If you — as a newly accepted student — applied for financial aid and submitted all verification information that was requested you should expect to receive an award notice from Purdue Division of Financial Aid (DFA) in late February.
This will be sent to your Purdue.edu email address, which you gain access to by activating your career account. The email notification directs students to view their financial aid offer online in their myPurdue system under the Financial tab. Notifications will also be sent to parents who supplied a parent email address on the FAFSA.
First-time students at Purdue will receive an award letter through postal mail. Families can review the recorded Paying for Purdue Award Notice Webinar online as an additional resource.
While the first place that your eyes will look is undoubtedly the Free Money section, a better place to start is by looking at the estimated Cost of Attendance (COA) on the right side. The COA is not your bill! Rather, it is an estimate of the costs of being a full-time student and living in West Lafayette for the school year. It also shows the maximum amount of aid you are allowed to receive for the year, not what you ought to be taking. Your actual bill will come later once you’ve signed up for courses. The only costs you will owe Purdue directly are for tuition/ fees, a meal plan (if you have one), and housing costs if you live on campus.
Now that you know that maximum amount of aid you can receive, the free money awaits. If you have any grants or scholarships, they will appear here. If you have an outside scholarship and have not reported it yet , you can do that via your myPurdue. Grants and scholarships are the ideal form of aid since you do not have to pay them back!
If you subtract your gift aid from the Cost of Attendance, you are left with your remaining “Net Cost”. You can look to cover this amount with the “self-help aid”, using money you already have, or a combination of the two. This is the amount you must cover with money you either have now or in the future.
The self-help aid section is where your offered loans and work study will show up. While these options aren’t as preferable as free money they are a better option for many than trying to pay out of pocket.
It’s important to know that while work study is a form of financial aid, it does not credit your account like the other forms of aid do! Having work study opens up many employers on and around campus who will only hire work study students. The student still needs to find a job and earn the money which is paid via a bi-weekly paycheck. If you don’t work enough hours to receive your entire work study amount, you don’t receive it. Work study is a good way to be able to supply yourself with spending money throughout the year, but it is not a reliable way to pay your Purdue bill since you receive it after the bill is already due.
The other type of self-help aid is the loan. Every loan is slightly different, both in interest and in the steps you need to take to receive it. Federal loans typically are preferable to private loans and often offer more flexible repayment options as well.
As you review the award notice and look up different Financial Aid Terms, keep in mind that grants and scholarships are types of gift aid that do not need to be repaid. Loans and work-study are types of self-help financial aid that must be repaid either in money or labor.
One question that often comes up is where the FAFSA fits into all of this? The FAFSA’s primary job is to create the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) number, which reflects a family’s anticipated financial strength. The formula for financial need is made by subtracting the EFC from the Cost of Attendance. The remaining amount is the maximum amount of need-based aid a student is eligible for. This can be scholarships/ grants with a need requirement, subsidized loans, or Federal Work Study. It is not guaranteed that your financial need will be filled with need-based aid.
Remember that even if you don’t think you will be eligible for need-based aid, you should still file the FAFSA as some scholarships have it as one of their requirements!