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Mar 11, 2017 07:24 AM EST

College Finance: Understanding College Aid Letters

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With the high cost of tuition in colleges and universities today, it's important that students do their research well especially when it comes to the financial aspects of their higher education. One of the best things that they can do is to understand the financial aid letters that they receive from prospective schools.

According to CNBC, proper research days and months ahead of "decision day" is vital for prospective students and their families. This could include making another visit to campus as well as a comprehensive assessment of the financial aid offer. The publication shared four tips on how to better decipher college aid letters.

Understand the terms

Students should make sure that they understand the terms found in the financial aid letter. This can help them determine exactly how much money they should shell out for their college education. This includes identifying and differentiating scholarships and grants from loans. Students do not need to pay for the former but will need to compensate for the latter.

Write down all expenses

Knowing all the expenses that students would need to pay for during their time in college is a must. It should include the cost of rent, tuition as well as travel to and from campus. Check if they are included in your prospective college's cost estimate and see if they are reasonably priced.

Think ahead

See college cost at a four-year perspective instead of just one year. Check whether the aid includes the details of whether a scholarship can be renewed in the future years and under what circumstances. The letter will also typically contain the conditions that students need to meet to keep the financial aid.

Ask the institution for help

You can always ask for more aid if your financial situation has changed since filing. Your college or university may consider adjusting your aid package. However, this might lead to more loans instead of more grants.

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