Financial Aid Packages & Interpreting the Award Letter

All students who apply for financial aid are given an aid package. For those who qualify for need-based aid, the financial aid package usually consists of a grant/scholarship, a student loan, and student employment. For students who do not qualify for need-based aid, they may still request to work through the student employment program and request a non-need based student loan such as a Unsubsidized Direct Student Loan.

The grant aid can be Pell grants, SEOG (Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant), or Minnesota State grants if the student qualifies for this type of aid. In addition, most need-based packages contain a portion as Carleton gift aid. This may be in the form of a Carleton grant or one of many different Carleton scholarships. Students do not apply specifically for these scholarships; rather, they are awarded based on information they provide on their financial aid applications. Similar to grants, most of these scholarships are used to meet the need of students. The student employment amount is usually based on 8 hours per week for first-year students and 10 hours per week for returning students. The loan amounts vary by grade, typically increasing as the student nears graduation.

For new students, whenever an initial financial aid package is completed, an award letter is sent to the student. A new student is sent two copies of the award letter. One should be signed and returned to Student Financial Services and the second copy should be retained by the student for their records. Incoming freshmen students who have deposited and whose awards are finalized in July will be sent a finalized award letter with instructions on how to accept the award on the Hub. Returning students will receive an email notification regarding their “Online Aid Award” and where they can view and accept it. All returning students must accept their award on the Hub.  

The award letter indicates the financial aid awarded. This shows each type of aid, the amount, and the expected disbursements for each term of the year. The awards are then totaled. The amount credited to your account is calculated by taking the total financial aid minus student employment, since student employment is not automatically applied to the student account like the other forms of aid. The direct cost minus the amount to be credited to your account is calculated and shown as the estimated balance the student and family would be responsible for. Review this figure carefully, as it is often misinterpreted. If the student decides to credit some or all of their work earnings towards their account, the estimated balance will be lower. Many students do apply some or all of their work earnings towards their bill. The amount you chose to apply to your tuition account is not done through the aid award. It is done by completing the “Student Payroll Tuition Payment Authorization” form on The Hub.

If you need further help understanding your award letter, there is a short video which explains its major components and how the award letter is constructed.

The award may be changed if the Student Financial Services Office acquires new information. When this happens, the student is notified of the change(s) and may view the new award by visiting The Hub. The reason the award is changed most frequently is when the student receives a scholarship from an outside source. The outside aid is used to first reduce the student loan portion of the award, then student employment. If more aid is received than those two categories, the grant aid may be reduced to stay within federal guidelines and a student’s established need.