Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms

529 Plan

A tax-advantaged investment vehicle in the United States designed to encourage saving for the future higher education expenses of a designated beneficiary.

Award Amount

Amount of aid a school expects to pay a student based on the student’s current grant and loan eligibility,
enrollment, Expected Family Contribution (EFC), and the school’s cost of attendance.

Award Letter

An offer from a college or career school that states the type and amount of financial aid the school is willing
to provide if you accept admission and register to take classes at that school.

Award Year

School year for which financial aid is used to fund a student’s education. Generally, this is the 12-month
period that begins on July 1 of one year and ends on June 30 of the following year.


Cost of Attendance, is the total amount it will cost you to go to school—usually stated as a yearly figure. COA includes tuition and fees; room and board (or a housing and food allowance); and allowances for books, supplies, transportation, loan fees, and dependent care. It also includes miscellaneous and personal expenses, including an allowance for the rental or purchase of a personal computer; costs related to a disability; and reasonable costs for eligible study-abroad programs. For students attending less than halftime, the COA includes tuition and fees and an allowance for books, supplies, transportation, and dependent care expenses, and can also include room and board for up to three semesters or the equivalent at the institution. But no more than two of those semesters, or the equivalent, may be consecutive. Contact the financial aid administrator at the school you’re planning to attend if you have any unusual expenses that might affect your COA.

Common Application

An undergraduate admission application used to apply to any of 625 member colleges and universities. Its mission is to encourage the
use of “holistic admission.”

CSS Profile

College Scholarship Service Profile, is an application distributed by the College Board in the United States allowing college
students to apply for financial aid. It is primarily designed to give private member institutions of the College Board a closer look
into the finances of a student and family. It is much more detailed than the FAFSA.

Direct Plus Loan

A loan made by the U.S. Department of Education to graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students
for which the borrower is fully responsible for paying the interest regardless of the loan status.

Early Action

An early admission process to schools that demonstrates a stronger desire to attend. This also allows for an
earlier decision to be made by the school.

Early Decision

Similar to Early Action, however Early Decision is a binding agreement that upon acceptance the student must and will attend the school accepting them.


Estimated or Expected Family Contribution, is the number that is used to determine your eligibility for federal student financial aid.
It is also the basis for most school’s financial aid departments when considering need based aid. This number results from the financial
information you provide in your FAFSA®, the application for federal student aid. Your EFC is reported to you on your Student Aid Report (SAR).


Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a form that must be prepared annually by current and prospective
college students (undergraduate and graduate) in the United States to determine their eligibility for student financial
aid (including all federal Grants, Loans and Work-Study). Roughly 130 Questions.

Federal Direct Loan

A federal student loan, made through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, for which eligible students and parents borrow directly from the
U.S. Department of Education at participating schools. Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans and Direct Consolidation Loans are types of Direct Loans.

Federal Pell Grant

A federal grant for undergraduate students with financial need.

Federal Perkins Loan

A federal student loan, made by the recipient’s school, for undergraduate and graduate students who demonstrate financial need.

Federal Student Aid Programs

The programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 that provide grants, loans and work-study funds
from the federal government to eligible students enrolled in college or career school.

Federal Student Loans

A loan funded by the federal government to help pay for your education. A federal student loan is borrowed money you must repay with interest.

Financial Need

The difference between the cost of attendance (COA) at a school and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). While COA varies from school to school,
your EFC does not change based on the school you attend.

Federal Work-Study

A federal student aid program that provides part-time employment while you are enrolled in school to help pay your education expenses.

Financial Aid Offer

The total amount of financial aid (federal and nonfederal) a student is offered by a college or career school. The school’s financial aid staff combines
various forms of aid into a “package” to help meet a student’s education costs.

Financial Aid Package

The total amount of financial aid (federal and nonfederal) a student is offered by a college or career school. The school’s financial aid staff
combines various forms of aid into a “package” to help meet a student’s education costs.


Financial aid, often based on financial need, that does not need to be repaid (unless, for example, you withdraw from school and owe a refund).

Merit-Based Aid

Based on a student’s skill or ability. Example: A merit-based scholarship might be awarded based on a student’s high grades.

Need-Based Aid

Based on a student’s financial need. Example: A need-based grant might be awarded based on a student’s low income.

Priority Filling Date

The date a college sets to submit your FAFSA in order to be eligible for the most financial aid. Submission to a college after this date is allowed but
might impact the amount of the financial aid award.

Private Loan

A non-federal loan made by a lender such as a bank, credit union, state agency, or school.

Room and Board

An allowance for the cost of housing and food while attending college or career school.


Student Aid Report, is a summary of the information you submitted on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
You receive this report (often called the SAR) via e-mail a few days after your FAFSA has been processed or by mail within 7-10 days
if you did not provide an e-mail address. If there are no corrections or additional information you must provide, the SAR will contain your EFC,
which is the number that’s used to determine your eligibility for federal student aid.


Money awarded to students based on academic or other achievements to help pay for education expenses. Scholarships generally do not have to be repaid.

Subsidized Loan

A loan based on financial need for which the federal government pays the interest that accrues while the borrower is in an in-school,
grace, or deferment status. For Direct Subsidized Loans first disbursed between July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2014, the borrower will be responsible
for paying any interest that accrues during the grace period. If the interest is not paid during the grace period, the interest will be added to the
loan’s principal balance.


The charge for instruction at a college or university.

Universal Application

A US-based organization which provides college admissions applications that allows students to apply to any of the participating colleges

Unsubsidized Loan

A loan for which the borrower is fully responsible for paying the interest regardless of the loan status. Interest on unsubsidized loans accrues
from the date of disbursement and continues throughout the life of the loan.