Sample Financial Aid Packages


A Financial aid package represents the best efforts of the college or university financial aid office to meet a student's demonstrated need or to offer other suggestions for available aid. Some colleges are able to meet full demonstrated need, but some cannot.

Below are two sample college budgets and the financial aid packages that colleges might offer to the same freshman student. Usually colleges will try to combine grants and loans and work to meet the student's financial need. College A costs less than College B, so less financial aid is offered. The estimated family contribution is determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, therefore it stays the same for both colleges.

While colleges usually attempt to meet your full financial need, sometimes they do not have enough money to do so and a "gap" occurs between the amount the student is eligible for and the amount of money offered by the school. College B was unable to offer Jane Doe the full amount that she was eligible. Jane's parents could borrow funds through the PLUS loan program for the remainder, or Jane could work and save more money during the summer prior to her enrollment, or Jane could borrow an unsubsidized federal loan.

When you look at your financial aid offers from colleges, look to see how much loan and work was offered in comparison to grants and scholarships. As you can see below, College A offered a greater proportion of loan and work compared to loan than did College B. However, in actual dollars, Jane will have to borrow and work more to attend College B.

As you decide which college to attend, your financial aid award should be considered along with the most important factor of all - at which institution would you be more successful? Choose a college that fits with your overall goals and interests, not just based on which college offers the most financial aid or least loans, etc.


Financial Aid Award for Jane Doe

  College A College B
Tuition/Fees      5,300    21,300
Room and Meals      8,000      8,000
Books        900        900
Transportation        600        600
Personal/Miscellaneous     1,200     1,200
Total Cost $16,000 $32,000
Less Estimated Family Contribution    -3,200    -3,200
Equals Need - Eligibility for Financial Aid $12,800 $28,800
  Financial Aid Offer (Package)
State Grants    4,700    4,700
Federal Grants    2,200    2,200
Other Grant/Scholarship    1,800  14,000
Federal Stafford Loan    2,100    3,500
Federal Work Study    2,000    2,000
Total Financial Aid Package $12,800 $26,400
Percentage Loan and Work 32% 21%
Percentage Grant 68% 79%
Percentage of Need Met 100% 92%
Additional Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan 3,400 2,000