step4: Analyze the Award Letter

what your college will award you in college aid

Colleges will use the SAR to determine your eligible financial aid awards. Based on the total cost of college attendance, the letter will list the aid programs awarded (includes college aid, scholarship, student loans, and other related aid).

The total cost of college attendance (minus) the total amount of aid award is the estimated family contribution (EFC). Compare your award letters among colleges to determine best overall aid package.

Below are two (2) quick summary tasks on Aid Step4:

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financial aid summary note

What is the Financial Award Letter

The Financial Award Letter is processed by the college or university that you will be attending.

The school's financial aid office will process the SAR and determine the total financial aid you can receive through federal, state, and college-based programs.

The school will then send you the Financial Award Letter (Package) usually upon acceptance of your college admission — usually around April to May.

The Financial Award Letter (Package) will list the type of financial aid that may include:

  • grants and scholarships:
    includes private and government grants and all scholarships
  • student loans:
    Perkins, subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans, PLUS loans, state loan programs, other
  • work-study programs:
    different work programs through the school or in the community.

financial aid summary note

Accept or Reject

Some award letters do not cover the full cost of attendance:

  • The sample award letter has an award package that matches the financial need for the academic years. Some colleges may offer award amounts that are less than the total financial need.
  • You will have to determine what additional money you can find on your own in order to attend your college of choice.

You should review the financial award letter

  • Understand its terms including loan interest rates, required work hours, aid renewal and other requirements.
  • Look at each award item to understand exactly what requirements are necessary to earn that award.

The school will require you to either Accept (A) or reject (R) the financial aid package.

  • Have all of your questions asked before accepting the financial aid package — if you feel the package is inadequate, contact your school's financial aid office.