You’ve applied for financial aid and received your aid offer, but what does it really mean? Have you been offered grants and scholarships, or will you need to borrow and pay back student loans? Are the loans offered through the federal government or will they be paid back to the school? Understanding your financial aid offer can be a little confusing, but armed with the following information, you will be better equipped to read and understand your financial aid eligibility.
Understanding Your Aid Offer
After completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the financial aid office at the school(s) you listed on the FAFSA, will receive your Institutional Student Information Report (ISIR). The ISIR contains the financial information that you reported on the FAFSA. From the ISIR, and sometimes a secondary institutional application (if required by the school), the financial aid officer (FAO) will determine your eligibility for programs from the institution, federal government, or other sources of aid. Once finalized, the aid offer will be provided to you and most schools will require that you indicate acceptance of the aid offered. Your offer will list various forms of financial aid you are eligible to receive; however, you will need to decide if you want to accept all the aid offered, or if you want to adjust the offer to fit your needs. Some students will decide to decline a portion of the loan, if all the loan funds are not needed.
What Should You Look for in an Aid Offer?
You should look at the aid package offered and compare it to the cost of attendance and the amount of money you will need to meet your needs and expenses. Review the Top 10 Questions Premeds Should Ask Medical School Financial Aid Officers for more tips and possible questions that can ignite conversation between you and the financial aid officer.
Terms to Understand
Grants and Scholarships are typically free money (also known as gift aid), that does not have to be repaid. Some of these resources may have qualifying terms and conditions, so be sure to understand the requirements.
Loans are often referred to as self-help and need to be repaid (possibly with interest). Loans may be obtained from a variety of lenders, including the federal government, schools, and private or lenders. Find out if there are any loan or origination fees associated with the loans offered.
Tuition and Fees are basic costs to attend and receive education at a specific institution, along with associated fees for things like health services, insurance or technology. Check the school’s cost of attendance for this information.
Cost of Attendance typically includes tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, personal transportation, health insurance, and other required fees. You do not necessarily need to borrow for the full cost of attendance. It’s helpful to only borrow what you need to cover your costs. Setting up a budget can help you determine how much you may need to borrow.
Compare your aid offers from the schools you are considering. If you are receiving any other sources of aid not listed, you need to inform the FAO. If the school requires additional action, be sure to follow their directions. If you have any questions, call the financial aid office. They are there to help you through the aid process.
Resources to Help You:
- Paying for Medical School
- Loan Repayment/Forgiveness/Scholarship and Other Programs Database
- Direct Loans 101
- Consumer and Federal Financial Aid Resources (see Grants, Fellowships and Scholarships)