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You’ve Got Offers: How Do You Choose the Right One?

You've Got Offers: How Do You Choose the Right One?

Receiving offers from multiple colleges is an exciting position for a student-athlete to be in—but now you have a difficult decision to make. Not all financial aid packages are created equally. Depending on the overall cost of the school, the largest scholarship offer might not ultimately be the cheapest, or best, option. It’s time to put your offers head to head and see which makes the most sense for your situation. There’s no “right” answer we can provide, but we can give you a framework for how to compare college cost to help you make a more fully-informed decision.

Examine athletic scholarship offers

Athletic scholarship amounts differ greatly—from division to division, sport to sport and school to school. While most student-athletes strive for a full-ride scholarship, the reality is that only 1 percent actually receive one, and they’re usually only offered to those who play head count sports (DI basketball and DI-A football for men; DI basketball, tennis, volleyball and gymnastics for women).

Insider tip: If your student-athlete has received multiple athletic scholarship offers, the first thing you should figure out is the time frame that’s been given to accept or decline the offer. You can always ask the coach for more time to decide. Learn more about National Signing Day.

The majority of student-athletes who are offered scholarships will be offered a percentage of the total cost. As an example for how to compare college cost, let’s suppose your student-athlete has received multiple offers and has narrowed it down to two. School A is offering a $5,500 scholarship. School B is offering $7,000. While School B might initially seem more attractive, there are other important factors to consider before making your decision. When you compare college cost, try using a college cost calculator, like the one at BigFuture.

Insider tip: Receiving an athletic scholarship offer does not mean you are automatically accepted into the college or university. You still have to go through the admissions process.

Consider the cost of attendance

When you compare college cost, remember that the cost of attendance varies widely from school to school. In addition to tuition and related fees, the cost of a full year of college includes room and board, textbooks and regular living expenses. Private schools typically have higher costs of attendance; for public schools, in-state tuition is much cheaper than out-of-state. Another factor to consider regarding the total cost is the location of the school. It’s much more expensive to live in Chicago than Ames, Iowa, for example. Plus, if you’re moving far from home, you’ll want to consider travel as you compare college cost. When entering in amounts in your college cost calculator, it’s important to consider all the fees you’ll be responsible for. 

Let’s say the total cost of attendance for School A is $25,000/year, and School B is $35,000/year. School B is offering a higher scholarship by $1,500, but the cost of attendance is $10,000 more per year.

Add up other financial aid

Student-athletes are able to combine athletic scholarships with other scholarships and financial aid to lower the overall cost of attendance. Some options include academic scholarships, merit scholarships, need-based scholarships, and private or unique scholarships. Learn more about how to create a better college financial package

Compare the totals

Once you have subtracted your scholarships and other financial aid from the total cost of attendance, you have a more realistic idea of your options as you compare college cost. This is where your college cost calculator can come in handy to make sure you have the most realistic view of your expected family contribution. School B might have initially looked more attractive due to a higher scholarship offer, but after considering cost of attendance and other factors, it might actually be the more cost-effective choice.

Of course, just because one school is less expensive than another doesn’t mean it is the right choice for your student-athlete. If School B is more expensive but also your dream school, it might be worth paying a little bit extra for.

Insider tip: When you compare college cost, there is always an opportunity to negotiate with the coach for a higher scholarship amount. After you negotiate, you will want to compare offers again before making a final decision. This is another great time to whip out your college cost calculator if needed to check the totals.

Lastly, remember that scholarship offers are only good for one year. It’s important to plan for the possibility that the scholarship will not be renewed. On the bright side, there’s also the chance that the amount could increase.