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Financial Aid Awards

From WSAC:  

Key Components to Understanding Your Award Letter

Every college’s award letter is a little different. After you submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WASFA), you will receive a financial aid award letter from each school at which you were accepted. Each letter will summarize the cost of full-time enrollment for one year plus your financial aid package. Use one worksheet per school (download below) to compare your costs, available aid and resources for paying for college.

For reference see the College Knowledge Booklet, Chapter 3:  Paying for College and Chapter 4:  Washington State Aid.

Things to consider when comparing award letters:

Determining your total real costs.

  • Indirect costs are not billed from the college. When thinking about what costs you need to have covered include the direct costs and the indirect costs you need.
  • Questions to consider:
    • Will you be commuting or traveling to and from campus a lot? How much do you anticipate needing for the academic year?
    • Can you buy used books or supplies? Borrow them from the library? Does your degree program require many text books or supplies? Ask the admissions office for more information if you need to!
    • What types of personal expenses do you anticipate having during the year?

Is your aid renewable (meaning it can be used for more than one year)?

  • Some scholarships require you to maintain a certain GPA to make them renewable.
  • Some grants require that you meet income requirements each year.
  • Check with the financial aid office if a specific scholarship, grant, etc. does not say if it is
  • renewable.

Are you a College Bound Scholarship student?

  • The College Bound Scholarship is an early commitment of state financial aid for eligible students that covers three specific costs: tuition at public college rates, some fees, and a small book allowance. The specific amount labeled “College Bound” will differ at each institution and for each student but the costs listed above will be covered by state financial aid programs, such as WA College Grant.
  • You must meet income eligibility requirements when applying for financial aid. This will be determined by the financial aid office when you apply with the FAFSA or WASFA. You will also need to meet the College Bound pledge. More information can be found at

Need help understanding your award letter?
Contact the financial aid or admissions office at the college with any questions!

Use Understand Your Award Letter Worksheet to help you figure out your direct & indirect costs to figure out what you will need to pay for for each college. Choose which one according to your circumstances:  


Use to figure out YOUR cost for each college

First page of the PDF file: award_letter_worksheet_-_on_campus-fillable_pdf_1

About Financial Aid Awards

As you receive award letters, compare them very carefully. There is no standardization; formats and terms vary. Be absolutely certain that you know what each category on the award letter is. 

Start here

Click through this presentation:  Understanding Award Letters 2024-25 College Success Foundation Spring 2024

Or, watch this video:  Understanding Your Financial Aid Offer Coalition for College April 2024

Read and Use these Guides

Also use the college’s own website for wording and, call the college financial aid office to ask questions. 

Resources:  Downloads

Resources for Appealing Your Award

Resources:  Websites

  • Washington State Financial Aid Programs lists the various grants, scholarships, and programs that are unique to Washington State. Not sure what a State Need Grant is? An Opportunity Grant? Look it up here. 
  • Federal Student Aid Glossary provides definitions of many terms. What's a Pell Grant? What's the difference between an unsubsidized loan and a subsidized one? Only federal, not state, programs will be included.  
  • College Loans and Financial Aid FAQs on Big Future. 
  • Compare College Offers, a tool on, where you can upload your offers (personal info redacted), compare them with others' offers, and gain more information as you make decisions and work with financial aid offices. 
  • Sallie Mae's Compare Financial Aid Award Letters. An excellent site with clear explanations of financial aid components.  
  • Student Loan Simulator for Federal loans. Plug in total amount, type of loan, interest rate, and projected income to estimate what repayment might look like. Look at how much more the payback amount is than the original amount you borrow. 

Resources:  Videos