If you’ve reached this part of the process, you likely already filed your FAFSA paperwork and CSS profile and are now wondering about the financial aid you will receive.  The following should give a better idea of how FAFSA money is received.

First, there is no need to wait for a big financial aid disbursement check in the mail.  Most times, your financial aid funds will go directly to your university.  This money is then credited to your student account and drawn from to cover costs such as tuition and room and board.  Keep a watchful eye for an estimate award letter, however.  FAFSA will generate a detailed list of the aid you are eligible to receive for the coming school year, and the university will decide actual loan and grant amounts.

Once the university has determined your financial aid award, you will receive a letter indicating what you will receive and be required approve it. On rare occasions, there may be excess funds in your account, after money is drawn for tuition expenses.  If this is the case, your school will issue a refund in your name to be used toward other educational expenses.

In terms of disbursement amounts, be prepared to have half of your total funds added to your account per semester.  Note that on your school award letter, your loans and grants will be broken up into two payments.  There should be a column indicating the amount to be received in the Fall and another column indicating the amount for Spring term.  Essentially, a $4,000 Stafford Loan will become $2,000 per semester, for example.

In the event that you will not be attending the second semester, whether through graduating or taking a break from college your financial aid disbursement is effected. For example, if you are graduating in the fall semester you will not be entitled to the disbursement in the spring. However, you can work with your financial aid office and a financial aid advisor to get some of that spring disbursement awarded during your fall/ final semester.

If you are a first time borrower, there are a few things to keep in mind about your federal financial aid.  Remember that to receive funds from any loan agency, be it Perkins, Stafford or another service, that you will be required to complete entrance counseling.  This is usually done online and it informs you of your rights and responsibilities regarding your loan.  You will be required to sign a promissory note, which holds you accountable for paying the loan back within the specified timeline.  Additionally, you may only have your funds disbursed within the first 30 days of a school term.

Knowing the basics of financial aid disbursement, bear in mind that disbursement varies between schools.  A certain date on the academic calendar will be set aside for funds to be added to your student account.  This date is between a few weeks and a few days before the start of each academic term.  If any questions should arise about disbursement, consult the university’s financial aid office.

We strive to help individuals understand the financial aid process.  The above information is intended to provide a basic explanation of financial aid disbursement.  

apply today

Tired of writing scholarship essays?

We don't blame you! Take a break from writing and apply for our Recycled Essay Scholarship today.

Learn More