One-on-one financial aid award letter review

ASPIRE Tips: Understanding Financial Aid Award Letters

Ask Your ASPIRE Mentor For a One-On-One Review


After submitting your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you will receive a financial award letter from each college or university to which you applied. These letters are aimed to detail each financial aid package from the individual schools.


What is a financial aid award letter? Financial award letters outline each financial aid package available from individual schools. It is a collection of financial aid from multiple resources and is meant to help fill and estimate the gap between your expected family contribution (EFC) and the cost of attendance.


What do you do with your award letters? The best answer is to bring your award letters to your ASPIRE mentor for a one-on-one review. Award letters are intended to help you narrow down your school search by assessing the best financial options, but, since there is no standard format for financial aid award letters, they can be confusing.


When reviewing your financial aid award letters, here are a few things to keep in mind:


  • Cost of attendance. Some schools may define the cost of attendance differently than others. They many include just tuition and fees, but fail to include room and board, or they may include room and board but fail to include tuition and fees. Others may include room and board, tuition and fees, but do not include other costs such as personal expenses and books and supplies.
  • Deciphering acronyms. Financial aid award letters may use their own acronyms to help identify items in your financial aid award package, without explaining which are grants, loans, or work-study. It is important to identify which components are included in your financial aid award letter to determine the terms of each.
  • Final Decision. You can pick and choose which awards you would like to receive. If you are able to cover your cost of attendance with scholarships and grants, then you might decide not to take out a student loan, even if you have been awarded one.


For more information about evaluating your financial aid award letters, talk to your ASPIRE mentor and review these tips on understanding each letter: