Understanding What Your Financial Aid Offer Letter Is Really Saying

Financial aid offer letters often confuse students and their parents, with unfamiliar terms mentioned in the letter. Unfortunately, misunderstanding some of the key terms can result in making the wrong decisions. That can lead to a long-term impact on their finances. Understanding what your financial aid offer letter is really important.

Here are a few commonly used words in these letters and what exactly they mean:

An empty white envelope with a red pencil sitting on top of it.

What Your Financial Aid Offer Letter is Saying

Cost of Attendance – A particular college’s total cost of attendance. It includes the tuition fees as well as other school-related expenses. For example, room and board, textbooks, transportation, and school supplies, to name a few.

Net Costs – The total amount you pay after subtracting the awarded scholarships and grants from the total cost of attendance.

Gift Aid – Includes all the gift money offered that you do not need to repay. Your total gift aid is calculated by adding up all merit-based scholarship awards that you receive as well as the need-based grants that you receive.

Estimated Family Contribution – Most students and parents find Estimated Family Contribution or EFC the most confusing term of all. The EFC number is an estimate of what the government thinks that a student and their family can contribute towards their education. Schools use this EFC number to calculate how much need-based aid you need to go to school. Schools calculate EFC based on the information provided on the FAFSA.

There are plenty of other terms that you will come across. However, these 4 are the most important to know and understand.

Learn more about the other types of federal aid form.

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