Financial Aid Package: What Is All This Information?

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    Once you’ve been accepted to a school, you will find your financial aid package in the mail or on their online portal, usually corresponding to the method they used to send your acceptance letter. However, if you’re inexperienced in dealing with colleges, as most people are, the financial aid package won’t make much sense. The following are a few pointers to clarify what your financial aid package means. 

    What's In Your Aid Package

    Credits

    Loans: Sums of money that the school is offering you through the federal government

      • Subsidized loans: government loans that don’t accumulate interest during your time in college. 
      • Unsubsidized loans: government loans that do accumulate interest during your time in college. 
      • Subsidized and unsubsidized loans have the lowest interest rates you’ll find. If you or your parents are paying for college out of pocket, then you can ignore these. However, if you do plan on taking out loans, then make sure you take the cheapest ones available. The loans from best to worst look like this: subsidized > unsubsidized > third party.  
      • The only difference is the interest rates, meaning a third-party loan, for example, will require you pay more back the longer you wait to pay it back. 
    • Scholarships: You will automatically be considered for your university’s generic scholarships and you’ll see what you get and how much you get in your financial aid package. 
    • Work Study: This is another offer; it’ll show you an amount that you could have as credit towards your bill if you find a job on campus through their work study program.
    • Grants: These are sums of money given out to students in need, which will be based on your FAFSA. 

    Charges 

    • Under the budget section, cost of attendance section, or a section with a similar name, you’ll see the generic cost of your program. 
    • You should check what the budget section consists of to make sure it’s all correct, but it’s normal to see thigs like “mandatory fees.”
       

    Balancing

    • You should add up all of your credits and all of your charges and then subtract your charges from your credits. If this is a positive number, you’ll be refunded the difference. If this is a negative number, then you’ll need a third-party loan or to pay more out-of-pocket. 

    After You Get Your Package

    • Have somebody else look over your financial aid package with you to make sure it all looks correct and to guide you through the next steps. Parents are usually much more experienced with loans and can be very helpful. 
    •  If something doesn’t look right or you don’t know what it means, call the admissions office and have them walk you through it. 
    • Note whether or not the financial aid package is given on a yearly or semester basis. Sometimes if your loans look like odd decimals, they’re the yearly value divided in half.  

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    Sean Fowler

    Writer

    Aerospace Engineering at UMD, intending to specialize in aeronautics with a focus on aerospace structures and design.

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