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.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.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.
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