Financial Aid Glossary

Review QuestBridge's Financial Aid Glossary to learn terms associated with paying for college.

This is a glossary of common terms appearing in financial aid package descriptions. The exact terms, policies, and definitions may vary at different colleges.

Books & Supplies 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 the student's classes and/or financial aid.
Cost of Attendance (COA)The total cost of attending a college for one year, including tuition, housing & food, books & supplies, travel, personal expenses, etc. This is sometimes referred to as the “sticker price” of a school.
CSS ProfileAn additional financial aid application used by some colleges to award their own financial aid funds. 
Demonstrated NeedThe difference between the cost of attendance and the expected family contribution for each college. This amount often varies from one school to another as each college calculates aid in their own way. Some colleges commit to meeting 100% of demonstrated need through financial aid.
Expected Family Contribution (EFC)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.
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)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 the student for state-sponsored financial aid. Students should confirm their eligibility for federal student aid.
GrantsGift money from the federal government, state government, a community organization, 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.
Net Price CalculatorAn 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. 
Outside ScholarshipMoney 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.
Parental ContributionAmount 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.
Parent LoanMoney 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.
Pell GrantGovernment grant for low-income students, which ranges from $1 to over $7,395 depending on financial need. Eligibility is based on the FAFSA.
Personal ExpensesAny 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.
Housing & FoodCosts associated with living and dining while enrolled in school. There might be different housing and food budgets for students living on and off campus.
ScholarshipGift money for college that does not need to be repaid. It can be offered by the college itself, or outside organizations.
Student Aid Index (SAI)An eligibility index number that a college's or career school's financial aid office uses to determine how much federal student aid the student would receive if the student attended the school.
Student LoanMoney 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.
Student Savings ContributionThe 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. 
Summer Work ContributionThe 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.
TravelCosts associated with transportation to and from college at the beginning and end of the school year, and for winter break.
TuitionCost 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.