An Unconventional Guide to Paying for College

Understanding Your Financial Aid Package, plus a sweet video!

There is a lot of information floating around the internet about how a school constructs your financial aid package. In fact, this might be one of the most misunderstood parts of the financial aid process and something we have talked a lot about here at Money for College Project. There seems to be a large disconnect between submitting a FAFSA and receiving your financial aid package back in the mail.

By working in a financial aid office for many years, I have become a little jaded to the fact that these letters are difficult to understand. However, every time I meet with a student who is lost about the entire process, it become clear to me all over again, that this is really confusing!

I am always trying to find better ways to explain this process to students and parents, and I ran across a video recently that I think does an excellent job of explaining how the process works. The video is created by Brown University, so there are a few Brown specific statements made, but overall 98% of the information presented will work at all colleges across the U.S. The information is so universal because virtually all colleges accept federal financial aid, and the U.S. Government regulates how their funds are awarded.

A few notes on the video:

  • Not all schools meet 100% of demonstrated need when creating their financial aid packages (most Ivy League and top tier schools do). 
  • Often times loans are included in your financial aid package
  • If your parents are divorced or separated, you will use the parent income for the parent you live with (Brown’s non-custodial parent application is not required at most schools)
  • The FAFSA can be submitted on January 1st, in preparation for the upcoming Fall semester in August.  
Do you have any questions about how a financial aid award package is created? Please discuss in the comments!
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2 Comments

  1. Good information and I can see where it is so confusing. Do they include a ‘Summary’ page that kind of lists the various sources, with it highlighted somewhere “HERE IS WHAT YOU MUST PAY”
    Money Beagle recently posted..The Wild-Card Risk Of Buying A CondoMy Profile

    • @Money Beagle — Unfortunately often times they do not. Most times the financial aid award summary is converted to the university bill, once you have accepted your financial aid, but it is not shown on your financial aid award summary. This is often misleading when comparing costs between colleges, because you wont know your exact bill until you make the decision to go, and actually register for your classes. it could be a lot better.
      MoneyforCollegePro recently posted..Understanding Your Financial Aid Package, plus a sweet video!My Profile

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