5 Tips to a Better Understanding of your Financial Aid Award Notice!
- Get to the bottom line; make sure you're getting the best education for the money.
- Make sure your offer includes similar awards each year for which you are eligible.
- Clearly understand the standards for aid renewability.
- Determine whether your financial aid package is affected by other awards.
- Adhere to the DEADLINES.
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Direct Costs and Indirect Costs
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Before addressing the available tools, let's first make sure we understand all of the costs you'll face.
Direct costs typically include tuition, fees, and room and board. These are expenses paid directly to the school.
- Tuition and fees. These costs vary by school. If you've selected a state school, tuition will depend on your residency status. Pay attention to residency requirements and the possibility of inter-state "reciprocity agreements". The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition can amount to thousands of dollars per year.
- Room and Board. Learn what you can about alternative meal plans. If you don't plan to eat three meals at the dining hall each day, then find a less expensive plan.
Indirect Costs are not paid directly to the school, but are associated with attending school. Some expenses depend on your choices:
- Books and Supplies: Textbook costs are similar from school to school, but they vary greatly depending on the courses taken. Students can save by buying used books, buying online, or sharing with classmates. Some classes require more supplies than others; still others have printing, copying, or computer costs.
- Computer: Many schools require students to have a personal computer. Remember to add the costs of software, a printer, and—if you live off campus—connection to the Internet.
- Off-campus housing: This category includes rent, furnishings, utilities, and meals.
- Transportation: If you will commute to school, factor in the cost of public transportation, gas, car insurance, maintenance, and campus parking fees. Some schools provide free parking, while others require a paid permit. If the school is far from home, don’t forget the cost of air travel to get home on breaks and holidays. You can lower these costs by carpooling and by shopping around for student rates on airfare.
- Personal Expenses: Clothing, laundry, haircuts, cell phone, and entertainment. Maintain a written budget since these expenses can easily spiral out of control.
- Miscellaneous Costs: Count on extra expenses such as lab fees for Science courses, fees for course changes, and expenses for participating in athletics or joining a sorority or fraternity.
It's not all "doom and gloom" out there; these years will surely be among your most memorable and will play a key role in the rest of your life. And there are ways for all students --including the student athlete—to make the whole experience less daunting financially.