Does the aid change after freshman year?
While college is almost always a multiyear endeavor, offer letters can be tricky because it's not always clear if the aid covers all four years.
"Many award letters will state if an offer is valid for only one year or for all four years, and what targets must be hit in order to keep that aid," says Kevin Campbell, a college funding adviser with College Planning Authority in Fort Worth, Texas. "If the letter does not state that, contact the school for clarification."
It's also wise to read the fine print on scholarships. Typically, that money is contingent on maintaining a minimum grade-point average. "If that minimum GPA is not met, you may lose the scholarship," Campbell says.
Also, Lockwood says remember that only a handful of colleges lock in financial aid for all four years. In most cases, students need to reapply for financial aid each year. That aid should stay the same, assuming the family's financial circumstances haven't changed. But that's not always the case.
"Some colleges have an insidious habit of pulling money away from you each year on the basis that the student will have more resources because he will be able to work over the summer," Lockwood says.