Questions to Ask the Financial Aid Office
What percent of my need does the college meet?
Some colleges will meet 100% of your need, some will meet less of your need. Again, your NEED is the amount that the FAFSA or CSS PROFILE form has determined that you will be expected to pay (EFC) subtracted from the total Cost of Attendance. (COA)
What is your Cost of Attendance (COA) for the current year?
If your child is a junior, colleges won't have the numbers for her freshman college year until May or June of her senior high school year, so you may have to estimate based on this year's numbers. There are six components to a college student's complete budget:
Many budgets you will see include only Direct Costs including Tuition, Fees and Room and Board. However, the Department of Education requires that colleges fully inform you as to all of the above costs, so find out specifically what those amounts are.
What kind of Merit Based Aid do you offer?
What is the average amount of Merit Based Aid that students are offered? How many students receive Merit Based Aid? What are the qualifications based on? Are they based on grades or scores only?
How do you determine financial aid after the first year?
Some colleges will provide strong financial aid the first year and then reduce the aid. You should ask up front how they determine aid, and the average loans after the first year.
What is the average loan amount at graduation for students who have taken out loans?
This is crucial information that will give you a sense of what your child's debt load will look like after college.
Does the college use Need Blind or Need Aware Admissions and what does that mean for admissions decisions?
Some colleges will not look at financial need at all during the application process, and some might consider it slightly (or more). You should ask this question, or research it online to determine how you may tweak your aid requests, if you have that flexibility.
How does the College consider outside Scholarships?
Is outside scholarship money subtracted from loans or from merit aid? There is no benefit to an outside scholarship if the college reduces this amount from the merit aid they would offer.
What percentage of your college's aid is grant versus loans and work study?
Grants are money that does not need to be paid back. Loans will need to be repaid, and work study is work that is on campus. Obviously, the greater the amount of grants, the better!
What is the college's endowment per student?
Often there is a correlation between endowment and student aid. Some wealthy colleges will give more aid to students, making expensive colleges less expensive in terms of final cost, than some state schools.
What percentage of students graduate from this college within 4 years?
You can often find this information online. You will want to know how likely it will be that your son or daughter will need loans for any extended time on campus.
Does the College use the FAFSA form or CSS Profile in determining aid?
The CSS profile often asks for more in depth information, so your EFC may vary depending upon whether the federal vs. the institutional formula is used to determine need.
Deena Maerowitz, J.D.,M.S.W
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