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Financial Aid Award Letters

The financial aid award letter tells you how much financial support the school will give you for the coming year.

You’ll receive a financial aid award letter from each school you’ve been accepted to and requested financial aid from.

The most common sources of aid you’ll find on the financial aid award letter are:

  • Grants
    Money that does not have to be paid back, including the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), institutional grants, and state-sponsored grants. Grants are usually based on financial need.
  • Work-study
    Money earned by working, either on campus for the school, or off campus for a private non-profit organization or public agency.
  • Scholarships
    Money that does not have to be paid back, including any scholarships you informed the school about, as well as those the school is offering.
  • Student loans
    Money that must be paid back, such as Federal Direct Loans, state loans, and private student loans.

Build your overall plan with the College Planning CalculatorSM, a free tool that helps calculate the expected cost of college and how you will successfully pay for it with savings, income, scholarships, grants, and loans.

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How financial aid awards are determined

After you submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the U.S. Department of Education sends you a Student Aid Report (SAR). Your SAR summarizes the data from your FAFSA and indicates your official Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

The school subtracts the EFC from the cost of attendance which is typically tuition, books, supplies, transportation, room, and board to determine your financial need and the amount of your award.

Factors schools consider when awarding financial aid

  • Cost of attendance
  • Family income
  • Family size
  • Number of family members in college or graduate school
  • Family background
  • Scholarships or grants not received through the school
  • Major or field of interest
  • Athletic abilities

Keep in mind that it's possible that the most expensive school on your list might not cost you the most. It all depends upon the total financial aid package awarded by each school. Use the Award Letter Analyzer to help you make a fair “apples-to-apples” comparison among the financial aid award letters you receive.

Next steps

Make sure your Student Aid Report (SAR) is accurate, as your overall financial aid package is based upon this information.

The Award Letter Analyzer can help you make a fair “apples-to-apples” comparison among the financial aid award letters you receive from the schools you’ve been accepted to.

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