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How do I compare financial aid packages from different colleges?

Ask yourself these questions when evaluating financial aid offers:

  • With the aid offered to me, can I afford to attend my first choice college or university? Remember, the goal of aid is to provide access and choice, not to lure you to a college you don't really want to attend.
  • Is there a commitment from the financial aid office to continue the aid after the first year of college? Under what terms and conditions?
  • Is the loan or work required reasonable? Can I afford the payments once I have graduated? How many hours of weekly work does the award imply?
  • Are other options available to me at my first-choice college or university? Ask the aid office at that college or university to suggest other options for financing your education.

Luckily for Hannah Crippen, a first-year college student, all three schools she applied to offered comparable aid packages. This allowed her to make her decision based on other factors.

"The college she chose came down to a gut feel she had during her campus visit, and also recruiting by their admissions staff that made her feel special and wanted," says her mother, Mary Crippen. "My husband and I met at a college very much like the ones she applied to, so we want to give our children the opportunity to have a college experience like we had if at all possible. We know it means making some adjustments to make that happen."


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OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.