Every step of the process for securing financial aid to attend college should be understood if you know you will need some type of funding. Because there are so many different types of financial assistance and various documents that must be completed, it is common for students to feel somewhat overwhelmed. One particular aspect of funding for college that causes confusion is the financial aid award letter so we chose to dedicate this article to the subject to clear up any misconceived notions.
The purpose of the Financial Aid Award Letter is to provide proof of funding in the form of documentation. This letter outlines the exact amount of financial aid you would be provided annually through the college or university. As mentioned, monies come in a variety of ways, as shown below. Within each of these categories are several specific options.
For government assistance in the form of grants, you would have the opportunity to consider Pell Grants, ACG, National SMART Grant, state-sponsored grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, and institutional grants. With grants, any money provided for your college education does not need to be repaid, making this a top choice.
In this case, financial assistance for your college education would be in the form of you working a job, typically one on the school’s campus. In that scenario, you would actually work for the college or university. However, off-campus work studies would also be acceptable, which would mean working for a public agency or not-for-profit organization.
As with grants, scholarship money does not have to be repaid. Most people know about academic and athletic scholarships but in truth, thousands exist, some actually being bizarre. However, the money is free and scholarships are actually in abundance. Scholarships you have told the educational institute about, as well as scholarships the college or university offers to you would be included in your financial aid award letter.
Finally, you could fund your college education by taking out one or more student loans. In this case, any money borrowed would need to be repaid along with interest. Although there are a number of loan options, those considered best include the Federal Stafford Loan (both subsidized and unsubsidized), the Federal Graduate PLUS Loan, Federal Perkins Loan, Federal Parent PLUS Loan, and State, Private, and miscellaneous other loan programs.
For the government and college or university you plan to attend to determine the best source of financial aid to help you with college expenses, a Family Assessment Once you have determined the best source of financial aid, a document known as an FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid would need to be completed. As mentioned, an assessment would then be performed to determine the source of your assistance, as well as the dollar amount. Once this information has been formulated, a Financial Aid Award Letter would be mailed to you, outlining this and other information pertaining to your college funding.
However, prior to funding being finalized, you would be required to inform the college or university in writing as to the amount of the award you want to accept. One very important note is that when looking over the award letter, you would notice a deadline by which you must respond. If you fail to notify the educational institution of this decision by the date specified, the full award amount could be at risk of being voided.
It is also crucial to understand that once you receive the Financial Aid Award Letter and you provide the college or university as to the amount of award you will take, there are some ongoing requirements to keep the award in good standing. For instance, once the FAFSA has been completed and filed, if your family’s financial situation were to change, the school must be advised. In addition, if there were any change for you or your family in areas of income, employment, health, marital status, address, and so on, again the school must be notified.
The bottom line is that the Financial Aid Award Letter is a very important document that is not only proof of receiving financial assistance for college but also a document that outlines specific details of funding and future requirements for the continuance of funding. For this reason, we strongly recommend you take appropriate time to read the letter carefully to understand the content.
The Financial Aid Award Letter should be kept in a convenient location so instructions pertaining to future actions would be readily available. The Financial Aid Award Letter would also tell you if the grant and/or scholarship being awarded would extend beyond one year. As a final reminder, most letters and the information contained would be applicable only for the upcoming school year, unless otherwise stated.