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 2018!
|1 Important Disclosures for CollegeAve.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or Nationwide Bank, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Information advertised valid as of 11/1/2018. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
2 Important Disclosures for Discover.
3 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
* 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.
4 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
5 Important Disclosures for PNC.
PNC Bank is one of the nation’s largest education loan providers. For over 40 years, PNC has been committed to helping students and their families make possible the adventure of college.
6 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.
Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.
Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.
SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. ©2018 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.
7 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
8 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
9 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|3.94% – 12.78%1||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.04% – 13.04%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.34% – 12.99%2||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.25% – 11.10%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|5.03% – 11.23%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.12% – 13.13%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.92% – 10.01%7||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.72% – 9.68%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.26% – 12.13%9||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|