Whether we’re shopping for a tv, a car, or a home, we all know it’s important to shop around for the best deal. Why wouldn’t you do the same for financial aid?
Enter the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet.
It’s an amazing resource for college students looking at various financial aid offers. Since the 2013-2014 academic year, this standardized form has been helping borrowers better understand and compare their financial aid offers.
Although it’s not mandatory, more than 2,900 institutions have adopted the universal Financial Aid Shopping Sheet since April 2015, which can either replace or supplement the traditional reward letter.
Here are three different ways you can use this helpful tool.
1. Calculate your net costs
Knowing how much it costs to attend college is not the same thing as knowing how much it’s going to cost you, which is the only figure that matters. The Financial Aid Shopping Sheet does the math for you.
In the “Estimated Cost of Attendance” section, you’ll see a breakdown of costs, including:
- Tuition and fees
- Housing and meals
- Books and supplies
- Other education costs
With the “Total Grants and Scholarships” section, you’ll see the free money you qualify to receive through:
- Grants and scholarships from your school
- Federal Pell Grant
- Grants from your state
- Other scholarships
Then you can figure out your net cost by subtracting “Total Grants and Scholarships” from your “Estimated Cost of Attendance” within the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet .
This is the figure you’ll want to use – the net cost – when figuring how much you’ll need to come up with from sources besides grants and scholarships. Then you can see how that figure compares to other schools that might cost you more or less.
2. Review your options for paying net costs
It can be overwhelming seeing that figure – the net cost representing what you will pay for college.
However, the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet also includes a list of doable ways to make it happen.
This figure represents how much you may be able to earn through a work-study job.
It’s important to understand, though, that work-study positions may be limited. And, you’ll still have to find and apply for them.
Plus, this isn’t money that gets paid directly to the school. You’ll receive a paycheck like you would for any other job and it’s your responsibility to use it wisely to help cover college costs.
This section of the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet will list your eligibility for Federal Perkins Loans, Federal Direct Subsidized Loans, and Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans. Note: Perkins Loans are no longer available for new borrowers.
Keep in mind that on the sheet are listed recommended amounts. You may be able to borrow more and you can absolutely borrow less.
While it does not represent how much your family must contribute, the family contribution section of the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet lists ways they may be able to do so.
For instance, a family can set up a payment plan through the school, take out a Parent PLUS Loan or a private student loan.
Of course, what’s important to understand about these three options is that they represent money to be paid out of pocket, either now or later. So weigh the trade-off carefully.
3. Compare institutional performance metrics
This section of the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet provides a broader context for how much it will actually cost to attend a specific school and whether you can really afford it.
If you find yourself torn between academic offers, these institutional performance metrics may tip the scales one way or another.
This is the percentage of full-time students who graduate from that school within 6 years. The longer it takes you to graduate, the more expensive college will be.
Loan default rate
This is the calculated percentage of students who attend that school and default on student loans.
The higher the number, the more likely it is that students from that school take out more loans than they can afford to pay back.
This is the median amount students borrow to attend that school, including the median monthly payment on a standard 10-year repayment plan.
While this does not represent what you specifically will pay on your loans, knowing the middle-range is a good indicator of what you might be looking at.
Check it out for yourself
You won’t see any figures, of course, but you can at least give yourself a better idea of what to expect from the real thing.
Should you have any questions about the information on a Financial Aid Shopping Sheet sent to you by a school, contact their financial aid office.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2019!
|* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
(1)All rates shown include the auto-pay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
(2)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
(3)As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.
Information advertised valid as of 11/4/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
2 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
3 Important Disclosures for Discover.
Discover's lowest rates shown are for the undergraduate loan and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.
4 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restrictions. Loans are offered through CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS #1175900).
5 Important Disclosures for Citizens.
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of December 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 1.70%. Variable interest rates range from 2.80% – 11.06% (2.80% – 10.91% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 4.72% – 12.19% (4.72% – 12.04% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown requires application with a co-signer, are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of the loan.
Please Note: International Students are not eligible for the multi-year approval feature.
|2.84% – 10.97%1||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|2.75% – 10.22%*,2||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|2.95% – 11.62%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.52% – 9.50%4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|2.80% – 11.06%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|