Seniors, after you’ve submitted the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the information is sent directly to the Federal Processing Center. They will take 1-3 days to check over your information, crunch the numbers, and verify your identity before passing your information onto the college(s) that you listed on the FAFSA. At that time, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) that contains your Expected Family Contribution and all of the information you entered onto the FAFSA. This SAR is just for your records, unless it is needed for outside scholarships.
So when and how will I find out how much money I’m being offered?
College financial aid offices will use your FAFSA results to determine your eligibility for federal, state and institutional aid. Once the financial aid office packages your financial aid, they will send you an award letter via postal mail, email or your college-based student portal. The award letter provides you with information about your cost of attendance and the financial aid available to help you pay for those expenses. It’s important that you check your e-mail and student portal regularly or open and read any postal mail that comes to you from the college.
What will the award letter tell me?
First, you should become familiar with the financial aid terminology. Following is a listing of the types of aid that could show up on your award letter and a description of what they mean:
Scholarships and Grants are typically free money. They are referred to as “gift aid”. Scholarships are awarded for various reasons and may be renewable if you maintain certain criteria, such as grade point average. Any outside scholarships (not offered directly from the college) need to be reported to the college’s financial aid department. Grants are awarded based on the family’s financial need and are determined as a result of the FAFSA.
Work-Study is the opportunity to be employed by the college so you may earn money while you’re a student. You will be paid as you perform the job, so the money offered from work study will not be available up front like other types of financial aid.
Loans are borrowed money used to pay for college expenses and will have to be repaid. Loans are often referred to as “self-help.” There are different types of loans available, some may be interest-free while you are at least a part-time student, and others will begin accruing interest as soon as the funds are disbursed to your account.
Cost of Attendance typically includes tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board (your meal plan) and transportation and personal costs (estimated amount a student will spend on personal items, eating out, fuel, etc.).
Do I need to take any action once I receive my award letter(s)?
Yes! After you receive your award letter(s), you’ll want to compare packages (if you are entertaining offers from more than one college) and decide on a particular institution. You should contact the college that you do not plan to attend and let them know so they can offer your unused funds to other students. For the college you plan to attend, you have the option to accept, reject or decrease the awards being offered to fit your needs. You will then need to sign and submit a copy of your award letter to the college’s financial aid department.
What if my financial aid package does not cover all of my costs?
The college might not offer enough funds to cover all of the costs of attending college. This is referred to as “unmet need” or “gap.” If there are still costs to be covered after all of the student aid is exhausted, then parents may be offered a PLUS loan. Other options are to set up a payment plan with the college, take out an alternative loan, or perhaps select a college that is more affordable for you.
If you have any questions regarding the award letter or financial aid process, do not hesitate to contact the financial aid office at the college. They are there to help!