Understanding Your Financial Aid Award Letter

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This is part of the ninth chapter in Diane Melville’s “All About Financial Aid” series. See the bottom of this post for more links on today’s topic, financial aid award letters.

A financial aid award letter is a document that your school will send you after you’ve completed your required financial aid applications. It outlines all of the financial aid being offered to you by both the federal government and your school.

Keep in mind that this is an offer of financial aid and you don’t have to accept everything they offer you. For example, if your financial aid includes a small loan and you don’t want or need that loan, you can say “no thanks” to that loan without affecting your other aid.


Different Types Of Financial Aid

Your award letter may feature a few different kinds of aid:

  • Grants
  • Scholarships
  • Loans
  • Work-study

Grants and scholarships are free money you don’t need to repay, whereas loans are money you borrow that you have to pay back. Work-study is kind of between the two, as you have to apply for a job and work for wages, but there’s no borrowing involved.

Reading Your Letter

Once you identify the loans from the free money from work-study, you’ll want to bucket these into their own categories and add up the totals. This way, you’ll know exactly how much debt the school is asking you to take on each year.

One last point: Your financial aid award letter is negotiable to some degree. It’s like buying a car; you wouldn’t just accept the sticker price on the car, would you? No, you’d try to haggle a bit and see if you can get a deal. Well, if you’d do that when buying a car, you should definitely do it when negotiating your financial aid package.

The school isn’t just going to rescind your admission offer, so you’ve got nothing to lose and possible financial aid dollars to gain. Just be prepared to provide a reason why you need additional money and be able to back it up.

For more information about your financial aid award letter, check out these otherhelpful items from SALT™:

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  1. Elizabeth Ansah April 24, 2014 / 5:04 pm

    Hey thanks so much you have been very helpful. Im from Ghana and I got accepted into Mount Holyoke College. I want to know please…Is it too late to apply for scholarships? …And can u please give me examples of great scholarships for an international student? Most scholarships are for Americans!

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