College Admission Terms

Aid Package:
A combination of financial aid (scholarships, grants, work-study, and/or loans) offered by the financial aid office of a school.

Award Letter:
An official letter issued by a financial aid office listing all the financial aid awarded to a student.  The award letter usually includes information about the cost of attendance and terms and conditions for the financial aid.

Common Application:
An admission form for 488 colleges and universities.  More information can be found at

Cost of Attendance:
The total cost of attending a post-secondary institution for one academic year.  This figure usually includes tuition, fees, room, board, supplies, transportation and personal expenses.

Some institutions will allow accepted students to postpone one year of study for personal pursuits such as Gap Year programs or extenuating services.

Early Action:
An early admission program that does not require a student to commit to attending if accepted.

Early Admission:
Qualifying high school juniors with outstanding academic records may forego their senior year in high school and enroll in a college or university.  (This does not happen very often.)

Early Decision:
Students who are willing to commit to a single post-secondary school submit their application by  a date well before the general admission deadline. If accepted, the student must enroll in that school, so students should only apply early decision to their first choice school.   Students may also apply to other schools, but only one may be early decision.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC):
An amount, determined by a formula that is specified by the federal government, that indicates how much of a family’s financial resources should be available to help pay for school. Factors such as taxable and non-taxable income, assets (such as savings and checking accounts), and benefits (for example, unemployment or Social Security) are all considered in this calculation. The EFC is used in determining eligibility for Federal need-based aid.

Financial Need:
In the context of student financial aid, financial need is equal to the cost of education (estimated costs for college attendance and basic living expenses) minus the expected family contribution (the amount a student’s family is expected to pay, which varies according to the family’s financial resources).

A part-time job, with or with out pay, in which a student receives supervised practical training in his or her field of study.

Merit-Based Financial Aid:
This kind of financial aid is given to students who meet requirements not related to financial needs. Most merit-based aid is awarded on the basis of academic performance or potential and is given in the form of scholarships or grants.

Need-Based Financial Aid:
This kind of financial aid is given to students who are determined to be in financial need of assistance based on their income and assets and their families’ income and assets, as well as some other factors.

Need Blind:
The college will not consider a student’s ability to pay as part of the admission decision.  The college will cover the added financial aid costs associated with “need-blind” admissions through a gift from trustees and fund-raising campaign. Opposite of “need aware”.

Open Admissions:
This term means that a college admits most or all students who apply to the school. At some colleges it means that anyone who has a high school diploma or a GED can enroll. At other schools it means that anyone over 18 can enroll. “Open admissions,” therefore, can mean slightly different things at different schools.

Pell Grants:
These are federal need-based grants.  Eligibility and award amounts are determined by the school and based on financial guidelines.

Perkins Loans:
This is a federal financial aid program that consists of low-interest loans for undergraduates and graduate students with exceptional financial need. Loans are awarded by the school.

PLUS Loans:
These federal loans allow parents to borrow money for their children’s college expenses.

This term means “after high school” and refers to all programs for high school graduates, including programs at two- and four-year colleges as well as vocational and technical schools.

Rolling Admission:
Policy used by many colleges to admit freshman to undergraduate programs.  Under rolling admission, candidates are invited to submit their applications to the university anytime within a large window.

SEOG (Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant):
This is a federal award that helps undergraduates with exceptional financial need, and is awarded by the school. The SEOG does not have to be paid back.

Spring Admission:
A college may not have enough openings to admit more students for the fall and/or they may decide that a student needs more academic prep before starting.  Students offered this option would begin their classes in the spring.

Stafford Loans:
These are student loans offered by the federal Government. There are two types of Stafford Loans — one need-based and another non-need-based. Under the Stafford Loan programs, students can borrow money to attend school and the federal Government will guarantee the loan in case of default.

Student Aid Report (SAR):
The report confirming financial aid from the FAFSA.  Students will make any needed changes to information provided in the FAFSA on the SAR.  The information on the SAR is what is sent to the financial aid offices at colleges and universities.

A report listing the courses a student has taken and the grades he or she earned in each course.  Each school will have a different process for retrieving these records and there may be a fee.  It is a good idea to contact each school well in advance of the date you need the transcripts.

The amount of money colleges charge for classroom and other instruction, and the use of facilities such as libraries.

Undergraduate Student:
A degree-seeking student at a college or university who has not earned a first bachelor’s degree.

Colleges may put students on a wait list if they meet the admission requirements, but they’ve already accepted the maximum number of applicants.  Students may get off the wait list, only if space becomes available.

William D. Ford Federal Direct Loans:
Under this program, students may obtain federal loans directly from their college or university with funds provided by the U.S. Department of Education instead of a bank or other lender.

Work-Study Programs:
These programs, awarded by the college, allow students to work part time during the school year as part of their financial aid package. The jobs are usually on campus and the money earned is used to pay for tuition or other college charges.