Hey seniors, the time is almost here. The last three and a half years of your life have all been culminating to what’s next – college. You’ve filed the FAFSA, applied to your top colleges, and have even received acceptance letters from some or all of those colleges. If you haven’t yet, don’t worry, many colleges are still making admissions decisions. But throughout this last semester before college, you’ll receive award letters to help you make the decision that will shape your next four years. Your CAA coaches are here to help!

What is an award letter?

Colleges send award letters to tell you what financial aid they are offering to help you pay for college for the coming year. This could be a physical letter, or it could simply get posted online to your college portal. Be sure to check throughout the semester. If you don’t get any award letters from colleges you have been accepted to, don’t be afraid to contact a college financial aid office and ask when to expect them. They may need additional information from you to process that award letter.

What do these awards include?

They will share everything the college is offering you. This could include any combination of student loans, work study, scholarships, or grants – federal, state, or from the college itself. Scholarships and grants are free money that do not need to be repaid. Loans need to be repaid at a later time. Work study is a job, usually on-campus, where you earn the money over the course of the year.  You typically get paid by check and can use that money to pay for your college expenses. The money you earn is not taxed, and you don’t have to list it as income earned next year when filing the FAFSA.

What about the costs?

Sometimes your award letters will include the cost of attendance or how much the college is charging you for the year. When colleges include your costs, they often list both your direct costs and indirect costs. Direct costs are what you owe the college directly. This is your tuition, fees, and room and board – if you are living on campus. Indirect costs are what you end up spending towards college, but not directly to the college itself. This means your books, supplies, gas for your car, any college swag you buy, etc. When colleges include your cost of attendance, you can see what your net cost would be – or what you owe after all your awards.

What does CAA do to help?

Understanding these awards can be difficult. At CAA, we recommend students send all the award letters they receive to us, so we can discuss the details with you. We review the award letter, call you to explain it, and help you make the best decision. Making a final college choice can be a complicated matter and your coaches are happy to help.