Sallie Mae Helps College-Bound Students Break the Financial Aid Award Letter Code

Company Introduces Five Tips for Comparing Financial Aid Award
Letters, Reminds Students May 2 is National College Decision Day

NEWARK, Del.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Award season may be over for the Hollywood crowd, but it’s just
beginning for college-bound students: financial aid award letters have
started to land in inboxes and mailboxes across the country. Considered
among the most important documents families encounter during the
preparing-for-college process, these letters reveal not only a school’s
estimated cost, but also the types and amounts of financial assistance
the school is offering.

Students who completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid
(FAFSA) will receive financial aid award letters from each higher
education institution to which they’ve been accepted; the key is to
understand and compare each offer before deciding where to attend. To
help students and families analyze and interpret each offer, Sallie Mae
— the nation’s saving, planning, and paying for college company —
recommends the following tips:

  1. Decode the offer. The type of information in each financial aid
    award letter is essentially the same, but each school will likely use
    a different format. Look for the Cost of Attendance (COA), or the
    total estimate of what it will cost you to go to college for one year.
    Be clear on what part of the award is free money or “gift aid” like
    scholarships and grants, and what is “self-help aid” or money you’ll
    have to pay back, like federal student loans. In addition, the
    Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is calculated from the
    FAFSA, will determine eligibility for federal student aid.
  2. Investigate the facts. When it comes to award letters, it’s
    critical to evaluate before you celebrate. Compare the terms and
    details of each award. A school’s award package could be considerable,
    but may consist mostly of student loans. Other awards may appear
    smaller, but include more scholarships and grants. Pay attention to
    award conditions and contingencies, and note which parts of the award
    are renewable and which are for one year only. Also, think about
    what’s not in the letter, like the school’s size, location, campus
    culture, programs offered, and other factors that are important to you.
  3. Review the data. Now that you know your financial aid offer
    (free money, federal loans, and work-study), subtract it from the COA.
    You may be left with a “gap,” or a remainder of what you’ll need to
  4. Solve the gap. Once you know the gap, you’re ready to explore
    options to fill it. If what’s offered in financial aid, when combined
    with income and savings, doesn’t cover the full cost of college, a private
    education loan
    , like those offered by Sallie Mae, can be a
    responsible way to fill the gap. Sallie Mae will introduce its new
    Parent Loan next month to provide families with another option to meet
    any gap in college financing.
  5. Pay attention to deadlines. Complete and submit required
    documents promptly; missing a deadline could affect your award.
    National College Decision Day, the deadline for students to decide
    where they will attend college and to make their first deposit, is May
    2, 2016.

“It’s important to take the time to study and compare each award letter
carefully, because the biggest number may not automatically be your best
bet,” said Martha Holler, senior vice president, Sallie Mae. “By
comparing all the terms, conditions, and details in each letter,
students and families can decode the offer that best fits their
individual circumstances and make an informed decision.”

A new award letter is generated each year a student is enrolled, and the
types and amounts of financial aid can change, so students should submit
a FAFSA every year they are in school. For the 2017-18 academic year,
students will be able to submit a FAFSA beginning Oct. 1, 2016, using
their 2015 tax information.

For more tips on evaluating award letters, watch Sallie Mae’s “How
to Read Your Financial Aid Award Letter
” video, and visit

Additional information about saving, planning, and paying for college is
available at

Sallie Mae (NASDAQ: SLM) is the nation’s saving, planning, and
paying for college company. Whether college is a long way off or just
around the corner, Sallie Mae offers products that promote responsible
personal finance, including private education loans, Upromise rewards,
scholarship search, college financial planning tools, and online retail
banking. Learn more at
Commonly known as Sallie Mae, SLM Corporation and its subsidiaries are
not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.


Sallie Mae
Ellen J. Roberts, 302-451-0428