Award letters are sometimes referred to as “financial aid packages”. In this package are different types of financial aid intended to meet all or part of your financial need for one academic year.
Typically, your award letter should detail your Cost of Attendance (COA), Expected Family Contribution (EFC), and Financial Need, along with the various types of financial aid for which you are eligible - college scholarships and grants, work study and loans.
Each school’s award letter is phrased differently, but you should expect to see what type of aid and how much of it you will be getting if you decide to accept the admission. Regardless, you should see the following information referenced on each letter:
- Total Cost of Attendance (COA)
- Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
- Financial Need
- Listing of all the types of financial aid for which you are eligible
Use Kiplinger’s interactive college-aid letter to learn how to distinguish the various types of aid offered to you.
- Instructions as to how to apply for each kind of aid listed
- The deadline for accepting the aid offered
It’s important to remember that how much you borrow is your choice. You can decline to accept any or all of the aid that is offered by your school.
Comparing “Financial Aid Packages”
If you’ve applied to more than one college, you must do a quick comparison of your award letters to determine which school is the best fit for you financially.
The most important thing before choosing a school‘s aid package is to to add all of the grants and scholarships listed on the award letter together. These funds comprise the “gift” aid you are receiving — money you don’t have to repay.
Subtract the total amount of “gift” aid from the total cost of attendance: This will help you uncover your true out-of-pocket expenses.2
The American Student Assistance® (ASA) provides a simple worksheet to help you (if necessary) compare financial aid awards.
If you have questions about your student financial aid award. it’s best that you contact the financial aid office at the school(s) that sent you an award letter.