The college admissions process is full of deadlines. There are deadlines for financial aid forms, deadlines for applications, and finally, deadlines for acceptance. It can be a rewarding and challenging time for prospective students and their families, especially if you are accepted to several schools on your wish list.
So what do you do when it comes to Decision Day? All offers are not equal and you want to make sure you’re not comparing apples to oranges. College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC) has some tips to help you with your analysis…and your final decision.
Financial Facts First
For many students, the financial aid package might be the main factor in the decision-making process. But don’t be so quick to accept the largest package because at the end of the day, it may not be worth as much. For instance, College A may offer you the largest financial aid package, tempting you to say yes to that school over College B, whose offer is half as much. But before you sign on the dotted line consider the annual Cost of Attendance (COA). That is a figure that is basically made up of tuition, room and board, and typical fees for one year of school. College A’s COA may be twice as high as College B’s, putting their generous financial aid package into perspective.
Travel Adds Up
Maybe College A is on the other side of the country. Regular airfare is expensive. Would one choice allow you to remain living at home, saving you the cost of room and board? That is a huge savings in the long run. Remember to keep any potential travel costs factored in with your decision-making.
The Fix Is in the Mix
Financial aid packages are usually made up of scholarships, grants, work-study assistance, and student loans. Now, remember that some of that is “free money,” meaning that it doesn’t need to be paid back upon completion of your study. This money is often granted based upon your grades and financial situation.
Student loans are not “free money”; they are financial obligations that you’ll be responsible for once you graduate. They can be helpful and make a difference, but less is always better. So look closely at the mix. The offer with the most grant and scholarship dollars is probably a good choice.
The Post-Grad Picture
Chances are you might have already done thorough research on your choice colleges before you were even accepted, but if you didn’t, now is the time to dig deep. College A might offer you the better financial aid package, but what is their graduation rate? Do you expect to be successful there? It’s also a good idea to gather any information on the school’s employment rate for graduates with your planned degree.
CFNC knows there are a lot of factors when it comes to evaluating your acceptance options for college. It’s a lot of work and sometimes a lot of confusing information to understand. College Foundation of North Carolina is here to help in any way we can. Decision Day is on the horizon. Make sure you’re ready for it.