Assuming you have already filed your FAFSA® and applied for financial aid on time, you can expect to receive the first disbursement of your financial aid award a few weeks after the start of school. Generally, schools disburse financial aid every term (semester or quarter).
For most students, this means receiving a second disbursement a few weeks into the second semester; however, every school has different disbursement dates. If you have set up direct deposit for your FAFSA® refund, you’ll be able to access your funds more quickly.
When Does the Financial Aid Letter Typically Arrive?
Most universities send out offers of admission between late March and early April. Your financial aid letter should arrive soon after and includes the types, amounts, and sources of financial aid you’re eligible to receive for one academic year (your “financial aid package“).
This document will help you determine whether you’ll be able to afford to attend this university and what financial gaps you might need to fill outside of financial aid. You’ll be able to see your costs and financial aid broken down by semester, which is how your tuition will be charged and your financial aid disbursed.
If you’ve been accepted to more than one college and you qualify for financial aid, you’ll receive more than one financial aid letter. There is no standard format for financial aid letters, so it’s important to compare all details (such as tuition, room and board, meals, etc.), whether they’ve been included in the letter or not. If you’re deciding which school to attend, accurately comparing the financial aid packages will help you determine your best financial option.
Keep in mind that your financial aid letter provides details for only one academic year. You’ll need to reapply for financial aid every year, and the amount for which you’re eligible might change depending on your circumstances.
When Do I Need to Respond?
Every school is a little different when it comes to the financial aid process. Your financial aid letter will include your response deadline. You might have to go online and fill out a form, or you might have to sign and mail a paper response. Pay attention to the details, and be sure to respond as soon as possible.
If you’re accepting a loan, you’ll need to take additional steps. Your financial aid advisor can guide you through the process of reviewing and signing your loan documents.
Mark Your Calendar
Most college students use financial aid to help pay for their tuition and school-related expenses. Receiving a financial aid package can be an immense relief for many students.
Make sure to write down important dates on your calendar, such as the date the FAFSA® opens (Oct. 1) and financial aid acceptance deadlines. You can find more information about your school’s important dates by talking to your financial aid advisor. Many schools will also have this information posted on their websites.
Keeping your financial aid information current and on time is key to obtaining the most aid available at the earliest time possible. Remember to keep records of the types of information you’ve submitted and their corresponding dates so you’ll know when to expect your financial aid letters and awards.