Financial Aid Awards Decoded

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It’s that time of year! Roberto Clemente Seniors are getting ready for final college decisions and weighing their options. They have been exploring the ins and outs of financial aid award letters with our ISAC (Illinois Student Assistance Commission) representative, Vanessa Del Real. ISAC is an organization through the State of Illinois that connects students with financial aid assistance, scholarship help, and post-secondary advising. Vanessa and her colleague, Jocelyn De La Torre, are assigned to Clemente and work with our upperclassman throughout the year. Vanessa introduced the students to the financial aid award letters and how they can decipher their awards. The goal is for students to be able to make an educated choice for college that matches their financial goals. Some students were surprised to hear that although they earned thousands of dollars in scholarships, these awards did not stack up against other offers. Students were able to compare their award letters and see different examples of financial aid letters as well.

All colleges have their own way of structuring the award letter, so each one is unique. Students learned about several important components that make up each award letter, the Cost of Attendance, Financial Aid, and Projected out of Pocket Costs. First, most letters will include a section called “Cost of Attendance” or “Projected Expenses.” This section provides costs for tuition and fees, as well as estimates for books, room and board, travel, recreation, and medical insurance. Although some of these costs are not directly billed to the students, they provide an accurate estimation for students to plan around. It is important to make sure that all costs apply to the student. For example, students who live at home will not need to pay for room and board. Without these extra costs, a more accurate picture of the college cost emerges. Second, all award letters will include a financial aid portion. This section will include all the need-based scholarships, grants, loans, and work study for which the student qualifies. It will also include any merit based scholarships that the student earned based on their grades, test scores, or activities. Students can make the decision to accept or reject their loan offers.  Lastly, there will be an “Unmet need” or “Projected Expenses” area. In this portion, the students will see the gap between their financial aid and the cost of attendance. For some lucky students, this number is close to zero. For others, the cost may lead them to make other college choices. It is best for students to compare these costs and make the decision that is best of them and their family.

At this point, all Roberto Clemente Seniors have been accepted to at least one college. On May 1st, we will celebrate their college choices. Mr. Pryor and Ms. Mueller will be working closely with our ISAC reps and our seniors to make sure they make the best decisions for their futures.