Paying for College: Overview | Financial Aid at Top Colleges | Net Price Calculators | Glossary
This is a glossary of common terms appearing in financial aid package descriptions. The exact terms, policies, and definitions may vary at different colleges.
College students must purchase or rent the books required for their classes along with notebooks and other materials. Books and supplies usually total several hundred dollars per term, but the amount will vary depending on your classes and/or financial aid.
The total cost of attending a college for one year, including tuition, room & board, books & supplies, travel, personal expenses, etc. This is sometimes referred to as the “sticker price” of a school.
An additional financial aid application used by some colleges to award their own financial aid funds.
The difference between the cost of attendance and the expected family contribution for each college. Some colleges commit to meeting 100% of demonstrated need through financial aid.
A term used by many institutions to refer to the amount that a student and the student’s family is expected to contribute to the cost of college based on their income, assets, and household situation.
A free application form students submit to apply for federal financial aid. It is required for all students seeking federal student grants, work-study programs, and loans and may also qualify you for state-sponsored financial aid.
Gift money from the federal government, state government, and/or a college that the student does not need to pay back. This money is usually paid directly to the college without passing through the student's hands.
An online tool provided by colleges to allow potential students to estimate the net price of attendance, which is the difference between the full cost of attendance and any grants and scholarships. View our college partner’s net price calculators.
Money from an outside organization that does not need to be repaid. Each college has a different policy on how outside scholarships impact student’s financial aid packages.
Amount that a student's parents are expected to pay directly to a college. This amount is calculated using the information in the FAFSA, CSS Profile, and other required financial forms.
Money that is borrowed in the parents’ name to pay for their child’s college. Parent loans need to be paid back with interest. The main parent loan is the federal PLUS loan.
Government grant for low-income students, which ranges from $1 to over $6,000 depending on financial need. Eligibility is based on the FAFSA.
Any personal expenses that the student will incur, such as purchasing toiletries or seeing a movie. Some school-related fees (for labs, music lessons, etc.) may also be expected to come out of the personal expense budget.
Costs associated with living and dining while enrolled in school. There might be different room and board budgets for students living on and off campus.
Gift money for college that does not need to be repaid. It can be offered by the college itself, or outside organizations.
Money that a student borrows to pay for school. Student loans must be repaid with interest. Student loans are offered from the federal government, private lenders, and in some cases, from the school directly. The two primary loan programs are the Federal Direct Loans -- the Unsubsidized and Subsidized loan programs. Federal Direct Subsidized loans are awarded on the basis of financial need, and the federal government subsidizes the interest while the student is enrolled full-time and during a grace period. Federal Direct Unsubsidized loans begin accruing interest immediately. The standard repayment period for Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans is ten years, although various repayment options, including forebearance and deferral, are available.
The amount a college expects a student to contribute to their college costs from their savings and investments. Student savings and investments must be reported on the FAFSA, CSS Profile, and other financial documents that the student submits to the college. A student savings contribution is typically a percentage of a student's total savings and investments.
The amount of money a student is expected to earn during the summer to be used for college expenses for the upcoming year. The summer work contribution is often used to pay for travel costs to campus or to pay for personal expenses during the academic year. Students should plan to work during the summer before freshman year to meet this earnings requirement. The expected summer work contribution may increase slightly from year to year. Students can start earning this money in advance of the summer.
Costs associated with transportation to and from college at the beginning and end of the school year, and for winter break.
Cost of educational instruction at a college.
Work-study programs allow students to work while in college. Students are typically expected to work 5-10 hours per week, depending on the student’s schedule and eligibility for financial aid. Work-study jobs can range from shelving books in the library, to assisting a faculty member with research, to tutoring. Income is often expected to be put toward the cost of books, supplies, travel, or personal expenses.
Some work-study programs are offered through the Federal government, which means the government pays a portion of the wages while the employer pays the remainder. Eligibility for Federal Work-Study is determined by the financial aid office. In order to utilize their Federal Work-Study, students must apply for and secure a job. Employers are often eager to hire Federal Work-Study students because the salary is subsidized by federal funds. Contact colleges to learn more about their different work-study programs.