Education Terms You Should Know

Academic Year: A measure of academic work to be performed by the student, subject to definition by the school.

Application Score: Most colleges use score cards to rate their applicants. It’s the only way they can keep a record of how the thousands of applications they receive each year compare to each other.

Every college has its own scoring system. Some use a numbered scale, say 1-5. Others use letter grades, such as A – E. The important thing to remember is that colleges do keep score.

Each component of an application gets its own rating. Then the scores are combined for a total that often determines a candidate’s fate.

It’s customary practice for an application to be read and scored by at least two admission officers. If your total score is above a certain level, you’re automatically in.

If it’s too low, you’re gone. Most students are in the middle, between the two cutoffs. Their applications go to the admissions committee for a decision.

Base Income Year: The calendar year preceding the academic year for which aid is being sought.

Building A Class: Building a class is a term used for maintaining diversity in the student body. The diversity can take many forms – racial, ethnic, geographic, economic – depending on a college’s priorities.

For example, a college may have a gender-balance policy that states that neither sex can be more than 52 percent of the student body.

College Scholarship Service (CSS): The financial aid division of the College Board. CSS writes and processes the Financial Aid PROFILE Form.

Cost Of Attendance (COA): A figure, estimated by the school, that includes the cost of tuition, fees, room, board, books and supplies as well as an allowance for transportation and personal expenses.

This figure is compared to the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to determine a student’s aid eligibility. Also known as the student budget.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC): The amount of money the family is expected to contribute for the year toward the student’s cost of attendance. This figure is compared to the cost of attendance to determine a student’s aid eligibility.

FAFSA: See Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
Family Contribution: Another name used to refer to the Expected Family Contribution.

Federal Work Study (FWS): A federally funded aid program that provides jobs for students. Eligibility is based on need.

Financial Aid: A general term used to refer to a variety of programs funded by the federal schools to assist students with their educational costs.

While the names may vary, financial aid comes in three basic forms: (1)gift aid (grants and scholarships) which do not have to be paid back (2) student loans and (3) work-study jobs.

Financial Aid Form (FAF): A need analysis document that was written and processed by the College Scholarship Services (CSS) in Princeton, NJ.

Financial Aid Officer (FAO): An administrator at each school who determines whether a student is eligible for aid and if so, the types of aid to be awarded.

Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): The need analysis document written by the U.S. Department of Education. This form is required for virtually all students seeking financial aid including the unsubsidized Stafford Loan.

Grants: Gift Aid that is generally based on need. The programs can be funded by the federal and state governments as well as the individual schools.

Institutional Methodology: An alternative method used to calculate the family’s expected contribution to college costs. This methodology is generally used by private and a few state schools to determine eligibility for aid funds under the school’s direct control. Colleges that use the institutional methodology usually require completion of the PROFILE form.

Need: the amount of aid a student is eligible to receive. This figure is calculated by subtracting the Expected Family Contribution from the cost of attendance.

Need Analysis: The process of analyzing the information on the aid form to calculate the amount of money the student and parent(s) can be expected to contribute toward educational costs.

Need Analysis Forms: Aid applications used to calculate the expected family contribution. The most common need analysis forms are: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the Financial Aid PROFILE form. Consult the individual school’s financial aid filing requirements to determine which form(s) are required for that particular school.

Parent’s Contribution: The amount of money the parent(s) are expected to contribute for the year toward the student’s cost of attendance.

Preferential Packaging: Preferential packaging is a more polite term for buying freshmen. The students who are most attractive to a college get the best financial aid package, or more grants and free money and less loans and work-study. Preferential Packaging could also take the form of a large discount off the sticker price, or giving more aid than the student’s financial need.

In a survey by the National Association of College Admissions Counselors, 54 percent of the colleges that responded say they use preferential packaging.

Student Aid Report (SAR): The multi-page report that is issued to students who have filed a completed FASFA.
Student’s Contribution: The amount of money the student is expected to contribute for the year toward his or her cost of attendance.


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