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10 Tips About Financial Aid Award Letters

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For many students, the financial aid award letter is critical when deciding what school to attend.

As long as your financial aid application to the university is complete, you should receive a financial aid award letter once you have been accepted. Here’s what you need to know about your letter:

  1. Award letters are sometimes referred to as financial aid “packages.”

  2. Your award letter should list your Cost of Attendance (COA), Expected Family Contribution (EFC) or Student Contribution (SC), and Financial Need.

  3. The letter will include various types of financial aid for which you are eligible.

  4. You do not have to accept every type of aid offered in the award letter.

  5. Most of the loans, such as Stafford and Grad PLUS, will require you to complete a Master Promissory Note (MPN) once you select your lender.

  6. You will receive an award letter from each school to which you have applied.

  7. Some of the information on your award letters will be similar, but some will be different, so be sure to follow instructions as to how to apply for each kind of aid listed.

  8. Some schools may “package” you up to your total COA, meaning that, in addition to any need-based aid you are eligible for (such as the Subsidized Stafford), they may list unsubsidized loans such as the Unsubsidized Stafford and Grad PLUS on your award letter in amounts up to your total COA.

  9. Some schools may only list “need-based” aid, perhaps with a reminder that you may apply for additional loans.

  10. Remember that how much you borrow is your choice. Just because your school “packages” you up to COA (if they do), it does not mean you have to borrow that amount. 

The following is what a financial aid “package” might look like in an award letter:

Cost of Attendance (COA): US$50,000
Expected Family Contribution (EFC ) or Student Contribution (SC): US$10,000
Financial Need: US$40,000

Sample Financial Aid Award:
Merit Scholarship: US$2,000
Subsidized Stafford Loan: US$8,500
Unsubsidized Stafford Loan: US$12,500
Grad PLUS (or private): US$27,000

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