Financial Aid Award Letters (or E-mails) will arrive soon; watch your mailbox and E-mail. These Letters will outline the types and amounts of financial aid offered to you by each college and include money in the form of scholarships, grants, loans, and work study jobs.
Be ready to compare awards and evaluate which colleges are the most affordable. Consider how much financial aid from each college is awarded as scholarships and grants (free money) and how much is awarded as loans (loans mean you accept the responsibility of repaying the money).
An example award letter is provided.
Analyze Your Financial Aid Award Letter
See which colleges are the most affordable. When you receive all award letters, review them and compare the offers from each college and university. Calculate how much each school will cost your family.
- GIFT AID includes scholarships and grants (money you don’t repay).
- SELF-HELP AID includes loans (money you repay) and wages from a job (Federal Work Study wages you don’t repay).
Make sure the financial aid shown on your award letters is renewable.
Renewable means the awards will be available to you for all four years of college if you maintain the required minimum grade point average and, for need-based scholarships and grants, your parents’ income does not substantially increase. Non-renewable scholarships and grants mean you only receive the money your freshman year. Call each college’s financial aid office if you have questions.
Grade Point Average Requirements.
Know the minimum grade point average (GPA) required to keep your scholarships and grants in sophomore, junior, and senior years in college. Do you need a 3.0 GPA or only a 2.0 GPA to renew them next year? It may be challenging to keep scholarships and grants that require a 3.0 GPA or higher. Maintaining a GPA of 2.0 is often referred to as achieving “satisfactory academic progress”.
Ask the effect additional outside scholarships will have on the financial aid awards outlined on your financial aid award letter. Many colleges reduce their financial aid when students receive private scholarships or gifts from family members.
You can accept or decline any of the awards offered.
For example, you may decline a PLUS loan because payment on the money borrowed begins 60 days after the loan is made. Instead, a private education/alternative education loan may be preferred because payments don’t begin until six months after you graduate. Awards should be accepted as soon as you’re comfortable with the offers; accepting financial aid awards does not commit you to attend that school.
Use the Cost/Financial Aid Comparison Spreadsheet to analyze which colleges and universities are most affordable.
- Enter and compare financial aid awards from each college.
- Determine if your financial aid awards plus your savings are enough to pay for the cost of attending each college.
- Determine if you need to borrow money for college expenses and if so, how much money is needed.