Financial Aid

When Will I Get My Financial Aid Award Letter?

Learn when you can expect to receive your financial aid award letter or letters.

Shawna Newman

February 06, 2023

When Will I Get My Financial Aid Award Letter?
Colleges use financial aid award letters to notify students about the types, amounts and sources of financial aid available to them. This collection of financial aid is often referred to as a financial aid package. Now that you’ve completed your FAFSA and have been accepted to one or a few colleges, you’d like to know when you’ll get your financial aid award letter(s). Perhaps one college is a lot more expensive than another and you’re counting on a substantial financial aid package to commit to that school. Or you may just want plenty of time to compare and evaluate your award letters before College Decision Day on May 1.

Students Who Applied Regular Decision

You should receive the financial aid award letter soon, with enough time to review it before the May 1 deadline. (This assumes, of course, that you met the college's deadlines to file its financial aid application forms and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).)
May 1 is known as the national candidate's reply date or the common reply date. It is the deadline for accepting offers of admission at most colleges. Most colleges send out offers of admission in late March or early April. The financial aid award letter should arrive at the same time or a few days later. Students who are wait-listed may have to wait until after the May 1 reply date to hear about offers of admission and financial aid.

Students Who Applied Early Action or Early Decision

Colleges that provide earlier admissions notifications often wait until a set date to mail the financial aid award letters. Even though colleges start putting together financial aid packages in mid-February, they often wait until the March/April timeframe to mail the financial aid award letters to reduce the uncertainty associated with some forms of financial aid. For example, some states might not finalize the state grants until later in the spring. It is also unclear whether Congress will be cutting the maximum Pell Grant this fall.

What Information Is in the Financial Aid Award Letter?

Financial aid award letters are provided by the college(s) you’ve applied to. There’s no standardization of financial aid award letters—they’ll vary from college to college.
Each financial aid award letter you receive includes a list of the different types of aid you qualify for based on the total cost to attend that college (COA) minus your Expected Family Contribution (as determined by the FAFSA you submitted). The amount that remains is the financial gap the university is proposing to close via your financial aid package. Some financial aid options included or suggested on your award letter may include: Federal-Work Study: This is a suggested program you may qualify for that includes working for an approved office (often on campus). Students in this program use the money they earn to pay for educational expenses. Institutional Scholarships or Grants: Your award letter will list out the scholarships and grants you have available. This may include merit scholarships offered by the college or any state grant you qualify for. It will also include the Pell Grant if you qualify. The Pell Grant is FREE money you will not be required to pay back! The maximum federal Pell Grant award for the 2023-2024 year is $7,395. Federal Student Loans: You will be held responsible for paying back these loans. Private Student Loans: This portion of the financial aid award letter often lists private student loan lenders approved by the university’s financial aid office. You are responsible for paying these loans back. Evaluate the financial aid award letters by calculating the out-of-pocket cost for each college. This is the difference between the full cost of attendance and the gift aid (e.g., grants, scholarships, tuition waivers, and housing waivers). Be sure that the cost of attendance figure is complete and that the various allowances for textbooks and travel are reasonable. The out-of-pocket cost is the amount you will have to pay or borrow to send your child to college. It is an accurate measure of your bottom-line cost and a good basis for comparing college costs among different colleges. After you receive the financial aid award letter, check whether you must return a signed copy to the financial aid office. Some colleges require you to sign and return the letter within a week or two to accept the financial aid offer.

What to Do If You Haven’t Received your financial Aid Award Letter?

If more than two weeks have passed since you filed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and you have not yet received the Student Aid Report (SAR), check the status of your FAFSA at Applicants who submitted the FAFSA online should receive email about how to access the SAR in 3-5 days. If you did not include an email address on your FAFSA or filed a paper FAFSA, you should receive your SAR by mail in 7-10 days. After you receive the SAR, your FAFSA may be selected for verification. It is important to return the verification paperwork as soon as possible, or you risk delaying your financial aid award letter. Many colleges deliver financial aid award letters via a secure online portal, instead of sending them by mail. Login to the portal to check whether there are any messages waiting for you. Login instructions may have been included with your admissions packet. If you are worried, or if you have not received the financial aid award letter by mid-April, visit the college’s website to find their financial aid timelines—most universities include this date on their admissions page. If you still can’t find this information, call the college's financial aid office to ask when you should expect to receive the financial aid award letter. You must reapply for financial aid every year. In subsequent years the financial aid award letter may come later because there is less pressure to decide by the admissions deadline.

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Shawna Newman

Managing Editor, Contributing Writer

Shawna Newman is the Managing Editor and a writer at Fastweb. She has over 10 years of experience in higher education. Her direct work with college admissions teams, financial aid officers, college deans, ...

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