Analyzing and Accepting Your Award Letter

Once you have submitted your FAFSA and been accepted for admission, the financial aid office typically has everything they need to present you with an award letter. There may be some other institutional forms that need to be completed, but the FAFSA and your admission to the school are the two primary things that must happen before you are awarded.

Most schools still send a paper award letter to students that display the amount and type of aid available to the student. However, in the past few years, electronic award letters that are delivered to an email address have become very popular. Check with your school to confirm the delivery method.

When looking at your aid package, it’s best to look at the big picture and not just the bottom line.

Comparing Financial Aid Packages

If you’re comparing packages at multiple schools, a bigger award at one school may not necessarily be the best deal. You have to look at each school’s total cost of attendance to make a fair comparison. Complete a Cost of Attendance Worksheet for each school you’re comparing.

It’s also important to look at the composition of each package. Look at how much is gift aid (free money) versus self-help aid (money you have to work for or pay back). All grants and scholarships are a great deal. They don’t have to be paid back. However, many grants and scholarships require the student to have a minimum GPA and/or hours completed from year to year in order to keep them. Also, keep in mind that any loans or work-study awards that may appear are only “offers” of assistance. You don’t have to accept these if you don’t need/want them.

Once you’ve decided on what you want to pursue, your next step is to note any deadlines that appear on your award letter and any further instructions. Some types of aid have limited funding, and a quick response is needed from the student to insure their interest. Also, some grants and loans require additional forms to be completed online or in paper. Your award letter should explain these additional requirements.

Lastly, if you’re at all confused or have any concerns, simply pick up the phone and call your school’s aid office. If you’re not happy with your award letter, never take it personally. There are all kinds of limitations/rules/guidelines with which aid officers must comply. Also, don’t feel embarrassed by discussing any unique circumstances that might help the staff in the office better understand your financial situation. They’ve heard it all! Simply be honest and respectful and never confrontational. They are there to help you.

Cost of Attendance Worksheet:
Tuition: ________________________
Additional Fees: ________________________
Books and Supplies: ________________________
Room and Board: ________________________
Transportation: ________________________
Other/Miscellaneous: ________________________
Cost of Attendance: ________________________

EFC: ________________________
Financial Need: ________________________

Scholarships: ________________________

Work-Study: ________________________

Perkins Loan: ________________________

Subsidized Stafford Loan: __________________

Unsubsidized Stafford Loan: __________________

PLUS Loan: ________________________

Private Loans: ________________________

Other Aid: ________________________
Unmet Financial Need: __________________