Three tips to help families compare letters.
Like donuts, college can take a lot of dough. These tips can help families 1) dig into their financial aid award letters and 2) compare letters to figure out which school is the best fit for their student.
1. They both have basic ingredients
Like donuts, award letters may look different, but they include the same basic ingredients. Here’s what families should know about them.
• Cost of attendance (COA): an estimate of how much it will cost to go to college for one year
• Expected Family Contribution (EFC): remind families that the EFC isn't the amount they’ll have to pay for college and it isn't the amount of federal student aid they'll receive
• Aid: advise students to separate scholarships, grants, and work-study (money that doesn’t have to be paid back), and federal student and Parent Plus loans (that do have to be paid back with interest)
2. What is inside matters
Whether it’s jelly or cream, the filling is key—it’s important to know what’s in each one.
• Students should list the amounts of each of the basic ingredients from each school, and subtract the financial aid, including federal loans, from the COA for an idea of their “gap.” Emphasize that students have options (like a private student loan) to fill it.
3. Sprinkles can be tempting
Remind students that award letters, like donuts, may look appealing, but they should consider the whole experience. Encourage students to think about factors like campus culture, location, programs offered, etc.
These tips can help families better understand their offers and guide students as they make that sweet college decision.
For more information, including a video, on financial aid award letters and tips on paying for college, visit SallieMae.com/AwardLetters.

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