Award Letter Comparison Guide

Compare award letters and select the right financial fit for you. An award letter includes an offer of financial assistance in the form of grants, scholarships, and loans.

Here are some tips on how to review and compare financial aid award letters:


Calculate the Cost of Attendance (COA):  COA is the cost to attend college for one academic year. This cost includes tuition, fees, room & board, books and personal expenses etc. If you are unsure of these costs, check out the college website for a breakdown of the costs.


Review Scholarships and Grants offered (Gift Aid):  This is any FREE sources of financial aid from federal, state, and the college. It is important to confirm if the grants/scholarships are renewable and what the requirements are to qualify each year. It may require you to maintain a certain grade point average for all four years.


Review Student Loans offered:  A loan is money you have to pay back. Here are different types of loan you might find on your financial aid award letter

  • Federal Direct Subsidized Loans are based on financial need and do not charge interest until after graduation. The student accepts responsibility for repayment.
  • Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans are available regardless of need and charge interest from the start of enrollment. The student accepts responsibility for repayment.
  • Parent PLUS Loan allow parents to borrow funds up to the total cost of attendance and accept responsibility for their repayment. Eligibility is based on credit-worthiness rather than income. These loans charge interest from the start of enrollment, and parents must begin to repay them immediately. Avoid Parent PLUS Loans.

Keep in mind that you may decline any portion of your financial aid award letter.


Calculate “What you really owe”:  Take the Cost of Attendance minus all financial aid received and this equals the amount you must pay to attend college.
Cost of Attendance – Financial Aid (Include all grants, scholarships and loans) = Amount you owe to attend the college.


You can Appeal your Financial Aid Offer:  If your financial situation has changed since you applied for the FAFSA or if you need more financial aid, you can appeal your financial aid offer. Speak to your high school counselor or DCPS Persists coach for help appealing your financial aid offer. You can also use SwiftStudent to write an appeal letter.