Tips for Decoding Your Financial Aid Letter

Last week, we spoke about how important it was to dissect your financial aid award letters. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done due to the singular fact that they are written to be indecipherable.

decodingTherefore, the team at Hauk Kruse & Associates has done some research on your behalf. In our research, we came across an excellent Forbes article which maps out the 10 rules for decoding college financial aid award letters. Below, are the top 3 rules we believe to be most important. Please feel free to read the full article by Maggie McGrath here.

1. Your financial aid award isn’t necessarily all a gift.

While your financial aid letter may state a number associated with your “total aid award”, you need to make sure you read the entire letter. Normally loans have been mixed in with your scholarships and grants. This is where decoding skills come in handy.

Most of the time, the loans won’t jump out at you. These letters normally do not include interest rates, monthly payment schedules, or even the word “loan”. Look out for abbreviations such as “Fed Staff L” (Federal Stafford Loan), “Sub” (subsidized loan), and “Unsub” (unsubsidized loan).

Sample Letter

2.The “work study” amount is not guaranteed income.

As noted in the example above, often the “total award amount” does not just consist of grants and loans, but also of federal work study opportunities. Even though the letter may list a certain amount, it is not guaranteed. First, you have to get the job – which come on a first come, first served basis (act fast!). Then, you have to work the hours. And unfortunately, the amount of money listed in your letter isn’t always going to be the amount you receive.

3. Don’t take the school at face value for expenses.

Your school may give you an estimate of what they believe your expenses (books, supplies, travel from home to school, etc.), but it is not always correct. These estimates have been known to be a lot less than actual expenses. Therefore, you should budget according to your situation, not the school’s estimates.

If you have any questions on financial aid or need help with your FASFA, please call our office at 314-993-4285 or e-mail us at


1 thought on “Tips for Decoding Your Financial Aid Letter

  1. Reblogged this on CEF: CSAN Program and commented:
    Now that you submitted your FAFSA and all paperwork, you will begin receiving Financial Aid Letters. Take a look at this article, “Tips for Decoding Your Financial Aid Letter.”


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s