(BPT) - It can be nerve-wracking waiting for your financial aid award letter. But once you finally get the results, it can give you and your family a better idea of what to do next.
You’ll receive award letters from all of the schools you were accepted to. Each letter will list out all of the details about your financial aid package. Once you have this information, it can help you figure out what's covered and how much your family is expected to pay.
Figuring out next steps
Depending on how many schools your child applied to, narrowing down your choices can be half the battle. Comparing your financial aid offers and figuring out how to pay for college is the other half. Here is what you'll need to consider:
Look at all your options
Not all financial aid packages are the same. Depending on your financial situation, you'll want to examine which of these you qualify for with your award:
- Scholarships and grants: As long as you understand the qualifications for each one you receive, scholarships can help reduce the cost of college. Some scholarships require that students maintain a specific grade point average or take a certain number of credits each semester. Private loan companies, including College Ave Student Loans, offer scholarship opportunities as well. Grants are typically given to students and families with financial need and can come from the federal government, your state or school.
- Work-study programs: The federal work-study program allows students to earn money to help pay for school. While this won’t cover all your costs, it can help with tuition, books, or other educational expenses.
- Federal student loans: Many families will borrow to help pay for school. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to qualify for federal student loans. Federal Direct Loans offer low fixed interest rates and flexible repayment options, but with annual loan limits they may not cover the entire bill.
- Private student loans: If there is still a gap, you can shop private student loans. Private student loans are available through banks or lenders and your interest rates will depend on factors like your credit history and income.
Decide which aid options are best for your family
Depending on what you qualify for, you can accept or pursue any that are available to you. If you decide to go with scholarships, grants or work-study, make sure you understand the terms and conditions that apply to accept that aid.
If you choose to pursue federal or private student loans, you'll want to go with those that give you the most favorable terms, repayment options and interest rates and make sure you borrow only what you need. A good rule of thumb is not to borrow in total more than you expect to make in your first year’s salary.
Inform the school what you’re accepting
Once you've decided which option you're going to pursue, you'll want to inform the school of your decision. Each school may provide different instructions for confirming your choices, so it’s important to follow their instructions carefully. For instance, if the school sends you a paper aid offer, you’ll want to make sure you sign it and mail it back to them.
Officially accepting a loan can involve other steps as well. Some may only have to sign a promissory note. If you do, just make sure you read the terms of the agreement and make sure you can afford the monthly loan balance.
For others, you may have to go through entrance counseling if it’s your first time taking out a federal loan.
Putting everything together
If you're feeling overwhelmed about what to do with your financial aid letter, you're not alone. Take the time to carefully compare and consider all your options. If you have questions, reach out to your school’s financial aid office for help. And fortunately, some organizations can help you if you're looking for guidance along the way.
College Ave Student Loans has tools and resources to help you along the way. If you need to borrow, you can find a loan you can live with — from competitive interest rates to repayment options that fit your monthly budget.