Tag merit scholarships

Analyzing Financial Aid Awards Made Easy

Audry came into my office so excited!  “I have all my financial aid awards- but I have no idea what they mean!” How many parents and students have this same question?

I sat Audry and her parents down and we started entering information into GuidedPath. With the Cost Comparisons tool in GuidedPath, it is easy to view and compare awards- seeing which colleges are truly making the best offers.

Decision Details
Using the Decision details, we ran through each financial aid award line by line. The decision details has several drop down choices; grants, scholarships, student loans, work study, parent loans, even a section for “other” awards. Any type of award offered by a college, including merit awards, can be recorded in this section.  Enter all amounts as an annual amount. There are options to add award names, and to calculate four year totals. We breezed through each award, using the “Next Decision” button.

Decision Dashboard
Once all the financial awards are entered, it was time to stand back and view the overall picture. Which college offered the most grants or scholarships?  Which one required the largest parent loans? What about workstudy or student employment?  The Decision dashboard displays very clearly how the financial aid awards stack up against each other, in year 1. What about beyond year 1? And what was the average graduation rate of the institutions?

Cost Comparison
Using cost comparisons is the answer! Select 4 colleges with awards to compare. Using the dropdown box, select 4 colleges to view cost comparison.  The cost comparisons provides a way to project costs for 4 and 6 years. This starts with the Estimated cost of attendance:

  • Direct Costs
    • Tuition
    • Room and board
    • Books and supplies
  • Indirect Costs
    • Personal Expenses
    • Transportation

Financial Aid Award Breakdowns
Within the cost comparisons, you can view:

  • Total Gift Aid
  • Total Loans
  • Family EFC
  • Unmet need
  • Additional funds needed

The 3 A’s

Included in the cost comparisons are the three A’s:

  • Average need based financial aid award packages
  • Anticipated need based financial aid package for Audry
  • Actual need based financial aid package. Did Audry get offered more than we expected? Less? Or right in the middle of the range?  This is an important number to know, if we want to write an appeal and ask the college to reconsider what they can offer in terms of financial awards.

Can Audry get out in 4 years?  Or will it be more like 6 years?  This is included in the cost comparisons too.  The GuidedPath rating system gives you an answer at a glance.  From 5 caps (75% graduation rate or more) down to 0 caps (less than 10% graduation rate).  A good sign is lots of graduation caps- either at the 4 year or 6 year rate.  Included in the outlooks section is an estimate of what 4 years/6 years of additional funds will be required of the family.

What is your award rating?
GuidedPath Cost Comparisons take the guess work out of comparing.  See at a glance with the Award rating which college is truly offering an outstanding package for a student.

Audry and her parents were surprised to learn the college they thought was offering the best financial aid award was not as good as they thought.  Another college’s offer was better initially, and would be better over the four years.  Audry and her parents left the office with mixed emotions: clarity and excitement. Clarity on what their real choices were. Excitement for what the next four years would bring.
That, is, to me, the finest moment in this entire journey. It is the reason I wake up each morning and look forward to helping another student, another family on this journey.  To find clarity and excitement. To take a step into the next chapter in life’s journey, knowing what the choices are, and having an clarity of how they are going to accomplish that choice.
Good night Audry.  Hope you sleep well tonight.

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