The time between your submission of the financial aid application and when you find out what aid you have been offered can be stressful, because you do not yet know whether you will be able to afford to go to college next year. Your financial aid award letter will list each type of aid you have been offered, including grants, loans and federal work-study.
Financial aid offices generally send out award letters in late March or early April for admitted first-year undergraduate students. This gives students time to review their awards before the May 1 deadline to select a college. Returning students generally receive their award letters sometime during May or June for the school year beginning in August or September. Students who do not submit their financial aid applications until after the school year has begun should expect to receive an award letter within one to two months.
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Time Since Submission
The length of time between submitting your financial aid application and getting your award letter depends on when you submit your application. In general, all applicants of the same year in school receive their awards at the same time, regardless of when they submitted their applications. Therefore, if you submit your financial aid application on January 1, which is the first possible date, you could end up waiting more than four months. If, on the other hand, you submit your application right before your school's financial aid deadline, you might only have to wait one month.
If your letter has not arrived yet, contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is holding it up. You might have an incomplete application or you might have failed to reply if you were contacted to verify some of the information you provided. First-year undergraduate applicants who are put on the wait list for a college will not receive an award letter until after they have been admitted.
After Getting Letter
Once you have received your financial aid award letter, the process is sometimes not complete. You need to review your letter and determine whether you want to accept the full award. For example, you might prefer to work an extra part-time job instead of taking out the full loan amount. Some schools assume that you will just accept the whole award and only require that you take action if you need to change the award. Other schools require that you sign and return a copy of the letter to acknowledge that you accept the award.