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Confused about financial aid offer

GlamorousGirlGlamorousGirl Posts: 4 College Search & Selection Champion
I am an off-campus independent student going in as a freshman. My efc is $0. I was just offered an award package but I am confused and not sure how much in loans to accept. My first confusion is there was nothing on there from the state - does that mean I can expect not to get any or does the first offer include only federal grants and loans? Second, I applied to the school for scholarships and have heard nothing back on that and it's not included. Again - is that something tacked on to fill my "gap" later? Should I expect to hear back one way or another on that application?

I was offered the full pell grant plus $3500 subsidized Stafford loan and $6000 unsubsidized. Tuition is $9900. Their total with living expenses, books, personal, transportation they total to $27694. I need to commute and will be spending at least $2000 for transportation. That leaves a $12549 "gap", if I assumed all the other expenses would be as high as they say.

I hope scholarships/state contribution can help with this gap, and that I can spend less than they estimate to help get it down further. But I don't know if the fact these are not included in the package means I was not and will not be approved for these?

A lot of people are out of work and can't rely on getting jobs that fit their education when they get out so I would be very nervous about accepting the full loan - especially the unsubsidized. But even if I took it all, there's still a huge gap to whittle down. No I do not have any "cash on hand".

Is this much of a gap typical? Do initial awards typically include state offers and scholarships? How much college debt is manageable in this economy? How low can I get my book expenses down by getting them a way other than new from their bookstore?

Thank you for your help.
Post edited by GlamorousGirl on

Replies to: Confused about financial aid offer

  • arabrabarabrab Posts: 9
    edited May 2013
    Call the financial aid office and ask if they have a financial aid award for you of any school-sponsored or state-sponsored grants (gift aid). I would expect you to have a gap (most schools do NOT meet full need), but I'm surprised that you seem to have been offered nothing except federal Pell grant and loans. (What is on the offer as it stands is not likely doable for a family with a zero EFC -- do you have some other college options?)

    What state are you in? Is this a public college?
  • momofthreeboysmomofthreeboys Posts: 57
    edited May 2013
    Did you need to apply for the state programs? If so, did you apply on time.
    Have you contact the financial aid office or checked online in your account (assuming you've deposited.)
  • GlamorousGirlGlamorousGirl Posts: 4 College Search & Selection Champion
    edited May 2013
    To answer your questions, I am in Virginia and this is a public institution and I would be paying the in-state domicile tuition rate. I don't have other options because I am not able to move and had only 2 options to apply to, and never heard back from the second school. The only other one I could commute to said they do not accept "older" applicants without 30 transfer credits (!). All of these schools cost about the same.

    When I looked into state aid their website said to apply for federal aid to be considered. Unless I misunderstood, there is no separate application.

    Also, my school asks you to accept or decline the awards online - there is no option to accept only a portion. If I could deal with the "gap" by cutting costs, scholarships, and help, would these loans be too much to accept? And do students typically take a little more than they think they need to "be on the safe side" as far as meeting their expenses, or do they take as little as possible and "wing it"?

    Thanks again for your help. I think I may be able to swing this if I can reasonably take all of the subsidized and at least half of the unsubsidized, but is that too much debt?
  • capcap Posts: 7
    edited May 2013
    You live near several community colleges with automatic transfer programs to four-year schools which might be a better option. Did you look into those?
  • kelsmomkelsmom Super Moderator Posts: 18
    edited May 2013
    First of all, I would bet you can accept partial loan amounts online. Look carefully at the page ... and call the aid office if you aren't sure. Your school probably has a video that explains how to accept your aid - look for it, and watch it if there is one.

    Second, if tuition is $9900, you might think your costs will total $27,694 ... but no school is going to subsidize living costs that total twice the cost of your tuition. Aid is to help you afford school, not to help you live. You will most likely need to cut way back on your non-educational costs.

    Finally, few state schools offer aid to cover everything. You will get even less than you would otherwise have been awarded if you apply late for aid. When did you apply? What is the priority deadline for the school?
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Posts: 216
    edited May 2013
    Wouldn't it be better if you went to a CC first for two years, then transfer to UVA because that school meets need?
  • GlamorousGirlGlamorousGirl Posts: 4 College Search & Selection Champion
    edited May 2013
    The $27,694 is their figure, not mine. That includes tuition. I realize I will need to drastically cut costs to bridge the gap, and that my total cost will need to be vastly lower than their estimate. My transportation will be slightly higher, but I think I can lower everything else except the tuition and "fees".

    I will need to call them about how to accept part, rather than all, of the subsidized loan. There's no video and I read all of the instructions. I still need to figure out how much of the unsubsidized loan I will have to take.

    I was late for priority deadline on the fafsa but it seems I got the maximum federal aid. As for my school's scholarship application I submitted that 2 weeks before the deadline.

    I will have a lot more options for scholarships for sophomore year. Since I am not in high school and haven't actually started college yet I am ruled out from a lot that I will be eligible to apply for next year, plus I know to apply earlier. So I am hoping I will need less loan money in subsequent years. The loan I take this year may not be x4 for my 4 year total.

    Any other advice on whether these loans are too much debt and how to cut the other costs is appreciated, as well as any more info on the scholarships (when do you hear? Is that money for filling the gap? Etc). Is anyone else renting schoolbooks and getting them used?

    I didn't know UVA meets need, didn't investigate it because its too far to commute, but I will keep that in mind if my living situation can or does change.
  • njmissy13njmissy13 Posts: 5 College Search & Selection Champion
    edited May 2013
    It sounds like the 27.7K is for tuition, room, board, books, travel, etc. You need to figure out what your costs are - tuition, books, travel plus your rent and food. How have you been paying for rent and food in the past? How much does that cost you now? Will you still be able to get the money for rent and food the same place you got it up until now? If so - then all you really need to cover as 'extra' is tuition, books and the extra travel to commute to the school.
  • dodgersmomdodgersmom Posts: 47
    edited May 2013
    I will have a lot more options for scholarships for sophomore year. Since I am not in high school and haven't actually started college yet I am ruled out from a lot that I will be eligible to apply for next year, plus I know to apply earlier. So I am hoping I will need less loan money in subsequent years.

    This concerns me. As a rule, the very best merit aid is available for freshmen. Although there might be smaller scholarships available later on, it's generally not something you can count on. Also, you can expect that tuition will go up each of the four years you're in school . . . so even if you're able to get scholarships, you total cost might still increase.

    I hate to say it, but I would suggest that you seriously rethink this. The worst situation you could get yourself into would be to incur substantial debt for your freshman year . . . and then have to drop out because you can't afford your sophomore year.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Posts: 216
    edited May 2013
    You will not likely have more or better scholarship options as a sophomore or any returning year.

    Instead of racking up debt, you should visit your local CC, find out what they can offer and how they can eventually help you transfer to full need UVA.
  • GlamorousGirlGlamorousGirl Posts: 4 College Search & Selection Champion
    edited May 2013
    I guess the most important thing I need to find out is why there is no state aid. Isn't state aid typical for someone with a $0 efc on their fafsa? If its because I was too late applying I can make sure that doesn't happen any other year. Or maybe I may still get it separate from this award package. Is it typical for the state award to be included with the federal? As for scholarships - most I came across require you to either be in high school or already in college and I am neither, and thus ineligible for most of them. At least I will be eligible for more next year, even if as you say they will be harder to get. The most disappointing thing of all is the prospect of having to wait 4 years to marry my fianc
  • 2collegewego2collegewego Posts: 24
    edited May 2013
    GlamorousGirl, I went back and read some of your posts. You are 42yo, low income and have 4 children. Really, you are in a very different situation from most other posters. Do not go by those calculators because they are not taking into account the very adult responsibilities you have. College financial aid will not help you support your children so you need to figure out how to pay for rent, food, insurance on your own. I do not know if you get generous child support but I will assume, since you said you are low-income, that you do not. You may need to look at housing assistance, food stamps or state health insurance, depending on your situation. You probably need to work. As a matter of fact, the most realistic option is probably to work and go to school pt. another option is to take online classes because you could do those after work and around your children's schedule. Anyway, I'm telling you this because I was a single mom who completed my degree. I started at the cc and transferred to the state flagship where I received transfer scholarships. Yes, I took out loans but they were hard to pay back.

    I know someone who applied to George Mason this year-- an applicant with Sats around 700 and some really good extra-curricular activities. This applicant applied early, meeting all deadlines. They didn't come close to meeting need and the student will go elsewhere. Do not count on Mason coming through with a lot of money. Also, one other piece of unsolicited advice: if you haven't taken math in years, review now with Khan Academy online. You will need to pass math to graduate, especially if you plan any sort of business career.
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