All colleges that you sent your FAFSA information to and apply, will send you a financial aid award package in a letter. This will be your chance to check out how your college expenses will be paid for, and, what expenses will not. Check this letter thoroughly. You don't want to make an expensive mistake that may mean the difference between you affording school and not.
Your student aid letter will list all sources of financial aid. Grants and scholarships is what you are shooting for most. Those do not need to be repaid. Many times, colleges will seemingly fund your whole education bill, but using student loans as the bulk. If you are eligible, work-study will also be on there.
Some grants and scholarships may only be one time awards. Some are given each year. Find out if you may be getting less financial aid next year.
It will look like your whole college is paid for. What many students do not realize, is that somewhere there is probably money coming from your pocket or your parents. Most everybody is expected to kick in some money towards their education. Look close to see how much is expected to come from your family's pocket and savings.
Colleges will list your total cost of attending their college. Again, beware. They may leave out many unforeseen expenses, even the cost of books. They truly do not know how much you will spend on books and lab fees. Some colleges will try and give a round number that comes out on the high side. Some don't. The actual cost of attendance may be higher.
Your financial aid letter will not come close to factoring in other expenses that come from attending college. Like a plane ticket home at Christmas. Or moving expenses. Those late night snacks. Parking fees if you drive, as well as car insurance.
You should look at your financial aid award and compare it to your financial situation. Can you comfortably attend college with the package? Does it look like you will need to come up with more money yourself?
Sit down and calculate all costs for the coming school year that you may incur. Does the financial aid letter look good? Do you have enough in savings? Will you need to get a part time job to pay for some college expenses?
Did you apply to more than one college? If so, compare the financial aid awards from each. Determine which one makes it better for your financial situtation. If you really want to attend the college that made a lower financial aid award, ask for more. Many students do not know that they can talk to the financial aid officer and negotiate a better deal. Use the other college's letter to get them to kick in more. When you negotiate, you can explain any financial hardhips that you have incurred.
Above all, be determined to check your financial aid award very carefully. You want to make the best choice for yourself, and don't be afraid to ask for more.