If you are in the position where you’ve received more than one financial aid award letter and need to compare them, then congrats! Hats off to you for both being accepted into multiple schools and putting yourself in a position where you can now choose the best financial aid outcome!
Now, the tough part: accomplishing an apples-to-apples comparison of your financial aid award letters.
No two financial aid award letters look exactly alike (although they do have many similarities), so in order to conduct a fair comparison of the offers, you’ll need to separate the numbers from the jargon.
To help you do that, we’ve built a SALT™ Financial Aid Award Letter Comparison Tool! (Download your copy here.)
How To Use The Financial Aid Comparison Tool
- Gather all of the information related to your cost of attending each college. Be sure to consider the total costs that each college will entail. For example, if one of the colleges is out of state, you’ll incur additional travel costs to get there and come home for holidays.
- Once you’ve gathered all that information, enter the amount of expenses in their respective categories in the “Cost of Attendance” fields.
- Now, take each financial aid award letter and enter the amount of the award offered. For example, if one school offers you a need-based grant or a merit grant, you’ll enter the sum offered in the grant under the “university grant” field for that school.
- Once you’ve entered all of the information pertaining to the cost attendance and financial aid offered for each school, the tool will automatically calculate your totals for each school below. Use those totals to review your offers side by side.
Prospective Freshman College Students
The biggest piece of advice I can offer you is to select the school that requires you to take on the least amount of debt.
I know that may be hard advice to take when you’ve had your heart set on attending a certain school and that school offers you a not-so-wonderful financial aid award, but you’ll be very happy when you graduate from college with the least amount of debt possible. If you are really determined to go there anyway, call the financial aid office and see if the school will match one of your better financial aid offers—or ask about ways to cut your costs altogether.
Community College Transfer Students
Generally, my advice for transfer students is the same as my advice for freshman students: take on as little debt as possible.
Additionally, before you accept any financial aid offer, find out how many years of attendance your financial aid offer covers. If the school decides to accept fewer transfer credits than you anticipated, you may have anywhere from an additional half a year to 3 years of undergraduate work ahead of you. And since some financial aid offers will only be valid for up to 2 years of study for community college transfer students, you don’t want to be stuck in a position where you are required to take additional courses that your financial aid doesn’t cover.
For more information on comparing financial aid award letters, check out our helpful video titled Understanding Your Financial Aid Award Letter.