What Is a Financial Aid Package?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A financial aid package is the award offered to incoming and presently enrolled college students, who apply for aid on a yearly basis. It is generally made up of a combination of different funds, often including scholarships or private grants. The combination and amounts of funds in packages are typically decided upon by a university’s financial aid office, after funds from federal and private sources have been determined. Information about the available aid helps students determine if they possess enough money to attend a particular school. It should be noted the package is being offered, and people often choose to accept part, all, or none of it.

A student loan and financial aid application.
A student loan and financial aid application.

Some elements of a financial aid package include grants and loans. In the award notice, these will be listed, as will the amounts of each for which the student qualifies. Federal or regional grants often provide for many expenses for undergraduates, if they or their parents qualify financially. Information about loans tells students how much money they can borrow in addition to receiving grants.

Many colleges also provide a list of scholarships the student has been offered as part of the financial aid package. A scholarship may diminish eligibility for other types of funds, like state or federal grants. On the other hand, packages from private schools could include special discounts the university offers to individuals or to students within a specific income range. As a reduction in cost, this may not affect grant or loan maximums.

First-time applicants to schools can find waiting for the information about a financial aid package difficult because it may determine whether or not they have the needed funds for attendance. Parents may be no less anxious. There aren’t that many options open to people with a financial aid package that is insufficient.

Parents can sometimes take out loans, which they must have good credit to obtain, to make up the difference. Alternately, discussing the problem with financial aid counselors might point students to other funding sources. This problem most plagues middle income families who may have enough to help a little, but might not have the funds to fully pay for college for their children. Choosing more expensive schools with no scholarship prospects creates this issue, too.

In other situations, the financial aid package offers more money than students want. Most people won’t turn down grants if they get them, but loans are a different issue. Economic advisers routinely recommend that students not accept loan packages unless they absolutely must. It’s also suggested that people should only borrow what they need and no more, even if they’re eligible for larger amounts.

Once students have accepted a financial aid package from one school, they void offers from other colleges. People can’t accept packages from two different schools. Until a final decision is made or the time for acceptance expires, all offers are considered open. This gives students a chance to financially compare universities. They can then choose a college that best fits from a financial aid perspective.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


If you are going to be completing the FAFSA to find out what your college financial aid packages will be, I know that some online income tax programs will help you with this information.

Since the amount of aid you receive is based on your income or the income of your parents, this is the type of information you will need to see how much you qualify for.

When I used Turbo Tax software they had an option to use that would help you save and transfer this information directly to the FAFSA to help streamline the process.


The first thing you have to do to see if you qualify for any financial aid is to complete a federal financial aid application. All of your other financial aid will not be determined until this is submitted. The first time I did this, it was really a pain - but is easier after that.

You will receive a PIN number that you keep track of and then you don't have to come up with the same information every year.

This will tell you how much aid you qualify for and what type of government loans or grants are available to you. Working closely with the financial aid office at your school is the best way to feel confident about all your choices.

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