Learning the Language of Financial Aid

FAFSA, EFC, SAR.

If this looks like alphabet soup (organic, of course) to you, don’t fret.

You can find a quick guide to financial aid lingo below.

Whether you’re applying for financial assistance for the first time or you simply haven’t done it in a while, learning these terms will help you make sense of the financial aid process.

Cost of Attendance

Essentially the sticker price—all the expenses you’ll have to cover, including tuition, fees, housing, books and supplies, transportation, and miscellaneous expenses.

Dependent student

In the simplest terms, any student whose parents can still claim him or her as a dependent on their tax returns. In more specific terms, any student who is NOT one of the following: at least 24 years old, married, a graduate or professional student, a veteran, a member of the armed forces, an orphan, a ward of the court or someone with legal dependents other than a spouse.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)”

The amount that you and/or your family will be expected to pay toward your education based on your FAFSA application. For the 2014-15 award year, families making $24,000 automatically qualify for an ETC of zero. That’s down from the previous income threshold of $32,000, which means many low-income students will qualify for more financial aid.

Grant

Aid that doesn’t need to be repaid and based on financial need.

Independent student

Any student who is at least 24 years old, married, a graduate or professional student, a veteran, a member of the armed forces, an orphan, a ward of the court or someone with legal dependents other than a spouse.

FAFSA

Stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Students submit this application to find out their financial aid eligibility. In order to be considered for loans, grants and scholarships, a FAFSA must be completed.

National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS)

A federal student financial aid database where you can find out about the aid you’ve received.

Subsidized

A type of loan you don’t have to pay interest on while in school, during a grace period, or if a loan is deferred.

Unsubsidized

A type of loan that starts accruing interest as soon as it’s disbursed. Financial experts say it’s smart to make payments on the interest while you’re in school, which will lower the amount you owe when you graduate.Sources:
U.S. Department of Education; FinAid.org

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