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Deciphering Your Financial Aid Award Letter

Author: Financial Success | Image: Financial Success

If you are an incoming freshman, transfer or returning student you have probably received your financial aid award letter for the upcoming Fall and Spring semester. These can be difficult to understand at first, especially for incoming freshmen students, so here are some steps to help walk you through the award letter!

What’s the Estimated Cost of Attendance?

The first thing you see on the award letter is probably the costs for the 2015-2016 year. This is called your estimated cost of attendance. This total number is what we determine to be your specific cost of attendance here at Iowa State for one academic school year. It includes tuition/fees, housing/meals, books/supplies, transportation and other educational costs. It’s important to know that this number is just an estimate of what we are anticipating your costs to be at Iowa State. This will not necessarily be the billed costs that you will see on the Ubill.

What Financial Aid is Available?

The section below lists the grants and scholarships that you have been awarded to help pay for college. This will include all the “gift aid.” This is free money that doesn’t have to be paid back! Examples of these grants and scholarships will be any institutional or federal grants, admission awards or departmental/outside scholarships you have been awarded. If you have been awarded an outside scholarship that you do not see listed here, please report the amount and the donor on Acessplus and our scholarships department will get the scholarship added once they’ve received the check.

The next section will list what the anticipated cost or net cost after the grants and scholarships are subtracted from the total cost of attendance. Again, this is an estimated number. Once the bill is available this summer, you will have a better understanding of what the exact cost will be.

If you are eligible for work study, this will be listed in the next section below. This will be awarded based on financial need and is dependent upon filing of the FAFSA. If you are work study eligible, you can find a work study job on or off campus, and work towards that amount listed by receiving a bi-monthly paycheck. The jobs that are available will be listed on your Accessplus account under the Student Job Board.

The next section explains your loan options. For most students, there will be Subsidized or Unsubsidized Stafford Loans and Perkins Loans listed, along with Parent Plus or Private Loan options. Students must demonstrate financial need in order to qualify for a Subsidized Loan or Perkins loan. The Parent Plus loan is a federal loan taken out in the parent’s name, whereas the private loan will be applied for separately through one of our four private lenders.

Once you have reviewed this information, you may authorize your aid on Accessplus and then accept or decline the loan options if necessary. An additional resource that you may find helpful is the official Financial Aid Shopping Sheet. This is a consumer tool designed by the U.S. Department of Education to better assist students and their families in understanding costs for the upcoming academic year. This is available on Accessplus or through our website.

Please contact our main financial aid office if you have any additional questions regarding your award letter!