Admissions application – check. FAFSA complete – check. Got my financial aid award letter – what is that?
A financial aid award letter is a letter from a college or career-training program that explains the breakdown of costs of attendance as well as any financial aid you receive. In order to receive a financial award letter, most institutions require you submit an admissions application and complete the FAFSA (with the school(s) listed on the FAFSA). The financial aid office will use the information from your Student Aid Report once you complete and submit your FAFSA, and use the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to determine your financial need. The aid can come in the form of scholarships, grants, work-study and loans. The financial award amounts will vary from each school. For more information about your financial award letter, please contact your institution’s financial aid office.
The first section of the financial award letter breaks down the cost of attendance for the full academic year. This would include tuition, fees, books, housing, and other expenses relating to your enrollment. Keep in mind that this is an estimate and some of the costs will be required, and some may be optional. If your school does not list the cost of attendance, be sure to contact their financial aid office.
The financial aid section would include scholarships, grants, work-study and loans. It should always include federal aid (Pell Grant or Stafford Direct Loan), and institution aid (campus-based grants or scholarships). One thing to note is that state aid (such as the Alaska Performance Scholarship or Alaska Education Grant) will sometimes not be included in the award letter due to those funds being contingent on the students’ enrollment status (normally finalized and disbursed after the add/drop deadline). If you qualified for federal work-study, it would be included in this letter, too. If you are doing an exchange program like the Western Undergraduate Exchange, they may include this in the form of a scholarship, and may be included in this section.
The end result of this is determining what your net costs will be. That would be the estimated cost of attendance minus your financial aid award package. This would be the cost remaining after all aid is available. The college may decide to break it down by semester or quarters, so it’s easier for you to budget appropriately. Some students may be able to pay these expenses out of pocket or set up a payment plan where they can make payments over the course of the term (check with your institution’s financial aid offer to see if they offer a payment plan).
If you are still in need of more financial aid, look at state options – in Alaska we have the Alaska Supplemental Education Loan – a low-cost option for a student to use in-state or out-of-state for college or career-training – and the Family Education Loan –a low-cost option for families to help cover education costs for their student.
Whatever you decide on, make sure to compare your financial aid award letters as the costs and levels of aid may change from school to school.
If need assistance with reading your financial aid award letter, please stop by the ACPE Success Center located at the Dimond Center Mall. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call us at 1 (800) 441-2962, option #4.