Six tips you should know before making the big decision.

  1. The acronyms you need to know

    Cost of attendance (COA): An estimate of what one full year of school will cost. It includes tuition, along with room, board, fees, books, and more. Check your school’s website for a detailed COA.

    Expected Family Contribution (EFC): An estimate that the school uses to determine how much financial aid you could get—the amount you actually pay may be different.
  2. You might get a few types of financial aid

    Scholarships and grants:
     Free money that you won’t have to pay back—seriously!

    Work-study: Money you earn by working a part-time job through your school

    Loans: Money you can borrow that you will have to pay back with interest
  3. Remember this equation: COA – Financial aid = what's left to pay

    Do this equation for every school on your list. If you still owe money, you may need to use savings, private student loans, or other sources to cover the difference.
  4. Hold on: don’t just pick the biggest offer

    A small financial aid offer with more free money may be better than a large offer with more loans.  Why? Because you’ll have to pay back those loans with interest.
  5. Read the fine print

    Before you pick your offer, pay attention to the conditions. Some types of financial aid may be renewable, and some may be for one year only. Also, some scholarships might require you to maintain a certain GPA.
  6. Choose what works for you

    You don’t have to accept all the aid listed in your financial aid offer. Pick the types and amounts of aid you need, and make sure to respond before the deadline.

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To access additional financial education resources for students, please visit our Financial Education Center.


This content is for informational purposes only. It is not designed or intended to provide financial, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice since such advice always requires consideration of individual circumstances. Please consult with the professionals of your choice to discuss your situation.

Borrow responsibly. We encourage students and families to start with savings, grants, scholarships, and federal student loans to pay for college. Students and families should evaluate all anticipated monthly loan payments, and how much the student expects to earn in the future, before considering a private student loan.

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