Say it with me: My acceptance letter is not my award letter! Many students and families are confused with what an acceptance letter means for the financial aspects of college. It’s important to distinguish your college acceptance letter with your financial aid award letter from that same school because the two have important differences.
Your acceptance letters will roll in between winter 2016 and spring 2017; read them carefully. You may be offered a scholarship in this letter, but again, this is not your final award. These scholarships are most often automatic, they’re provided to all students with certain qualifications (high enough GPAs and test scores).
Awards and admissions are typically on different timelines for colleges because of the additional consideration necessary to award financial aid. Colleges take your FAFSA information, any supplementary financial forms you submit, and your application and they compare you to other accepted students’ information. They then decide which students need or deserve the limited aid they have to offer. Certain schools award aid earlier, as soon as December, but many wait until they have a fuller picture of their incoming freshman class. For these schools, you’ll be waiting for your award letter until March or April.
Be on the lookout for your award letters winter through early spring. This letter will lay out every cost and every dollar you’re getting to go against that cost. It will include the total cost of attendance (Tuition and room and board) and the amount of grants, scholarships, work-study, and, mostly, loans that you will be given to go toward that cost.
The bellow letter is an example of an award from Eastern Michigan University.
The deadline to enroll in a college will always be after you’ve received your award from that college (save Early Decision applications) so be sure to wait for your final financial aid amount if your budget will significantly inform your college decision. Hopefully, you’ve all completed your FAFSA at this time, but in case you haven’t, get it in as soon as possible. If you delay your submission of the FAFSA, your award will be sent later and it’s possible you’ll be eligible for less aid.
At Parros College Planning we are here to personally decode your acceptance and award letters. Choosing the right college is a process, and the devil is in the details. You worked hard to get in, we’ll work hard to help you get there.