By Lighthouse Counselor Brooke Nowak – M.A.
Financial Aid Award Letters:
After a college accepts you, you’ll receive a letter that outlines how much the school will cost and what kind of financial aid package you’ll receive — including federal, state, and school sources.
There’s no standard format for schools’ award letters, but they contain the same overall information. Here are some helpful tips on how to read award letters:
- Understand the cost of attendance (COA)
- Tuition and Fees
- Room and Board
- Living Expenses
- Figure out how much financial aid you’re getting
- Types of Financial Aid
- Work Study
- Types of Financial Aid
- Do some simple math
a. COA – Financial Aid = Remaining Amount to Fund
- Compare your offers
This list of questions can help students and their families to make a more informed decision about college costs and financial aid.
- Do you meet the full demonstrated financial need? Or is there a gap (unmet need)?
- What is your outside scholarship policy? How does the college reduce the need-based financial aid package when a student wins a private scholarship? Does the scholarship first reduce the student debt and student employment burden (and unmet need, if any) or does it replace the college’s grants and scholarships?
- How much have your college’s costs increased in the last three years?
- What percentage of students graduate with debt and what is the average cumulative debt at graduation?
- Are the scholarships renewable? What are the requirements for keeping my grants and scholarships in future years? Do I need to maintain a minimum grade point average? Do I have to enroll full-time or take a particular number of units? Do I need to participate in any certain activities such as community service?
- What are the residency requirements for in-state public college tuition?
- How many hours will I need to work to earn the full work-study award I’ve been offered? How much will I be paid per hour? Are student employment opportunities readily available, or are they hard to get? Are there positions related to my academic major? Am I guaranteed a job? What types of jobs are available? How often will I be paid? How will I be paid? (Am I paid directly, or is my student account credited?)
- How does one appeal for more financial aid if the financial aid award is insufficient or the family’s financial circumstances have changed or will change?
Do you still have questions? Get some help and do some research.