You’ve been accepted to college, perhaps applied for financial aid (if not, we recommend reviewing the financial aid process) and now that the application madness has ceased, your head has stopped spinning long enough to wonder about a few things. For instance, “What should I expect from my financial aid package?” Well, let’s figure that out together.
You may or may not know that the overall financial aid package consists of various aid types. For the sake of our discussion, we’ll talk about federal financial aid right now. After all, much of what people consider part of the financial aid package comes from funding you qualified for when you submitted the FAFSA. That said, your federal aid package will consist of two things: loans and grants.
Now is the time to register a few key names up in the ol’ noggin: Stafford loan, Perkins loan, Pell grant…No, those are not baby names (Pell Grant would make for an interesting one, eh?), but rather they are amongst the very biggest (not only, mind you) aid contributors around. The Stafford and Perkins loans are among several federal loans to qualify for via the FAFSA. At maximum, the Stafford pays out up to $5500 per year (subsidized, unsubsidized is half that), while the Perkins provides up to$4000 annually. The grace periods for these loans (time before repayment begins) are 6 months and 9 months, respectively. Loans, as you should know by now, MUST BE REPAID. Fortunately, this isn’t the case with all financial aid, and educational grants come with no strings attached. Free money—period. The aforementioned Pell grant may provide students with up to $5550 per year. Refer to “Can I get Financial Aid?” for financial aid eligibility requirements.
Now that you know what you could get, let’s talk about how the aid money will get to you. You already know that you must qualify for various financial aid types, so that’s covered. What you need to know is how and when “pay day” will come around. Well, this involves a few things. First, you wait for the Student Aid Report (SAR) from FAFSA, which will likely arrive about a month after you turn in the application itself. This handy dandy piece of paper will not tell you what you will be receiving, BUT it should give a bit of an idea. The SAR estimates what students qualify to get from various aid sources, and actual awarded funds vary.
You want to know what is included in your financial aid package? Your university will tell you…because they call the shots. Yep, the government provides it, but your school decides the amount of grant and loan money you will receive from each source. When all is said and done, you will receive a financial aid award letter from your school telling what is what. And, although it may take until the beginning of the school year, your funds will be put into a student account for the university to draw from for tuition.Well, that should do it. All students have to do is follow the motions and wait for their information to come in. Oh, and you do have some say in things—accepting or rejecting specific loans and grants is totally at your discretion.