Understanding Your Financial Aid Award

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Understanding Your Financial Aid Award

Once you have received your aid award, you may have some questions. Here, we'll explain some of the terminology in your award letter to help reduce any confusion.

The Student Account

Students with due charges receive periodic emails from the Student Accounts Office with the subject line “Student Account Notice.” This email is sent to students and any “Delegate” who has been granted access by the student. Please visit the Student Accounts Office website to learn more. We send updated award information to the Student Accounts Office on a weekly basis, which is then posted to your account immediately.

Harvard Scholarships

As you know, all Harvard College financial aid is need-based. Your Harvard scholarship may be funded through many sources including the University’s general unrestricted endowment and over 1500 separate named scholarship funds, including many that come through the generosity of alumni/ae who may have received scholarship assistance themselves years ago. We report to many of these donors annually on the use of these funds, using the information you provide through the Financial Aid Activity and Demographic Supplement. In recognition of this important legacy, we (or the University Donor Relations Office) may contact you as the year unfolds to request your help in thanking your scholarship donor(s).

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A Note on the Budget

Travel: An allowance toward the cost of traveling to and from Harvard has been included in your budget on your award letter and used in calculating your eligibility for financial aid.

Personal Expenses: The estimated cost for books, supplies, clothing, laundry, telephone, entertainment, local transportation, and other incidentals is included in the personal expenses portion of your budget. Students generally spend between $800-$1200 on books over the course of both semesters.

2 students working with lasers in the Doyle Lab at Harvard University
Loic Anderegg (left) and Yicheng Bao work with lasers in the Doyle Lab.

Term-Time Work

The term-time work expectation listed on your award letter is the amount of earnings during the academic year that we expect you to contribute toward your college costs. All earnings are paid directly to you, and it will be your responsibility to determine what portion of your earnings will be used towards billed and/or non-billed expenses. Students can work while at Harvard, but only some students are eligible for the Federal Work-Study Program (FWSP). Your financial aid letter will designate whether you can work in a job funded by FWSP or need to focus your job search on positions not funded by the program. Please note: You may request a subsidized student loan to replace or supplement part or all of a work expectation. To request a loan, visit the Student Loan Request Form.

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Federal Work-Study Program (FWSP)

The messages on your financial aid decision letter will indicate if you are eligible for the Federal Work-Study Program (FWSP), also known as “work-study.” There are many non-FWSP jobs available on campus as well, and last year close to 65% of all Harvard students chose to work during the year. FWSP is a wage subsidy program designed to expand your range of employment opportunities both on and off campus. FWSP is a federal financial aid program and thus it is not an option for international students or students who are not receiving federal aid. The FWSP wage-subsidy allows employers to hire students at wages they might not otherwise be able to afford because the federal government will pay roughly 70% of student earnings. Visit the Student Employment Office website to log into the jobs database to look for FWSP and non-FWSP jobs with your HarvardKey.

Outside Awards

If you expect to receive an outside scholarship that is not reflected on your award letter, including tuition benefits from parents’ employers, you should report it to our office by visiting the OARS website. We will adjust the financial aid package to reflect the receipt of additional resources.

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Parent Financing Information

Many of our families find parent loans to be a useful tool for spreading the cost of education over a number of years. Parents may borrow up to the full cost of education, less any other financial aid. Parent loans are not based on financial need, and there are no income restrictions or penalties for early repayment. Harvard processes PLUS loans directly with the U.S. Department of Education through the Federal Direct Lending Program, without the need for banks and for-profit lenders. However, your financing options are not limited to the parent PLUS loan; you and your family may borrow from any lender you choose. View more information and application instructions on parent loans here.

Statement of Privacy: All information submitted for the purpose of securing financial aid is protected under Harvard Policy, the Federal Educational Right and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), and the Gramm-Leach Bliley Act of 2000 (GLB). Under these provisions, Harvard ensures the privacy and safeguarding of all financial aid information. For additional information, please contact us at (617) 495-1581 or review the Harvard Handbook for Students.