Points for this activity were reversed because you removed the college from your Data Locker.
Points for this activity were reversed because you removed the scholarship from your Data Locker.
Points for this activity were reversed because you removed data to start your Admissions Profile.
Points for this activity were reversed because you removed data to start your College List.
Points for this activity were reversed because you removed SAT or ACT scores from your Admissions Profile.
Points for this activity were reversed because you removed application details from your Admissions Profile.
Points for this activity were reversed because you removed activities and awards from your Admissions Profile.
Points for this activity were reversed because you removed your weighted GPA from your Admissions Profile.
Points for this activity were reversed because you removed data to complete your Admissions Profile.
CollegeData - What's in a Financial Aid Award?

What's in a Financial Aid Award?

Here's how to decipher your aid offer and see just how much it actually reduces your college cost.

When a college offers you financial aid, it's important to understand exactly what it is offering you—especially before you sign on the proverbial dotted line.

When You Get Your Aid Award

Once a college admits you—and crunches the numbers you provided on your financial aid applications—it will offer you a "financial aid package" (sometimes called an award). In this package are different types of aid intended to meet all or part of your financial need for one academic year. The size and makeup of a financial aid package is, for many students, a major factor in determining which college to choose.

What Should Be In the Award Letter

Your award letter will list the types and amounts of aid being offered. Aid may be a grant, a scholarship, a loan, work-study—or a combination of these aid types.

The award letter should also include:

Read the Award Letter Carefully

The content of award letters can vary dramatically from college to college. It may not contain all the information listed above. Award letters may use terminology and acronyms that you do not recognize. Before accepting any aid, be sure to ask the financial aid office for missing information and clarification of anything you don't understand.

Identify Aid That Reduces College Costs

Although your aid package may seem to cover most or all of your financial need, not all aid actually reduces your college cost.

Don't rely on the college to identify gift aid and self-help aid. Do the analysis yourself. In particular, some awards are not easily recognizable as loans. When in doubt, call the financial aid office.

Figure Your "Net Price" to Attend

Your actual cost to attend a college (your "net price") is simply the COA minus your gift aid. The resulting number is the dollar amount you will have to cover from other sources. If an award letter provides a "net price" figure, look at it closely. It may treat loans and work-study as aid that reduces your net price, when in fact these types of aid add to your net price.

Compare Aid Packages

Comparing aid packages from different colleges can be tricky because there is no standard approach to award letters.

Before You Accept Your Aid Offer

Accepting and Declining Aid

You don't have to accept all of the aid listed in your award letter. Accept or decline each aid offer as soon as you are comfortable and certainly before the acceptance deadline.

Taking Care of Your EFC and Unmet Need

If your total award does not meet your full financial need, or you need help covering your EFC, you have options. You may be able to take out a private education loan. Your parents may qualify for a PLUS loan. You can ask the college about staggered payment plans. You can also review your situation with the financial aid office. If your financial circumstances have changed since you filed your FAFSA, the office may be able to adjust your package.

What's Next?

Note: Financial information provided on this site is of a general nature and may not apply to your situation. Contact a financial or tax advisor before acting on such information.