529 Savings Plan – A college savings plan that’s designed to help parents/guardians save for future college expenses, such as institution, books and other qualified costs.
Academic Year – The academic year is divided into two semesters. Some colleges start their academic year in the fall and end it at the end of summer. Others start it in the fall and end it around May, just before summer classes begin.
Advisor – Advises students on class selection for major, fulfilling requirements for graduation and choosing a career path.
American College Test (ACT) – A standardized U.S. college admissions test, covering the areas of English, math, reading and science reasoning.
Award – Money, gift or benefit that a student is given for school.
Award Letter – College document detailing your financial aid award. This award is based on your cost of attendance, enrollment status and expected family contribution from the FAFSA.
Award Year – The year when the scholarship is awarded.
Awardee – Person or student who receives an award.
Base Year – The tax year that’s used to determine a student’s financial aid award on the FAFSA.
Borrower – Person who borrows money with intent to pay it back after a set period of time.
Business Office – Where student accounts are managed, such as tuition and fees, parking permit and questions relating to student accounts.
Co-Signer – Person who signs a legal document, promising to pay your loan if you cannot.
College Scholarship Service Profile (CSS Profile) – Online application from the College Board that’s used to apply for non-federal financial aid and scholarships for college, university and professional schools. Some schools require a CSS Profile, along with the FAFSA.
Cost of Attendance (COA) – The total cost of college for the year, including tuition, fees, books, room and board, travel and other college expenses. It affects your financial aid award.
Dependent Student – Factors used to determine whether you’ll receive help from your parents to pay for college. You may fall under this group if you’re single, an undergraduate and under 24 years old during the award year.
Early Action – Admissions process that allows you to apply to multiple schools earlier than the regular deadline. You learn of your acceptance early, but are not bound to enroll at the school once you’re accepted.
Early Decision – Admissions process that allows you to apply to your first college choice, with the understanding that you’ll enroll in that school if you’re accepted. You’re often notified of your admission by mid-December, rather than March/April.
Eligibility Requirement – Criteria used to determine your eligibility for financial aid or a scholarship.
Eligible Non-Citizen – A non-US citizen is eligible to receive federal student aid, such as:
- A permanent residents with an Alien Registration Card (I-551)
- Conditional permanent residents with an I-551C card
- A refugee, asylum granted, indefinite parole, humanitarian parole, or Cuban-Haitian entrant with an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94)
- A citizen of the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, or the Federated States of Micronesia
Eligible Student – Students who are either 18 years of age or enrolled in college, university or post-secondary school at any age.
Endorser – Person who agrees to repay a PLUS or private loan if the borrower cannot do so. Also known as co-signer.
Enrollment Period – When you’re eligible to enroll in courses for the semester.
Enrollment Status – The number of credit hours you’re taking for the semester, used to determine your full-time, quarter-time, half-time or less-than-half-time status.
Expected Family Contribution (EFC) – Calculation used to determine the amount of student aid you’re eligible for based on your family’s income, assets and benefits.
Financial Aid Office – Department that assists students with financial aid, scholarships, loans and other financial advice for education at a college or university.
Financial Aid Officer – College or university staff who reviews a student’s financial need and advises the student or parent on financial aid options and awards.
Financial Aid Packet – A packet summarizing the financial need that a student is eligible for from the college.
Financial Aid Transcript – Also known as an FAT, this transcript shows your financial aid history from all other colleges you’ve attended in the past. The FAT is used to determine your financial aid eligibility.
Financial Need – When you complete a financial aid application, you provide financial and personal information about yourself. The government uses this information to calculate how much you and your family can afford to pay for college attendance. The balance you can’t afford is known as your financial need.
Financial Responsibility – As a college student or graduate, you are financially responsible for any student loan debts you incur for college. Interest rates aren’t applied to these loans while you’re in college, so you can jumpstart your payments early. There’s typically a six-month grace period for payments after you graduate.
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – A form that current and prospective students or their parents complete annually. Colleges use it to determine a student’s eligibility for financial aid.
Full-Time Student Status – A student who is taking 12 or more credit hours during the spring or fall semester at a college or university.
Gift Aid – These are grants, scholarships or other financial gifts you don’t have to repay.
Grade Point Average (GPA) – Your GPA is based on a 4.0 scale and used to measure your overall grade for school. Each letter grade corresponds to a number on the scale. For example, an A represents 4.0, a B represents 3.0, and so on. A student with a 4.0 GPA has an A average in all his classes.
Graduate Student/Post-Graduate Student – A student who has earned her bachelor’s degree and is taking classes, usually towards a master’s or doctorate degree.
Grant – Free money you don’t have to repay. You can receive it from the federal/state government, an organization, or school. It can be part of your financial aid package.
Gross Income – Represents your total wages before any deductions.
Guarantor – A person who guarantees to cover someone else’s debt if they are unable to pay it back on default on the loan.
Guaranty Agency – A state or non-profit agency that insures student loans against default. If a student defaults on the loan, they pay off the loan and attempt to college the unpaid loans.
Half-Time Student Status – An undergraduate student who is enrolled in at least 6 credit hours during the spring or fall semester, or a graduate student taking at least 4.5 credit hours per semester.
Hope Scholarship Tax Credit – This tax credit lets you claim a tax credit of up to $2,500 per student for qualified educational expenses each year. It’s limited to 4 years.
Income – The amount of money you earn on a regularly basis through wages or investment.
Independent Student – Factors used to determine whether you’ll receive help from your parents to pay for college. You may fall under this group if you’re married, have dependents, are over 24, you’re an orphan, or are in the military or a veteran.
Indirect Costs – Costs you don’t apply to a specific item or project, such as maintenance or insurance.
In-School – Processes or activities relating to school.
Interest – A percentage of a loan you have to pay during the life of the loan.
Interest-Only Payment – You temporarily pay the interest on a loan. Once the period is over, you begin paying the principal and interest on the loan.
Lender – A person or institution that lends someone money, usually repaid at an interest.
Lifetime Learning Tax Credit – This tax credit lets you claim up to $2,000 for qualified educational expenses each year. There is no limit to the number of years you can claim.
Loan – Money you borrow and pay back with interest. There’s usually a six-month grace period after graduation before payment begins.
Loan Disclosure Statement – A document that summarizes financial information about your student loan, such as the APR, finance charges, amount of money financed on your behalf, late charge assessment and prepayment information.
Loan Forgiveness – Loan forgiveness is when your student loan is cancelled or discharged. For example, if you’ve made 10 years’ worth of your federal student loans while working for the government or a nonprofit organization, your student loans may qualify for student forgiveness.
Merit-Based Scholarship – Scholarships that are based on academics, sports, arts or other special skills, talents or interests.
National SMART grant – The National “Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent” grant is both need and merit based. As with other grants, you don’t have to repay it. It’s for college juniors or seniors who are U.S. citizens. You’ll need to have a minimum GPA of 3.0 and be eligible for a federal Pell grant. You’ll also need to study math, science, technology, foreign languages or a non-major liberal arts program.
Need Analysis – Used to determine a student’s eligibility for financial aid. Based on factors like your expected family contribution (EFC) and cost of attendance (COA) for the academic year.
Need-Based Scholarship – Scholarships that are based on your family’s financial need. Cost of Attendance (COA) minus Expected Family Contribution (EFC) equals need.
Net Income – The amount of money you earn after wages, payroll taxes, contributions, etc. are deducted from your gross earnings.
Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA) – Office that guides undergraduate and graduate students through the financial aid process at a college or university.
Origination Fee – A small percentage of the total amount of your student loan, covering the bank’s costs for when they lend you money. It’s applied when your student loan is disbursed.
Pell Grant – Free federal money for low-income students, who are earning their first undergraduate degree or special post-graduate degree for teaching or licensing at a participating school. You don’t have to repay it.
Personal Expenses – Your living expenses in college, such as the costs for laundry, food, cell phone and events.
Prepaid Tuition Plan – It allows families or donors to fund your college education in advance, using today’s tuition rates.
Promissory Note – A signed financial document signifying your promise to repay a loan by a specific date.
Provider – Someone who provides for you for financial, physical or other reasons, such as a parent or guardian.
PSAT – Stands for Preliminary SAT, a standardized test for 10th and 11th grades in the United States. It’s often used to prepare for the SAT, to familiarize students with the SAT or to secure a merit-based scholarship.
Recommendation Letter – A professional reference letter that someone writes about you, assessing your qualities, skills and capabilities to perform a job or role. It’s sometimes requested on employment, scholarship, or college applications.
Regular Student – A student who is enrolled at a college, university or institution to earn a degree or certificate from the school.
Renewal FAFSA – A pre-filled FAFSA application that carries over data you completed on a previous FAFSA, so you don’t have to complete it in its entirety. You simply update any information that has changed.
Repayment Period – This is typically the 10-year period set for the borrower to pay off their student loan. This timeline may vary based on your situation.
Repayment Schedule – A document showing your loan amount when the payments are due and how much is applied to the principal and interest.
SAT – A standardized test used for college admissions in the United States. The higher your score, the better your options for college choices and scholarships.
Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) – Federal regulations used to evaluate your academic process, so they can determine your eligibility for financial aid.
Scholarship – Free money you don’t have to pay back. Some scholarships only cover tuition, but some cover books, fees and other college expenses as well.
Scholarship Committee – Committee members who review scholarship applications and decide which applicants to award with a scholarship.
Scholarship Essay Outline – An outline listing important points you want to include in your scholarship essay.
Scholarship Essay Prompt – A topic you’re asked to write about in your scholarship essay.
Scholarship Resume – A document outlining your personal, academic, extracurricular and professional accomplishments.
Student Aid Report (SAR) – A summary that shows your eligibility for financial aid and information you provided on your FAFSA.
Teaching Assistantship (TA) – Financial assistance (tuition, stipend) provided to graduate students who teach or engage in research.
Three-Quarter Time – An undergraduate student taking between 9-11 credit hours during the spring or fall semester.
Transcript – A high school or college document detailing your courses and grades during your attendance at the school.
Tuition and Fees – The amount of money you’re charged for college attendance, such as tuition, room & board, parking, books and lab fees. The amount varies by school.
Undergraduate Student – A student attending a college or university to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree.
Verification – Random process used to verify that the information you provided in your financial aid application/FAFSA is accurate and matches your finances.
Work-Study – On-campus or off-campus jobs for students with financial need, which let you earn money to cover college expenses.