Category Archives: Award Letters

Free Money First!

It’s award letter season! An award letter is an electronic or paper notification sent by a college, university or career tech after you’ve completed a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and applied for financial assistance. These award letters indicate the amount of financial aid you may receive for your education for the 2019-2020 academic year. After reviewing your letter(s), you might find that the amount of aid awarded to you in the form of federal and/or state grants, known as free money, won’t cover the total cost of college. Before opting for federal student loans to help with expenses, start (or keep) researching available scholarships. A scholarship is another form of free money for college that doesn’t have to be paid back. Scholarships are often competitive, but by putting in the work, you may be able to shrink your remaining school balance and limit – or eliminate – the need for a student loan!

There are many ways to search for scholarships. First, check the school you’ll be attending. Many campuses have foundation offices that provide scholarships to eligible students. Look for these scholarships each year you plan to attend. Your college’s financial aid office can also help you identify different types of scholarships.

Other sources of scholarships include private businesses, employers, churches and community organizations (YMCA/YWCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Rotary and Elks clubs, etc.). These scholarships are often posted online and typically require an application specific to each award. Save time by accessing the free and trusted databases at OKcollegestart.org and UCanGo2.org. Both sites compile thousands of scholarships available to students in Oklahoma and nationwide.

Only after you’ve exhausted all options for free money should you consider student loans. Remember, student loans must be repaid with interest, even if you don’t complete a degree, while free money from grants and scholarships does not have to be repaid.

For more information about scholarships, see our “Scholarship Success Guide.”

For more information about student loans, review “Borrow Smart from the Start.”

 

Understanding Your Financial Aid Award Letter

Submitting your FAFSA to find out your eligibility for federal and state aid is definitely a huge step in the financial aid process, but it’s only the first step. After your FAFSA has been processed and you’ve visited with the financial aid office at your school(s) of interest, watch for an Award Letter from one or more of those institutions. The letter may be sent electronically or via the US Postal service. It’s important that you read each Award Letter carefully, for it describes the types and amounts of financial aid the college or career tech can offer to help you pay for one year of higher education.

On your award letter you will see:

  • The total Cost of Attendance (COA) – what it costs to go to that school for one year
  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC) – a number used by the school to determine how much financial aid you’re eligible to receive (most likely not the amount you’ll be expected to pay)
  • Types and amounts of aid the school can offer you; this list is often called a financial aid ‘package’.
    • Grants – gift aid that comes from federal, state and tribal governments, usually based on financial need
    • Scholarships – can be based on need, merit or your interests; awarded by colleges, state agencies, companies, foundations, tribal and private organizations
    • Federal work-study – there may be an opportunity for you to work on or off campus to earn some of your financial aid
    • Federal student loans – money that you borrow to help you pay for college; loans must be repaid, with interest
    • Federal PLUS loan – an undergraduate loan your parent(s) may qualify to borrow to help you pay for college, subject to credit history requirements; your parent(s) are expected to repay the loan

Now, do a simple calculation. Subtract all of the financial aid shown on your Award Letter from your Cost of Attendance. This will determine your estimated Net Cost. The Net Cost is the out-of-pocket amount you’ll be expected to pay. You may hear this referred to as unmet need, or ‘the gap’. It’s possible that your Net Cost could be zero if your financial aid package covers your whole Cost of Attendance (a negative amount would count as a zero).

What options are available to help you pay the Net Cost?

Remember:

  • You don’t have to accept all of the aid offered to you, especially when it comes to borrowing student loans. A monthly payment during college may be less expensive than a loan payment with added interest after you’ve completed your education.
  • Each award letter will give you a deadline to accept or decline some or all of the aid by a specified date. Always keep track of deadlines.
  • If you receive more than one Award Letter, be sure to determine what your Net Cost would be at each school. The schools will most likely have different packages to offer.

About the SAR

After you complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), be on the lookout for your Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR is an electronic or paper document that summarizes the data you put on your FAFSA. It also provides some basic information about your eligibility for federal student financial aid. If you completed, signed and submitted your FAFSA electronically, this document will be sent to your email address within 3-5 days. If you did not include an email address, a paper version of the SAR will be mailed to your postal address in approximately 2-3 weeks. You can also access your SAR by logging in to your account at FAFSA.gov.

The SAR contains important information, like your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and your Data Release Number (DRN). The EFC is a measure of your family’s financial strength and is calculated according to a formula established by law. It’s based on the information provided on the FAFSA, but the EFC is NOT the amount of money your family will have to pay for college. It’s a number used by your school to calculate the amount of federal student aid you are eligible to receive.

Your DRN is located below your EFC on the SAR and is needed if you want your college or career school to change certain types of information on your FAFSA. Speak with someone at your college Financial Aid office if there has been a significant change in income for you or your parents or you have a special circumstance you need to discuss with the aid administrator.

Your SAR might indicate that you’ve been selected for verification. This is a process schools use to confirm the information on your FAFSA is correct. Your college financial aid office will notify you if additional paperwork is needed to fulfill this requirement.

Review the remainder of your SAR for any errors. If you find anything that should be corrected, log back in to FAFSA.gov, access your FAFSA, and make the necessary changes. Then enter the appropriate FSA IDs and submit your FAFSA again.

Understanding Your Award Letter

After you’ve been accepted to a college, university or career technology center, and you’ve completed your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), you will receive a financial aid award letter from the school. This letter is very important, so be sure you’re watching for it to arrive! The award letter will notify you of the types of federal and state financial aid you can receive to pay for college.

Most financial aid award letters are sent to you electronically, but a few schools may provide paper documents. Be sure you know the system your school uses so you don’t miss out on any deadlines. Award letters will list the amount of financial aid you can receive, but you will likely be required to accept or decline this money by a specific date. If you miss the deadline, you may be missing out on money for college!

Keep in mind you don’t have to accept everything listed on the award letter. Research the aid programs you’re offered and make an educated decision. Remember, grants and scholarships are typically considered free money, work-study offers you the chance to work for your funds and student loans must be paid back in full with interest. If you have accumulated several grants and scholarships and don’t need loan money, then don’t accept it! Loan funds that are declined will most likely still be available if you learn you need additional money later in the school year.

If you’ve been accepted to more than one school, you’ll receive award letters from each institution. Be sure to compare the offers, keeping in mind the costs associated with each school as you make your decision.

If you have questions about the aid you’re awarded, please contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend. To learn more about financial aid programs, visit UCanGo2.org or StudentAid.ed.gov.

I Submitted the FAFSA. Now What?

The 2018-2019 FAFSA opened on October 1, and students are encouraged to complete the application as soon as possible. After submitting the FAFSA online, you may be wondering what your next steps are. Here’s what to expect.

Upon submitting the FAFSA, you will see a confirmation page on the screen. You will also receive a confirmation email, sent to the address listed on your FAFSA. This lets you know your FAFSA was submitted and is being processed.

After a few days, you’ll receive your Student Aid Report, or SAR, by email as well. The SAR is a summary of the information you listed on your FAFSA. Be sure to review your SAR and correct any errors.

When your FAFSA is processed, it is sent to the schools you listed on the application. Watch for communication from the financial aid offices at those schools. They will let you know if any additional documentation is needed. Financial aid offices at those schools will also send you an award letter after you’ve been accepted. Award letters explain what financial aid is available to you. Read this letter carefully as there may be additional steps you need to take to accept or decline certain types of aid.

Watch this short video from Federal Student Aid to learn more!

Understanding Your Award Letter

Once you’ve been accepted to a college, university or career technology center, and you’ve completed your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), you will receive a financial aid award letter. This letter is very important. It will notify you of the types of federal and state assistance you can receive to pay for college.

Most financial aid award letters are sent to you electronically, but a few schools may provide paper documents. Be sure you know the system your school uses so you don’t miss out on any deadlines. Award letters will state the amount of financial aid you can receive, but you will be required to accept or decline this money and notify your school by a specific date. If you miss the deadline, you may be missing out on money for college!

You don’t have to accept everything listed to you in the award letter. Research the aid programs that you’re being offered and make an educated decision. Remember: grants and scholarships are typically considered free money, work-study offers you the chance to work for your funds and student loans must be paid back in full with interest. If you have accumulated several scholarships and don’t need loan money, then don’t accept it! Loan funds that are declined will most likely still be available if you learn you need additional money later in the school year.

If you have questions about the aid you’re awarded, please contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend. To learn more about financial aid programs, visit UCanGo2.org or StudentAid.ed.gov.