One of the most important steps in the financial aid process is choosing right-fit colleges to apply to. That’s because for most students, the majority of their financial aid will come from the college they attend. Federal financial aid, state aid, and aid from private sources often play apart, but it’s common for these sources to only cover a portion of your full college costs. Today, we’d like to take a closer look at how your financial aid options can vary from one college to the next.
Community colleges tend not to offer much in the way of institutional aid (that is, aid that comes from the college itself), and the aid they do have is usually pretty competitive to qualify for. Since community colleges offer very low tuition to start with, they expect students to be able to cover their costs with federal and state aid options—or out of their own pockets. Thanks to the generally low cost of community college, many students do find that they are able to cover the costs with other sources of aid.
Public universities often have bigger pockets to draw from. It’s also common for public universities to offer automatic admissions scholarships, which are scholarships that students can automatically qualify for when they’re admitted. Nevertheless, public universities often focus their financial aid resources on helping students who have the most financial need. A typical financial aid package from a public university will contain one or two modest-sized scholarships, some slightly larger need-based grants, and then whatever federal, state, or private aid you qualified for. If you’re a student with a lot of need, that could be good news for you. If you don’t have much need, though, you might find that you qualify for very little other than student loans at a public university.
Another thing to keep in mind for all public colleges and universities is that they tend to offer better financial aid options to in-state residents. If you aren’t a resident of the state the college is in, you should be prepared to cover more of the cost without help from the college!
Last of all, let’s talk about financial aid at private colleges and universities. Private colleges and universities don’t receive much funding from the state government, if any, so they tend to offer their financial aid options to all students no matter where they are from. The lack of government funding, though, also usually means that private schools have a higher starting price. The good news is that many private schools are able to offset that higher price with much bigger scholarships. A typical financial aid package from a private college or university will contain some pretty hefty scholarships, and that can be good news for students who have the merit to earn scholarships but not much financial need.
These are, of course, big generalizations. Keep in mind that every college is different and so is every student! We encourage students to know these general rules but research individual colleges’ financial aid options and consider how they fit your situation. Right C3 clients should checkout the college profiles in their accounts and contact their coaches for more information!