Looking for the Best Deal


Judy Moseman explains what prospective college students should consider when comparing different forms of financial aid.

I've applied to several schools, and I honestly think I'd be happy at any of them. But I'm sure that the amount of financial aid they offer me will be a major factor as I'm making my final choice. I know that aid packages can include work-study, loans, grants and scholarships. What should I be thinking about as I compare the financial aid awards from different schools?

Colleges are very different from each other, and those differences extend far beyond their "price tag." Take time to visit each school that you're seriously considering so that you know each one well. Try to narrow your choices to six schools or fewer. Then apply for financial aid at each school you continue to be serious about.

When you have all the financial aid packages in hand, it's time to compare numbers. Make a chart, writing down the total price of each school and breaking this down by the cost of tuition, room, board, fees, and an estimated cost of what your books, personal expenses and transportation will cost. Then, list the amount of financial aid you will receive from any source: grants from the college or the government, loans and any scholarships you may have received. You'll notice that some colleges have a higher tuition, but they might also offer more grant money from the school. Some schools might ask for a smaller contribution from your family, but may require you to take out a little more in loans or to have a work-study job.

Beyond the dollar figure, there are other factors to consider. One of the schools may cost you a bit more, but have more value to you because of the location or the majors offered. And once you've visited your top choices, perhaps you will decide that you love the chapel at one college, or the culture of the campus at another. Don't settle for the cheapest price or the so-called "best deal." Carefully consider both the financial realities and your preferences as you make your final, prayerful decision.

Written by Judy Moseman

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