Understanding Your Financial Aid Offer

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

"EFC" 
Expected Family Contribution
"Grant" or "Scholarship"
Free money that you will not have to repay
"Work-Study"
Money you earn from a job that is part of your financial aid package
"Loan"
Money that you will repay with interest