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National Application Center :: pay for college

Plan, explore, and apply to college using these great tools.
Award Packages

Typical Award Package

If your application for admission has been accepted, and you have taken all the steps to apply for financial aid, and your family demonstrates financial need, you are likely to receive a financial aid award.

Now what?

Interpreting a financial aid award letter fully takes some time. While most colleges try to make their awards as clear as possible, you may still have questions. You will want to get them answered before the deadline to accept the financial aid award.

The following sample award may help you interpret you own aid awards.

Sample Financial Aid Award Package
Total Cost of Attendance $20,000
Expected Family Contribution $5,000
Outside Scholarship $1,000
Financial Need $14,000

Federal Pell Grant $0
State Scholarship Grant $1,500
Institutional Grant $7,500
Federal Perkins Loan $1,500
Federal Direct Loan $1,500
Federal Work Study $2,000
Total Award $14,000

In this award, the college is covering more than half of the demonstrated financial need with a grant. That certainly helps! But it would be important to ask the financial aid staff whether this level of grant can be expected in future years. (Unfortunately, some colleges do make large initial grants to encourage students to enroll, and may reduce or remove grants after the first year.)

You'll also want to ask about the continued availability of the state grant.

If the grants look to be stable over the time you'd be enrolled, you can estimate the total student loan indebtedness you would have after four years--in this case, around $12,000 if college costs remain the same. That's about the average level of indebtedness for students graduating nationwide. Click here to see what the average monthly payments on these loans would be, depending on the interest rate.

You'll also want to look at the work-study figure. Are you willing to work on campus to earn these funds? If not, you will be expected to come up with the $2,000 in some other way (either extra work beyond the summer earnings expectation, a gift from a relative, a loan, etc.).

Click here to use the Award Worksheet to enter and interpret the figures on your own financial aid award(s).

Of course, if you have received more than one financial aid award, you will want to compare them. Click here for more information about comparing financial aid packages.