College Terminology

Helpful definitions


Grants & Scholarships: They are both considered gift aid since they do not have to be repaid. They are the most desirable forms of financial aid.
Loans: These are sums of money that must be repaid. The reason they count as financial aid is that they contain favorable repayment terms and are offered at attractive interest rates below the going commercial rate.
Work/Study: This is exactly what it sounds like. It is money that does not have to be repaid and the college will provide the student with the job. Work/study jobs pay minimum wage. The work commitment is fulfilled once the student has earned the amount of the work/study awarded.
Student Aid Application: Every student who wants to apply for any of the federal student aid programs, some of the campus-based student aid programs, and some of the state student aid programs must first complete the federally approved student aid application. This is called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students may also be required to fill out additional forms such as the Financial Aid Profile (FAP) for a small fee if the college they are applying to or the state in which they live requires additional information for awarding their own funds.
Dependent Students: A student who is dependent on their parents for support. Both the parents' and the student's income and assets are evaluated when determining how much a family can contribute towards college costs.
Independent Students: A student who is not dependent on their parents for support. Only the student's income and assets and those of a spouse are evaluated when determining a contribution towards college costs. Generally, students must be at least 24 years of age by December 31 of the award year to qualify as an independent. Students with legal dependents also qualify. Married and graduate students also qualify as independent students.
Full Time Student: Students must take a minimum of 12 credit hours per term to be considered a full-time student.
Part Time Student: To qualify for most federal student aid programs a student must take six credit hours per term.
Expected Family Contribution: The amount a student and his or her family are judged capable of paying. The contribution remains constant no matter where the student plans to attend college.
Cost of Attendance: This number will differ at each school. It includes tuition, fees, room and board, books and materials, transportation costs, and living expenses.
Merit-based Aid: Merit-based financial aid programs determine eligibility by evaluating a student's ability/potential, based on academic records, or athletic or artistic ability. Individual characteristics, such as ethnicity, are sometimes considered.
Need-based Aid: Need-based financial aid programs determine eligibility by evaluating the family's resources.

College Terminology You May Never Hear


Admit-Deny: process of ranking student who have already been accepted to the college. ie: A college wants 500 freshman, it sends 1500 acceptance letters, uses aid to entice the 500 most wanted students.
Application Score: A scoring system used (in differing formats) by every college. It is how they rank their applicants. Some colleges use a number system or letter system to sort. Most colleges will have an applicants package read by 2 admissions officers. If your student's score is above the cutoff mark-admit. Below-reject. Between the two marks, a committee decides your student's fate.
Flag: A student's record has been marked for special consideration. Ie: Children of alumni may get a flag, or students with special talents, under-represented minorities. These applications usually are separated from the common pool and considered separately.
Financial-Aid Leveraging: practice of cutting the sticker price to specifically targeted groups of applicants. The goal is to maximize the financial aid dollar and admit larger numbers of students with the same dollars. Or, the school may artificially depress the amount of aid given in a given year, to see if that level of aid can become the new "baseline".
Gender-balance: Some universities require a student body to be comprised of certain ratios of men-women. Admissions and financial aid offices then attempt to build a class with these pre-determined characteristics.
Preferential Packaging: Polite term for buying freshmen. 54 percent of colleges admit to following this practice.
Buying Freshmen: The students who are most attractive to a college get the best financial aid package, or more grants and free money and less loans and work-study. Can also take the form of large tuition discounts, or giving more aid than the student's need.
Legacy Rating: Children of Alumni are called legacies, and sometimes have an advantage over others in the admissions process (not true in the financial aid process). The size of the admissions advantage may be determined by the parent's generosity in alumni fund drives.