Experts Offer Students, Families Advice on Reviewing Financial Aid Awards

Some Schools Are Sending Financial Aid Offer Letters Out Earlier Than Ever Before—NASFAA Is Here to Help High School Seniors Decipher Them

Excitement is mounting as the holidays quickly approach, but high school seniors likely have more on their minds this year than just turkey and stuffing. Some colleges and universities have started sending out financial aid award letters for the upcoming school year, giving families more time to decide which schools are financially viable options for their prospective college students.

This year—as the result of a 2015 executive action by President Barack Obama—the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) became available on October 1, three months earlier than in years past. The earlier availability of the FAFSA means that schools are now able to align the financial aid process more closely with the admissions process, so after students find out they’ve been admitted, they don’t have to wait on pins and needles for months to find out whether they can afford to attend. Some students are already receiving award letters outlining their financial aid eligibility for academic year 2017-18.

To ensure families are able to understand award letters and make informed financial decisions, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) requires its nearly 3,000 institutional members to use a standard set of terms in financial aid award notifications. NASFAA recommends students and families start by familiarizing themselves with the Glossary of Terms. Once prospective students have a grasp of these terms, they’ll be better prepared to compare offers from multiple schools.

“We hope that receiving information about student financial aid earlier will help families make better financial decisions and avoid unnecessary debt,” said NASFAA President Justin Draeger. “We urge families always to accept grant aid first, then maximize federal loans, and use private loans only as a last resort to fill any gaps between the cost of attendance and financial aid awarded.”

When taking out private loans, NASFAA recommends students and families thoroughly research repayment terms, interest rates, and fees before signing on to borrow.

NASFAA has experts available who can discuss the cost of higher education and offer tips on reviewing financial aid award letters. To request an interview with a NASFAA spokesperson, please email or call (202) 785-6959.


The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) is a nonprofit membership organization that represents more than 20,000 financial aid professionals at nearly 3,000 colleges, universities, and career schools across the country. NASFAA member institutions serve nine out of every ten undergraduates in the United States. Based in Washington, D.C., NASFAA is the only national association with a primary focus on student aid legislation, regulatory analysis, and training for financial aid administrators. For more information, visit

Publication Date: 11/21/2016

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