While you’re applying to schools, you’ll should also be applying for financial aid from the U.S. Department of Education. You must use the Free Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA) each year you’re in school to qualify for aid, which means you’ll receive multiple letters detailing what you’re been awarded. The timeline varies among schools, but here is what you can expect during that process.
Applying for Financial Aid
After you’ve filed the FAFSA, you’ll be able to check your approval status online at fafsa.gov. That’s where you can verify that you completed the form correctly and attached all the right documents.
Depending on the schools you applied to, they may come back to you asking for additional scholarship, grant, or financial aid information. Some students applying to select colleges and universities are also required to fill out a standardized form called the CSS Profile, which assesses the financial history of students and their families to determine their eligibility for institutional financial aid.
Once you’ve completed and submitted your FAFSA, you’ll want to wait a few days to check your financial aid status. If you mailed your FAFSA, it can take approximately 7 to 10 days for it to process once it’s received.
While your application is being processed, the U.S. Department of Education will send your information to the schools you applied to and will verify your family’s financial standing. They’ll then send you a Student Aid Report (SAR) before you get your financial aid award letter. There’s a lot that happens after your file the FAFSA.
Applying for the 2022-2023 Academic Year, the FAFSA opens October 1, 2021 and closes September 9, 2023, at 11:59 p.m. Central Time.
Applying for the 2023-2024 Academic Year, the FAFSA opens October 1, 2022 and closes September 14, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. Central Time.
Read More: How to Apply for the FAFSA
Student Aid Report vs. Financial Aid Award Letter
Your Student Aid Report (SAR) will show the details from your FAFSA form. It will also show your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), a number that helps determine your eligibility for federal student aid. The SAR also includes the list of schools you’re applying to and will arrive by email typically a week after your FAFSA has been processed.
Your financial aid award letter is what individual schools will send you. If you apply to multiple schools and list them on your FAFSA, then you’ll receive a financial aid award letter from each accepted school. Typically, award letters will begin to arrive in March or April after you’ve received an accepted decision.
The award letter will come around the same time as acceptance letters from your schools, typically around March or April.
An award letter will include the school’s cost of attendance for one year and how much your financial aid package will cover. This should give you and your family a clear idea of whether you can afford to attend and how much money you’ll need.
What’s on a Financial Aid Award Letter?
- Cost of attendance (COA – an estimate of tuition and fees, room and board, books, and other supplies)
- Federal Loans
- Expected Family Contribution (EFC – the amount of money your family is expected to contribute to your college education)
Since there is no standard format, it’s important you know how to accurately understand and review financial aid award letters.
After Your Financial Aid Award Letters Arrive
Once you receive your award letter, you can use an award letter comparison tool to get an apples-to-apples look at your offers. Once you have that information, you can contact the university’s financial aid office with any further questions you might have.
Considering the cost of attendance, remember that there are many other costs not outlined in your financial aid award letter. There are many costs to consider that go beyond tuition like, books, travel, clubs, off-campus housing, and dining.
If you don’t receive enough financial aid to cover your college costs, you can appeal your financial aid package. You can ask your college’s financial aid office directly for more aid based on your family’s financial standing by stating your case through an appeal letter and requesting a modification to your aid.
Many scholarships are available year-round. There are so many benefits of applying for scholarships year-round, so keep searching and applying to scholarships even during the spring. Every little bit helps.
Many students need additional money beyond federal grants, scholarships, and loans. You may consider cost-cutting tactics like living at home or attending community college, or you can take out a private student loan. College Ave Student Loans provide private student loans that fit your family’s financial needs.