Financial Aid Vocab Cheat Sheet
Financial aid has a language all its own – one with lots of acronyms and industry-specific terms that can sound scary. This glossary will take some of the mystery out of these terms and help you make the best decisions about your awards.
Expected Family Contribution (EFC): The amount that the federal government believes your family can contribute to one year of college. Colleges use this, among other things, to determine financial need.
Cost of Attendance (COA): An estimate of how much it costs to attend a college. The COA includes the price of tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies and other expenses associated with attending that school. Learn about our COA here.
Financial need: The difference between Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and a college’s Cost of Attendance (COA).
Net price: How much it will cost you to attend a college for one year after your scholarships and grants, loans and work-study are subtracted from the COA. Use our Net Price Calculator to estimate your net price.
Student Aid Report (SAR): This report shows you what data is on your FAFSA, some information about the aid for which you’re eligible and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). See a sample SAR here.
Subsidized loan: A need-based loan on which you don’t pay interest while you’re in school.
Unsubsidized loan: A loan for which you don’t have to demonstrate financial need. You’re responsible for all the interest on this type of loan.
Scholarship/grant: A monetary gift that doesn’t have to be repaid. It can be one-time or renewable, and based on grades, talents or other criteria.
Work-study: A part-time job for students with financial need.Find out more about our work study options.
You can contact your school’s financial aid office at any time if you need some help understanding terms like these. They’ll be happy to help you translate them!
For more common terms you’ll see throughout the financial aid process, check out this glossary from the Department of Education.
File your FAFSA now!