Your Financial Aid Packages (Award Letters)
When all the information pieces come together, you will receive
a Financial Aid Package or Award Letter from each of your target colleges.
First, awards from outside the college: The state and federal governments inform the colleges you list
on your FAFSA of any scholarships, grants, or loans they award
to you. Many private scholarships also inform the college financial
aid offices of awards made to you. Some awards come directly to
you, and you are expected to inform the colleges of them.
Second, awards from the college: The colleges and scholarship programs use information from your
Need Analysis Report, together with data gathered from their own
additional institutional applications (if required), and the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE
(if required) to determine your financial need. The college financial
aid office then assembles the information about the cost of attending
its college, your financial need, your expected family contribution,
the scholarships your receive from private sources, and the
financial aid you receive from the federal and state governments.
The colleges add their own institutional scholarships, grants,
loans, and work-study grants to the amount you receive from outside
Third, the offer: Your target colleges will offer you this combined
Financial Aid Package designed to meet your
financial need so you can afford to attend their school. However, the content
may vary from college to college. Furthermore, some schools may not be able to
meet your full financial need with the resources available.
(This is called "gapping" or simply "unmet need"). It literally means
there is a gap between your financial need, and the resources supplied to fill
it. If you have a significant "gap" in funding, you would be well advised to
continue searching for private sources of financial aid to help cover your
(Source: Rosen, Rochelle, S. College in California: The Inside
Questions to Consider:
What should I do if there is a gap?
Could private scholarships reduce my aid package?
How can I compare the different financial aid packages offered?
Very few colleges provide full financial aid based on
grants or scholarships only. As college costs continue to go up,
students and their families must rely on other sources
to fill the "gaps" that frequently occur in financial
Continue the search for private scholarships
from your high school, community organizations, private companies,
philanthropic organizations or any other possible sponsor. In
general, you are well advised to continue searching and applying
for private scholarships before, during and after your senior
Carefully review your financial aid package for information
concerning "self-help" aid. The federal and state
governments and the colleges will generally offer you the option of applying for
various loan and work study programs. It is a big step to borrow money for
college, so be sure to evaluate your present and future financial situation
before applying for loans to help fill your financial aid need gaps.
This is a legitimate concern in some cases.
First of all, when receiving outside aid, you must
report this source to the financial aid offices of your target
colleges. Generally, all students who receive a financial aid
package are required to sign a form declaring that they have reported
all income. Outside sources of aid count as INCOME. It is possible
that an outside scholarship or grant could affect the calculations used by
colleges in determining your total package. Other aid sources could be cut
altogether or reduced. If you have questions about your aid package and how it
will be affected by outside funding, contact the financial aid offices of your