Its easy to get overwhelmed at the thought of paying thousands of dollars over the next few years. Its also easy to overlook some of the other costs of college, which unfortunately, arent always covered by financial aid. But dont forget that there's financial aid available to help you.
The first step in paying for college is figuring out how much it actually costs. Youll want to consider tuition and housing along with books and school supplies, transportation, a computer, and others costs, like entertainment money.
To help estimate the cost of college, check out these resources:
Compare Award Letters
If you receive award letters from more than one college, youll want to compare them so youll know which is providing the best financial aid package for your needs. Award letters can be tricky to compare because you may receive more loans from one school and grants from another. Because grants dont need to be repaid, theyre a better option. Focus on how much you would need to pay above and beyond the financial aid you are offered.
For help with understanding your financial aid package, visit financialaidletter.comfor sample letters and tips on cutting costs.
Also, dont forget to check deadlines! Its important to make award decisions on time.
Accept an Award Package
When accepting your award package, you dont have to accept the entire award outlined in the award letter. You can accept all of it, some of it, or none of it. If you accept the entire offer, sign the letter and return it. Before you mail it, however, make a copy of it for your records. If you only want to accept part of it, contact the schools financial aid office. Your school may use an electronic award system; follow the instructions for accepting or rejecting the award.
Once you have accepted the award, youll be contacted by your schools financial aid office around the beginning of the semester. Youll sign the papers needed for the college to apply the financial aid to your tuition or room and board. Any money from Federal Work-Study will be provided based on your job and your school.
Bridge the Gaps
It may happen that your financial aid package is less than the total cost of attending college, which means youll have to come up with this unmet need. You have a lot of options. A summer or part-time job might provide enough income or savings. Finding ways to keep costs down while schoolmaybe by getting a roommate to decrease living expenses or living close to campus to reduce transportation costswill help you in the long run. You and your parents may also consider taking out additional loans, like a PLUS loan or private loans.
The EdWise online financial planning guide is a useful tool that helps students take charge of the borrowing process by determining how much to borrow and when to pay it back. Students and parents gain clear, concise budgeting information that enables them to efficiently manage finances. Enter the appropriate information, and EdWise will do the calculating.
With EdWise, students can determine a budget, develop strategies to manage finances, or find helpful tips on how to cut expenses. Using EdWise, anyone trying (or planning) to finance a college education can learn to manage their money more wisely. It's like having a personal financial advisor-without the expense.
Put EdWise to work for you!
The California Student Debt Resource and Awareness Project (CASDRAP) is a statewide taskforce consisting of university administrators, nonprofit financial education organizations, and student loan lending, servicing and guarantor entities.
CASDRAP got its start in 2000 at San Diego State University. The timing of the Web site development coincided with the 2002 implementation of Assembly Bill 521, the Student Financial Responsibility Act, which mandates that financial education be provided at California state universities and other California campuses as part of new student orientation programs.
EdFund, the nation's second largest provider of student loan guarantee services under the Federal Family Education Loan Program, donated the seed money for the development of StudentDebtHelp.orgvia its grant program, EdShare.
Current working CASDRAP participants include the following representatives: