What's in a financial aid award letter?

After a college accepts you, you'll receive a letter outlining how much the school will cost and what kind of financial aid package you'll receive for one year. All financial aid award letters don’t look the same, but they contain the same general information.

  • Grants
  • Scholarships
  • Work-study
  • Federal student loans
  • Cost of attendance (COA), an estimate of what you can expect to pay for tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and personal expenses for one year.
  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC), an index number that colleges use to determine financial aid eligibility.
  • The remaining amount, or funding gap, that you’ll have to make up through other sources.

Figure out how much you'll pay for each college

To figure out your funding gap for each school, take the school's cost of attendance (COA) and subtract both your EFC and the financial aid package. You'll have to pay the remainder from other sources, such as a private student loan.

Note that for some families, your funding gap might include part or all of your EFC.

How to read your financial aid award letters


Award letter tips

  • You may have to accept or decline your award with the school, either online or by returning a signed form.
  • You don't have to accept all the terms in your financial award letter. You can choose to decline loans, work-study, etc.
  • Your award letter covers one year only; you'll need to fill out the FAFSA and apply for financial aid every year you're in school.
  • When you're comparing schools' offers, be sure to consider other factors, like location, quality of academic programs, and graduation rate.

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 This information was gathered on 9/14/16 from https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/next-steps/accept-aid.