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Where’s the Money?

By Sarah Akiwumi, College Adviser at East Duplin High School | March 31, 2017

Well, it’s that time of the Year again! What time do you ask? Financial Aid Award letter time! This is the time when students figure out how they will pay for their called college education. Imagine if the majority of the scholarships students applied for, (because they’ve been applying for scholarships, right?) informed students whether they received the scholarship before they needed to make their decision? Well, that is not usually the case. The one thing students and parents should be on the look out for in the mail and on students’ college portals are financial aid award packages.

This letter is one of the most important college items students receive from Match to April. The financial aid award letter breaks down the cost of attendance for the accepted individual, giving them an idea of how much they will need to pay to be considered a student and what will be covered by scholarships and federal aid.

It is important that students and parents look at the financial aid award letters carefully and make sure they understand the terms and cost displayed. There is a large difference between the amounts shown in these award letters and how tuition is categorized.

Each college creates their own financial package to show students how much of the awarded money they could use toward their education. Some will show the total cost of attendance, which should include the cost of tuition, room and board, orientation fee, etc.

Other financial aid award letters may only include the award amount without the breakdown of the cost. It is important that students review college’s websites and speak with the financial aid office to understand the full cost of tuition and other fees that may apply. It is good to also factor in the cost of transportation, textbooks, food, health insurance and other expenses to get the true cost of going to a certain institution. It is very crucial to make a distinction between loans, grants, and scholarships that may be placed on the award letter.

For example, in the award letter above, the Directed Unsubsidized Loan is placed in the same position as the NC Need Based Scholarship. However, these two awards will make a different impact on the student’s finances. The NC Need-Based Scholarship is gift aid that will be used toward the student’s education and will not need to be repaid. The Direct Unsubsidized Loan will need to be repaid and will accrue interest, while the student is in college. It is a good idea to sit down with someone such as the financial aid office of the college, a high school guidance counselor or college adviser and have them break down the financial aid letter with you.

There are also websites out there that can help you calculate the cost and understand more about your award letter.

  • uAspire:

Also if you feel that you should have received your financial aid award letter already, make sure you have:

  • Completed FAFSA
  • Completed all forms of Verification, if selected
  • Spoken to the financial aid office

If after you have gone over you award letters and you realize that the cost of attendance for your top colleges are still too expensive for your budget or your family’s budget, make sure you are still applying for scholarships and have a backup plan. Don’t give up hope but also be mindful of your expenses. Don’t be hesitant to go to your student services office and ask for guidance on how to pay for college. We are here to help you with your future!

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