Terms To Know

Terms To Know

The following are some common terms to be aware of concerning financial aid, college admissions, etc. They have been primarily taken from the ECMC Opportunities Booklet, which also contains valuable information about choosing a college, the college application process, and how to apply for financial aid. 


Application Deadline: The final or priority date for students applying for financial aid. The deadline will vary by college for most financial aid programs. Students should be careful to understand whether or not the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) deadline indicated by the college is for submission to the federal processor or receipt by the college's financial aid office.

College Grant Aid: Financial aid from the school, such as tuition waivers, grants, and scholarships, which does not need to be repaid.

Cost of Attendance (COA): The calculated cost of attending the college, which includes transportation, room and board, tuition and fees, and the estimated cost of books, supplies, and other expenses. COA is used to determine eligibility for financial aid.

Dependent Student: For federal aid purposes, any student who is not an "independent student" is considered to be a dependent student. See the definition of "independent student" below for a list of qualifying conditions.

Early Decision: Students who apply under early decision commit to enroll at the college if admitted and offered a satisfactory financial aid package. Application deadlines usually are in November or December, with a mid- to late-December notification date.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC): The index used to determine how much a family is expected to contribute toward the Cost of Attendance. Your EFC is calculated based upon the information you provided when filing the FAFSA. You are not obligated to pay this amount.

Federal Grant Aid: The Pell Grant, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, Academic Competitiveness Grant, National Science and Mathematics Access To Retain Talent Grant, and other federal grants and scholarships that do not need to be repaid to the government.

Federal Pell Grant: Federal grant that provides funds based on the student’s financial need and does not need to be repaid.

Federal PLUS Loan: Federal loans available to parents of dependent undergraduate students or directly available to graduate and professional students as a way to help finance education. The borrower may borrow up to the full cost of the education, less the amount of any other financial aid received. A Federal PLUS Loan may be used to pay the Expected Family Contribution. However, parents must begin paying on this loan immediately.

Financial Need: The amount by which your family contribution falls short of covering the cost of attendance.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA):  is an application form that a student, who's planning to attend college, fills out annually in the US. It is used by virtually every college and university to determine the student's eligibility for financial aid (including Federal Pell Grants, other federal and state grant aid, student and parent loans and Work Study programs). This document is often required for consideration for certain scholarships. It is strongly recommended to fill out the online version of this application, and this should be done as close to January 1 of a student's senior year as possible. Money is awarded on a first come/first serve basis. Click here to go to the online application, and be sure to select the correct year: the year the student will begin attending college. The student must fill out the FAFSA every January 1 during college.

Independent Student: A student is considered independent for federal student aid if the student meets one of the following criteria: is age 24 or older, is working toward a master’s or doctorate degree, is married, has legal dependents other than a spouse, is an orphan or ward of the court, is on active military duty, or is a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Effective Wednesday, July 1, 2009, the definition of independent was expanded to include individuals who are:

  • Orphans, wards of the court or in foster care at any time the individual is 13 or older, even for a day.
  • Emancipated minors or in legal guardianship
  • Unaccompanied youths who are homeless or who are self-supporting and at risk of homelessness (documentation required)

Student Aid Report (SAR): The SAR summarizes the information included on the FAFSA. The SAR provides the Estimated Family Contribution (EFC), which is used to determine whether a student is eligible for a Federal Pell Grant and other federal aid.

Work Study: A federal program providing undergraduate and graduate students with part-time employment during the school year. The only way to apply for this is by filing the FAFSA.