What is an a financial aid award letter and how do I analyze it? Families will receive the financial aid award letter and it will tell a family how much financial support the school will give for the coming year. Included with your acceptance letter is your financial award letter.  What is an award letter and how do I analyze it?

This is the results of going through the financial process of completing the forms for selected colleges. The financial aid award letter is not a standard form like the other forms within the process.  Each school has their own award letter format and the award amount will vary by college.  There has been some discussion about standardizing the award form but that has not been approved.

Due to this lack of standardization, some letters can be hard to compare.  You also need to remember that the cost of attendance and the schools merit policy may cause significant differences in the award letters. Separating the merit based aid and the self help financial aid is the most important thing to do.  This will give you a better view of your true final cost of your education.

As part of reviewing the financial award letter you need to confirm which line items may change.  You need to complete the financial aid forms each year and your expected family contribution or EFC will change each year.  Understanding the items that drive the need based financial aid will help you better analyze the numbers.  With merit financial aid there are normally requirements to maintain that financial award.  This may include a certain GPA or participation in a particular activity.

The financial aid award letter video includes:

  • How to evaluate the award letter
  • Types of financial award
  • What is a the financial aid gap

Knowing how to analyze a college financial award letter can help you forecast the true out of pocket cost of an education.  If professional financial help is needed, please visit our College Affordability Services.