A period of time schools use to measure a quantity of study.
For example, a school’s academic year may run from September to May during which a student must complete 24-30 semester hours.
Each school has its own definition of academic year which often varies between educational programs at the same school.
Advanced Placement Test (AP)
Standardized Test used to earn credit for
college subjects studied in high school. Each school has its own
policy on the acceptance of AP test scores for college credit.
Contact the school or department for more information.
American College Test (ACT)
National standardized college entrance
exam. Most universities require either an ACT or SAT
score as part of an application for admission.
Degree granted by two-year colleges.
Undergraduate degree granted by four-year colleges and universities.
Financial aid programs administered by the college
or university. This includes some federal programs,
such as Federal Stafford Loans, Pell Grants,
Perkins Loans, Federal Work-Study
Program, and the SEOG, that each university administers
for the government, as well as the school's own financial aid programs.
Adding unpaid interest
to a loan's principal for the
calculation of future interest. Each interest
charge increases as a result of the unpaid interest from previous
periods. This is especially relevant to students with Unsubsidized
Stafford Loans, where payment is deferred while the student is in school.
Because capitalization occurs, the principal and
future interest payments are increased, possibly considerably.
Consider the following simple example:
- $1,000 / year Loan
- 6% Annual interest
- Deferred payments for four years while student attends college
The student has borrowed $4,000 dollars over the four year period ($1,000/year
* 4 years). However, due to capitalization and interest, that
student owes $4,637 upon graduation, a 16% increase on the original $4,000
Cost of Attendance (COA)
The total amount it will cost a student to attend a school generally
expressed as a yearly figure. The COA, as required by law, includes:
- Tuition and fees
- On-campus room and board or a housing and food allowance for off-campus students
- Allowances for books, supplies, transportation, and loan fees
- * Dependent care
- * Costs related to a disability
- * Miscellaneous expenses, including an allowance for the rental or
purchase of a personal computer
- * Reasonable costs for eligible study-abroad programs.
* If applicable
For part-time students, the COA includes only tuition and fees and an allowance for books,
supplies, transportation, and dependent-care expenses. Talk to the financial aid
administrator at the school you are planning to attend if you have any expenses
not listed above that might affect your cost of attendance.
Some colleges and universities offer an Early Action
option. This allows students to apply to a school a few months early,
often in November. Early Action is generally non-binding.
This means that you are not required to enroll in the school
if admitted. You are free to apply to and consider
attending other universities. Early Action policies vary by
university so it is important to find out more from your prospective school.
Similar to Early Action programs, Early Decision programs allow a student
to apply early to a university. Unlike Early Action,
however, Early Decision is generally binding. This means that if the
university accepts a student and provides a financial aid package that
meets the students financial aid needs, the student must attend
that university. You can only apply to a single university through an
Early Decision program. Applying to multiple universities can result
in the automatic rejection of your applications.
US resident who is eligible for federal
financial aid despite not being a US citizen.
Eligible non-citizens include the following:
- Permanent US residents with Alien Registration Card I-551 or I-151
- Conditional Permanent Resident with I-151C card
- Holder of Arrived-Departure Record (I-94) with any of
the following designations "Refugee", "Asylum Granted",
"Indefinite Parole", "Humanitarian Parole", or "Cuban-Haitian Entrant"
Student Visa (F-1 or F-2), Exchange Visitor Visa (J-1, J-2), and international
organization G-series visa holders are not considered Eligible Non-Citizens.
Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
An estimate of the parents' and/or student's ability to
contribute to post-secondary educational expenses.
- Use our EFC Calculator
to get a ballpark estimate of your expected family contribution based on
the federal methodology.
See Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
Federal Consolidation Loan Program
Under this program, a borrower's loans
are paid off and a new consolidation loan is created. This
simplifies loan repayment by combining several types of Federal
education loans (that may have different terms and repayment
schedules or may have been made by different lenders) into
one new loan. The interest rate may be lower than on one or
more of the underlying loans. In addition, the monthly payment amount
on a consolidation loan is usually lower and the amount of time
to repay may be extended beyond what was available in the separate
loan programs. These features should result in more manageable
debt and should make borrowers less prone to default.
These loans are available from both the federal government and
The US Department of Education has more
information on the Federal Consolidation Loan Program.
Federal Direct Student Loan Program (FDLP or FDSLP)
The William D. Ford Federal Direct
Student Loan Program includes Stafford and
PLUS loans that are available directly from
the federal government rather than through commercial lenders. Selected colleges
and universities participate in this program. A student need only fill
out a FAFSA to apply for FDSLP loans.
The US Department of Education
has more information on the FDSLP.
Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP)
Includes the Federal Stafford,
Federal PLUS, and Federal Consolidation Loan
Programs. These programs offer loans available to students
and their families that are funded by private lenders
and reinsured by the federal government.
Federal Student Aid(FSA)
Financial assistance offered by the federal government.
The Federal Work-Study Program provides part-time jobs for
undergraduate and graduate students with
financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education
expenses. The program encourages community service work and work related to
each student’s course of study.
The US Department of Education
has more information on the Federal Work-Study Program.
Grant given to graduate students
to help support their education generally including a tuition waiver and/or
stipend to cover living expenses.
Money supplied by a source other than the student or
family to help pay for the student’s education costs.
Types of Aid
Categories of Aid
Financial Aid Package
Total amount of financial aid
from a student receives from any source. The school financial
aid administrator combines various forms of aid into the package to
help meet a student’s need. Due to limited funds, a financial aid package might
fall short of the amount a student is eligible for. Also, note that the amount
of federal student aid received is affected by other sources of aid awarded.
As measured by the federal government, need equals
COA (Cost of Attendance) minus the EFC (Expected Family
Contribution). Need is used to determine the
financial aid package for which the student qualifies.
The definition of financial need may vary from organization to organization.
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
The official federal student aid application form. Schools
use the FAFSA to determine student eligibility for federal
financial aid, such as grants, loans and
federal work-study. Many financial aid
awards require the FAFSA to determine financial need.
A renewal FAFSA is also available for students to fill out in subsequent years
after filling out the complete application.
The US Department of Education has more
information on the FAFSA.
Grade Point Average (GPA)
Average of a student's grades, generally on a 4.0 scale
(4.0 is an A, 3.0 is a B, 2.0 is a C, etc.)
- Test the impact of various scenarios on your grade point average using our
Student enrolled in a Masters or PhD program.
Financial aid which does not have to be repaid.
Scholarships are a type of grant.
Student who is a resident of the state, having met the legal residency
requirements, and is therefore eligible for reduced in-state student tuition at
public colleges and universities within the state.
The fee charged by a lender to a borrower for the use of borrowed money,
usually expressed as an annual percentage, also called interest rate.
Job during the academic year or the summer in which a student receives
supervised training generally in a field related to the student’s academic or
career interests. Internships may be either paid or unpaid.
Financial aid which must be repaid with
interest over a period of time. Loans are offered by the federal
government and private lenders. The federal FFELP and
FDSLP loan programs generally offer lower interest rates
than private loans.
Graduate degree offered by universities generally requiring 1-3 years of study.
Financial aid for which financial
need is not used to determine the recipient. The recipient may be
determined by students’ athletic, academic, or artistic abilities.
Process used to determine student’s need for financial assistance by comparing
COA (cost of attendance) with the EFC (expected family
Financial aid for which the student and family’s
financial situation is a factor that determines the recipient.
Student who is not a resident of the state, having not met the legal residency
requirements. The student is therefore generally charged the higher
out-of-state tuition at public colleges and universities within the state.
Scholarship provided by a source other than the school or
Need-based federal grant of up to $4,731. Size
and eligibility are determined by financial need.
Pell Grants are given only for undergraduate or teacher education programs.
US Department of Education
has more information on Pell Grants.
A Federal Perkins loan is a low-interest (5
percent) loan for students with financial
need. The loan funds are provided by both the federal
government and your school and administered by your school. Undergraduate
students can borrow up to $4000 a year (up to $20,000) and graduate students
can borrow up to $6000 a year (up to $40,000 including undergraduate Perkins
US Department of Education has more information on Perkins Loans.
Practice test for the ACT usually taken in the sophomore year
of high school.
Loan parents can take out to pay for their dependent child’s
education expenses (Parent PLUS Loans).
Graduate students may also take out loans through the PLUS loan program (Grad PLUS Loans).
PLUS loans are not based on need (they do
not require submission of the FAFSA) and cannot exceed
the COA (Cost of Attendance) minus other
financial aid received.
The US Department of Education has more information on the
and Graduate PLUS programs.
Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test / National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT)
Practice test for the SAT usually taken in the sophomore or junior year
of high school. PSAT scores are used to qualify students as National Merit
semifinalists and finalists, which may make them eligible to receive
merit-based scholarships from private foundations or their
university or college.
In a loan, the amount borrowed, or the amount on which you pay
interest and must pay back. The principal may increase as a result of
capitalization of interest.
Graduate degree in a field like law, education, medicine, pharmacy or
dentistry that leads to a specific profession.
A scholarship that is awarded for more than one year. The
student may need to reapply or maintain a specified GPA to
retain the scholarship each year.
Sallie Mae, or the Student Loan Marketing Corporation, holds and guarantees a
large portion of federal student loans. Sallie Mae also offers
education loans to students.
National standardized college entrance exam. Most universities require either
an ACT or SAT score as part of an application for admission.
SAT II Achievement Tests
Tests that measure a student's proficiency in specific subject areas.
Some schools require students take specific SAT II to be admitted.
Grant to help pay for a student's education. As a grant,
scholarships do not need to be repaid. Scholarships are awarded based on a
variety of criteria, such as financial need,
academics, athletics, career goals, hobbies, interests, talents, etc.
A federally financed student loan.
There are two types of Stafford Loans:
Subsidized Stafford Loan – After filing the FAFSA students
with financial need may be eligible to receive
the subsidized Stafford Loan, which does not charge interest until
the student graduates or leaves school.
Unsubsidized Stafford Loan – Unsubsidized loans are available
for students who do not file the FAFSA or do not qualify
for the subsidized loans. However, although loan
payments are not required until after the student graduates or leaves school,
interest charges will accrue (accumulate to be paid at a later date)
while the student attends school (See Capitalization)
Other conditions such as health or personal problems and various jobs or
professions also allow the postponement of Stafford Loan payments.
US Department of Education has more information on Stafford Loans.
Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG)
Federal grant for students with exceptional
financial need. Depending on need and
COA, the grant ranges from $100-$4,000.
US Department of Education has more information the SEOG program.
Test Of English As A Foreign Language (TOEFL)
Test that evaluates a student's ability to speak, write, and
understand English. International students may be required to
take this test to be admitted to many colleges and universities.
Student enrolled in a bachelor or associate degree program.
The following criteria determine a student’s veteran status for federal
- A veteran is former member of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines,
or Coast Guard who served on active duty and was discharged other than
- There is no minimum length of service requirement, but it does have to be
- National Guard or Reserve members are not considered members of the Armed
Forces and do not qualify as veterans
- National Guard and Reserves members who serve on active duty for non-training
purposes are veterans
- Training is not considered active military duty
- Students who attended a U.S. military academy for at least one day but withdrew
in good standing are also counted as veterans
- Students who are currently attending a U.S. military academy are not veterans. ROTC
students are not veterans.
A college or university program allowing students to work part-time to help
fund their education, similar to federal work-study program.