Understanding Financial Aid Offers

Your financial aid offer is the key to determining how much college will cost. Once your FAFSA has been submitted and processed, you may begin to receive financial aid offers from colleges sent through email or via the U.S. Postal Service. It’s important to read each offer carefully, as they describe the types and amounts of financial aid a college or career technology center can provide to help you pay for one year of higher education.

On your financial aid offer you’ll see:

  • The total Cost of Attendance (COA) – An estimate of what it costs to go to that school for one year
  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC) – A number calculated from your FAFSA that’s used by the school to determine how much financial aid you’re eligible to receive
  • Types and amounts of aid the school can offer you. Your offer may consist of:
    • Grants – aid based on financial need that typically doesn’t have to be repaid
    • Scholarships – gift aid awarded to you by colleges, state agencies, foundations, tribal and private organizations
    • Federal work-study – an opportunity for you to work on or off campus to earn money for college expenses
    • Federal student loans – funds awarded based on financial eligibility that must be repaid, with interest
    • Federal PLUS loan – a loan your parent(s) may borrow to help you pay for college; your parent(s) are expected to repay the loan

You’ll subtract the financial aid offered from your Cost of Attendance. This will determine your estimated net cost, which is the out-of-pocket amount you’ll be expected to pay. If you end up with a negative amount, the net cost would be zero.

How can you meet the net cost if you aren’t able to cover it on your own?

  • Scholarships – UCanGo2.org and OKcollegestart.org are great places to begin your scholarship search. Watch our Scholarships 101 PowerPoint to find other scholarship resources.
  • A 529 College Savings Plan – Visit Oklahoma529 for more information.
  • Military or Tribal Benefits – Visit Military.com or call your tribal office to learn more.
  • A Monthly Payment Plan – Call the school’s Financial Aid office to discuss this option.

Keep the following in mind:

  • You don’t have to accept all aid offered, especially loans.
  • Consider making payments on your student loans while in college, which can save you money in the long run.
  • Pay attention to deadlines. Accept or decline your financial aid offer before the specified date.
  • If you receive more than one financial aid offer, determine your net cost at each college. Ultimately, you’ll want to choose the school that’s the best fit for you.

Learn more about comparing financial aid offers at StudentAid.gov and read the helpful article, 7 Options to consider if you didn’t get enough Financial Aid.