Award Letters Are Coming!   Getting accepted to college is quite an accomplishment. It’s a good feeling that sticks with you for a long time, but do you know what’s better than the acceptance notice? The award letter that details your financial aid offer from the university. Suddenly, a college degree goes from something you hope to earn to a reality you can actually afford.   In a perfect world every student would receive a financial aid offer that covers all of their college expenses, like tuition, room and board, books, and personal expenses. But the reality is this rarely happens. In most cases, families are left to pay thousands of dollars to the college even after the financial aid is distributed, and the reality is many families cannot afford it.   While it’s not required to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), it is recommended so the college can create an award letter based on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is calculated based on the financial information given within the FAFSA and determines how much a family is expected to contribute to the cost of college without any assistance. Because the FAFSA only asks about basic financial information, the EFC is not always an accurate assessment of a family’s financial situation. Regardless, schools use a family’s EFC and subtract it from the total cost of attendance to determine the financial need. Based on the need calculated, the school will then award a student to help the family pay for the remaining cost of attendance. Few colleges meet 100 percent of need because of limited resources. Families can fill the gap with state aid, scholarships and loans.


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The financial aid being offered by the school is presented within an award letter, which is usually sent in March or April. CAA suggests that, when you receive an award letter and the offered aid isn’t enough to cover the entire cost of attendance, you may qualify to appeal the award offered and request more funding.   But before you file the appeal, be sure your family has extenuating circumstances! These could include large debt from medical expenses (not credit card debt due to shopping sprees) or a one-time-windfall from winning the lottery or a large sum of money in Las Vegas. You can even appeal based on a student’s merit or another college’s offer.   CAA can help clients determine if they qualify for an appeal, but the next best thing is to review the college’s website for their specific appeal process and policies. Some colleges require the family to submit special forms or additional financial documents to support their claims, whereas other colleges only ask the family to write an appeal letter explaining their situation. And, whether or not a college accepts an appeal is entirely up to them! If a college does allow you to appeal, they could lower your EFC, which would increase your financial need; offer you more aid based on your appeal; or deny your appeal entirely.   Appealing a financial aid award is a wise decision for students who have legitimate extenuating circumstances that were not considered by the FAFSA. If you have questions about whether or not you should file an appeal or how to go about the process, don’t hesitate to contact a CAA coach or call the college directly.   Photo credit: