Understanding the financial aid process can be difficult, but what’s sometimes even more confusing is decoding the financial aid award letter. The letters are deceivingly simple, listing federal aid (grants and loans), institutional aid (grants and loans), work study and lastly parent and student contribution amounts. Of course what’s listed is dependent on your family’s need. Here’s a few things you should know:
1. Full-tuition scholarships cover just that, tuition and tuition only. It does not cover room, board, travel, books, some fees or other associated costs.
2. Full-ride usually means tuition, room and board are covered. Sometimes it can also include a stipend for extra costs like books, fees or travel, but that’s not always the case.
3. Work study is a federally funded program that offers students a set amount of money they can earn over the course of the academic year. Students are not given this money, they must find a work study approved job to earn the money. The amount of work study offered is dependent on student need based on FAFSA. Students can opt to take work study or not. Most students use work study earnings to pay for daily expenses, including books, but you can have work study earnings go directly to pay for tuition, room and board.
4. Colleges have work study jobs and non-work study jobs. Work study jobs go first to students with work study as part of their financial aid package. Anyone can apply for a non-work study job. Students should visit the appropriate school resource (career center or financial aid office) at the beginning of the school year or even before school ends in the spring to secure a job if necessary.
5. If you’re a freshmen, don’t be surprised if your work study job is in the kitchen – that’s very common at many schools. Students speak highly of jobs at the library or gym where they have time to study in between greeting people etc. Seek out jobs in departments of interest (Art Museum, Alumni Association, Athletic Teams etc) – this is a great way to enhance your skill set and resume.
6. If you notice a student contribution, it’s usually because you indicated the student has some sort of savings, investment or inheritance on the FAFSA. If you did not indicate the aforementioned, check with your college to ensure there isn’t a mistake. Some schools will require students to contribute to their education and in most cases, it’s a realistic amount they can earn.
7. Finally, remember all college students must have health insurance, so be sure to factor this into your overall costs. This is often not listed on the financial aid award letter, thus it’s an additional cost.