When you submitted your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you listed one or more college codes that represent the schools that interest you. Once your FAFSA’s been processed, you may begin to receive financial aid offers from these schools sent electronically or via the US Postal Service. It’s important to read each offer carefully, as they describe the types and amounts of financial aid a college or career technology center can provide to help you pay for one year of higher education.
On your financial aid offer you’ll see:
- The total Cost of Attendance (COA) – An estimate of what it costs to go to that school for one year
- Expected Family Contribution (EFC) – A number calculated from your FAFSA that’s used by the school to determine how much financial aid you’re eligible to receive (most likely not the amount you’ll be expected to pay)
and amounts of aid the school can offer you; this list is often called a ‘financial
aid package’. Your offer may consist of:
- Grants – aid based on financial need that typically doesn’t have to be repaid
- Scholarships – gift aid awarded to you by colleges, state agencies, foundations, tribal and private organizations
- Federal work-study – an opportunity for you to work on or off campus to earn money for college expenses
- Federal student loans – funds awarded based on financial eligibility that must be repaid, with interest
- Federal PLUS loan – a loan your parent(s) may borrow to help you pay for college; your parent(s) are expected to repay the loan (credit check required)
Now, subtract all of the financial aid shown on the offer from your Cost of Attendance. This will determine your estimated Net Cost, which is the out-of-pocket amount you’ll be expected to pay. If you should end up with a negative amount, the Net Cost would be zero.
What options are available to help you cover the Net Cost?
- More scholarships – You don’t have to be a straight A student or a sports star to qualify for many different kinds of scholarships. OKcollegestart.org and UCanGo2.org are great places to begin your scholarship search.
- A 529 College Savings Plan – visit ok4saving.org for more information
- Military benefits – visit military.com/education/gi-bill to learn more
- A monthly payment plan approved by your school
- You don’t have to accept all financial aid offered to you, especially when it comes to borrowing student loans. Using a monthly payment plan while you’re in college can be less expensive than a monthly loan payment with added interest after you’ve graduated. If you’re unable to make a monthly payment to the school, consider making smaller monthly interest payments on any unsubsidized student loan(s). This will decrease your overall student loan debt once you graduate or leave school.
- Pay attention to deadlines. Accept or decline your financial aid offer before the specified date.
- If you receive more than one financial aid offer, you may want to determine what your net cost would be at each college. Ultimately, you’ll want to choose the school that’s the best fit for you.
- To add more school codes to your FAFSA, log in as a returning user at studentaid.gov.