Understanding Your Financial Aid Offer

cost of attendance = price before financial aid EFC = expected family contribution grant or scholarship = free money loan = money you pay back work-study = money you earn

After you are accepted for admission, each college listed on your FAFSA will send an electronic or paper letter describing the financial aid being offered, including state, federal and institutional aid.

Thoroughly compare all letters. Make sure you understand how much assistance is from grants or scholarships (which do not have to be repaid), from work-study (which you must earn), and from loans (which must be repaid). Also make sure you understand the total amount you or your family will be expected to pay.

Terms will vary—some awards renew automatically from year to year, some renew under certain conditions (such as maintaining a required grade point average), and others are one-time awards.

Look for important dates and deadlines. All financial aid offers will have a deadline for you to accept or decline the offer. Also, the school might require additional or updated information (such as a high school transcript) before finalizing your financial aid offer.

Definitions

cost of attendance
price before financial aid

EFC
expected family contribution
grant or scholarship
free money that you will not have to repay
loan
money that you will repay with interest
work-study
money you earn from a job that is part of your financial aid package