Comparing Your Financial Aid Offers

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Comparing Your Financial Aid Offers

Financial aid helps make college possible for many students across the country, but, there are many different types of financial aid, each with different pros and cons. It is important to compare financial aid packages in order to make the best decisions about your higher education options.

What Types of Financial Aid are Available?

Financial aid comes in many different styles and can include support from your college or university, the federal government, or private sources. These are some of the types of financial assistance that may be included in your financial aid offer.

  • Grants. These are monies from your college or university, the federal or state government, or private resources that do not have to be repaid. There may be certain grade requirements attached, but the money can be used to pay for tuition, book fees, room and board, and other living expenses.
  • Student loans. There are several federal student loan programs available to help fund your education. Depending on qualification factors, they can come in either subsidized or unsubsidized options. There are also options for both student and parent borrowers. Numerous financial institutions also have private funding available for educational loans.
  • Scholarships. Another resource that comes in all shapes and sizes. These are often funded by endowments for students who show outstanding academic promise, have been active in civic and volunteer activities, or have specific performance or sports talents. There are also college and university-specific scholarships students might wish to apply for as well.
  • Work study programs. In addition to the federal work-study program, many colleges and universities offer on-campus jobs to students to help them fund their educations.

While other financial aid types are available, these are the most common financial aid types available today.

What Is a Good Financial Aid Offer?

The best financial aid offers are those that allow you to proceed with, and complete your college education with the least amount of debt. That means you must compare financial aid offers that consider a wide range of information in addition to the cost of tuition, such as:

  • Out of state fees if applicable
  • Student fees
  • On or off-campus housing costs
  • Food costs
  • Technology fees
  • Books
  • Computers
  • Furniture
  • Utilities (if applicable)
  • Cable and Internet (if applicable)

Most students cannot fund their complete college education with grants and scholarships alone. Loans exist to fill in the gaps that grants, scholarships, and work-study programs leave open in your educational funding needs. They should be approached cautiously and used only when necessary. The best financial aid packages offer you the option to use few if any, student loans for your education, and if you must take on debt, it is best to prioritize subsidized debt over unsubsidized debt.

Which Offer Is Better?

Grants and scholarships are great ways to assist in paying for college because it’s financial assistance that you won’t have to pay back. There is no limit on the amount of grants and scholarships you are allowed to apply for. Some grants, scholarships, and work-study offers are college-specific, so you will have to take some time to compare packages individually to determine which best meets your needs. You will need to do a little homework to compare the cost of attending the various colleges and universities, including living expenses in and around the college.


The financial aid landscape can be tricky to maneuver, but it’s important to explore and compare financial aid options. Time spent now applying to work-study programs, grants, and scholarships can save you significant amounts of money down the road. These tips can help you make better-informed decisions about which college you attend and the financial aid you accept.

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