Congratulations! Now that you know what colleges have accepted you, all you have to do is decide, right? Well, not quite. It’s April, which means the financial reality check should have (or will soon) hit your mailboxes. Financial Award Letters can be both confusing and disheartening after the dream school you worked so hard to get in to doesn’t award you as much as you had hoped.

Understanding the Award Letter is the first step in deciding if, and how, to move forward with your college. To untangle the confusing language and layout of the Award sheet, you must ask yourself, how much of your “Award” are grants or scholarships and how much are actually loans? Do you need to know the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans? What are the pros and cons of taking out loans in your name as opposed to in your parent’s name? Why does each school’s Award sheet look different, and lastly, how can you figure out which one is offering the best package? Once you answer these questions, you will be able to decide if and how to accept your offer or if you can appeal for more aid.

Many families don’t know that once an Award Letter has been received, it can be appealed. There are many reasons to appeal, such as to explain a change in financial circumstances since applying for aid and, if possible, even to use the awards offered by the other schools you have applied to as leverage for being awarded more free money. This highlights the importance of applying to 6-8 colleges, so that you can use all of the awards to work in your favor to get the best possible aid. Understanding your awards will make this process much easier and more effective.

Parros College Planning offers assistance for both decoding and moving forward with Award Letters to help students get what they need in order to attend their dream schools. You worked hard to get in, so why shouldn’t you be able to go?