What is an Award Letter?


An award letter is sent to the student from a college or university with information about financial aid.

Once a student completes their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and submits an application to attend a college or university, an award letter is sent to the student from a college or university that details how much financial support the student is eligible for. It also included cost of attendance and terms and conditions for the financial aid. The award letter only pertains to the upcoming school year, unless otherwise specified. The amount awarded to each student is based on financial need indicated by the parent and student when completing the FAFSA.

What does it include?
An award details the type and amount of all financial aid that is offered to a student, including grants, loans, scholarships, and work-study eligibility.

  • What is a grant? A grant is money the federal government provides to help students pay for college, university, or career school. Students do not have to repay their grants. 

    • i.e. Pell Grant & Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant

  • What are loans? A loan is money a student can borrow to attend a college, university, or career school. Loans must be paid back with interest. When accepting a loan to attend school, both parents and students should make sure they understand who is making the loan and the terms and conditions of the loan. 

    • i.e. Stafford Loan & Perkins Loan

  • What is a scholarship? A scholarship is an award to help students pay for college, university, or career school. A scholarship can be provided by a public or private sector, and does not have to be repaid. Sometimes scholarships are a one-time payment, other times scholarships are renewable and provide money for students each quarter, semester, or school year. Normally, students have to complete a separate application through the awarder to be given a scholarship. 

  • What is work-study? Federal work-study provides part-time jobs for students who show financial need. Work-study allows students to earn money to help pay for their educational expenses. Typically, work-study includes service work, working for the college or university campus, or work related to the student’s course of study. 

What do I do with it? 
Once a student receives their award letter, they should inform the college or university they plan on attending how much of the award, or financial aid, they will be accepting for the upcoming school year. Normally, students are asked to return a signed copy of the award letter and indicate which source of financial aid they will be accepting and/or rejecting. It is important to note that colleges and universities will not increase other aid to compensate for the rejected parts of the financial aid packages. This means if a student rejects a loan, their college or university will not increase the amount of grants, scholarships, or work-study offered to make up for the amount of loans the student rejects. 

Do I get it every year?
An award letter will be generated every year after completing the FAFSA for the upcoming school year. Students will need to complete which financial aid they plan on accepting and/or rejecting, sign, and return the award letter to their school each year. 

Is it the same every year?
A student’s financial situation can change from year to year, and because award letters are based on each student’s financial needs indicated in the FAFSA, the amount awarded to a student can increase or decrease each year. Grants and scholarships are also subject to change for students on a semester or yearly basis. 

Have more questions? 
Contact your school’s Financial Aid office! They are happy to help explain specific details on your individual awards and assist you in completing and returning your letter. 

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Montana student reviewing their financial aid award letter