How to interpret a college financial aid letter

Is it a grant or a loan? Is that loan public or private? College financial aid letters are notoriously hard to decipher. We'll walk you through one.

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Financial aid letters from colleges can be confusing, omit important information or make financial aid awards appear more generous than they are.

Legislation that would require schools to show college cost and financial aid information in a more consumer-friendly way is being considered, but any actual changes are years away.

To help you decipher your offer, we created an interactive sample letter. The terms you see below may not exactly match your letter, but our explanations and tips should help you make an informed decision on which deal is best for you.

Scroll over (or tap on) the orange circles below to learn how valuable each type of aid really is.

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