Once you start receiving letters from all the colleges you’ve applied to, you will find that the first sentence or two is all that you’re really interested in reading at first. If you weren’t accepted, then there’s really nothing else that you need to read. However, if you were accepted, then you’re going to have to read the rest of your acceptance letter very carefully once you get over all the excitement. The most important part of the letter will be the information pertaining to your financial aid award. You need to have a very clear idea of what your award includes and what it doesn’t include so that you know whether or not you can still afford to accept the offer. Here is how to understand and review financial aid letters.
Learn All the Acronyms
When you start reading through your financial aid packet you’re going to notice a lot of acronyms that are probably unfamiliar to you. By this point you should definitely know FAFSA, but what about COA, SAR and EFC? These acronyms should be explained to you in the packet, but knowing what the letters stand for is very different from understanding what they mean. One of the most important is COA – that means Cost of Attendance. This is the total annual cost of attending the school without any kind of financial aid.
Analyze the Breakdown
Your packet will include a detailed breakdown of where all of your funds will be coming from. You will see how much will be coming from federal student loans, scholarships, grants, work-study and your EFC – that’s your expected family contribution. If you weren’t expecting to do any work-study or you don’t think that your family should be expected to contribute to your tuition, then you should think again. Almost all students who are on scholarship still need to work a bit on campus in exchange for their financial aid, and very few have an absolutely full ride scholarship.
Look into Suggested Sources for Your Contribution if Necessary
If your expected financial contribution is going to be a hardship, then you are going to need to look into student loans, or you may qualify for private grants. Most colleges, like Pepperdine University, will include some suggestions for where to look when you are searching for more financial aid to pay off your EFC.
Find Out if You Can Appeal the Amount of Your Award
The other option you can look into if your financial aid doesn’t seem sufficient is appealing your award. Most colleges have an appellate program that will allow you to make your case and explain why you deserve more assistance than they initially offered. There’s no guarantee that the school will be able to satisfy your request, but it’s definitely a possibility worth looking into. You will usually need to schedule a phone call and follow up with a formal email. You should know within a month or two whether or not your appeal will be granted.