating financial aid are revealed in this free download.
Not using free tools to make the job easier
College Factual's Best Price Analyzer can help you analyze your college offers, check for hidden costs, and compare all of your offers to help you get the best deal. Use it for free!