The College Student’s Financial Aid Dictionary: 15 Terms You Should Know
Financial aid can seem complicated. When it comes to figuring out how to navigate the financial aid process as a college student, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Understanding the many terms associated with financial aid can help you make an informed decision about how to pay for college. That’s why we recently sat down with our financial aid specialist to give you the tools you need for your unique college experience.
From the types of aid applications to the various sources you could use to find financial aid opportunities (and a few lesser-known terms in between), we’ve compiled a broad dictionary for students at all stages in their college careers.
Types of Financial Aid
State Aid: Money given to students from state-funded programs. While this may look different from state to state, state aid can be a great source of funding for any student's higher education. For more information about your state’s financial aid options, contact your state agency. You can look them up here.
Federal Aid: Funding for college students that comes from federal government programs. In order to apply for this type of financial aid assistance, eligible students will need to file their FAFSA.
Types of Aid Applications
FAFSA: Stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is the starting place for any students looking for options to fund their higher education. If you are considering attending college or returning to college, be sure to fill out the application to see if you qualify for any financial grants, awards, or loans.
CSS Profile: Stands for College Scholarship Service Profile. This is an application used by universities and scholarship programs to award institutional aid (funding that comes from the college or program itself). Be aware that some colleges may ask for this to be completed as part of your aid application.
Sources of Financial Aid
Work-Study: A method for earning money to pay for college, usually by working a part-time job for the school that you are enrolled in. Be sure to check in with your school’s financial aid office to see if they participate in any work-study programs.
- Federal Work-Study: All of the money students earn with this program comes directly from the federal government.
- Non-Federal Work-Study: The money students earn from this type of program is not funded by the federal government. In most cases, these jobs are paid for by your school or another specific program.
Grants: An amount of money awarded to students by the federal government. These typically do not need to be repaid.
- SEOG Grant: Stands for Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. These awards are given to students pursuing their first undergraduate degree who show exceptional financial need. The award amount can range from $100 to $4,000.
- Pell Grant: a federally funded grant awarded to undergraduate students with financial need. The maximum award given to students as of the 2022-23 school year is $6,895. In order to be considered for the Pell Grant, you must submit the FAFSA. There are numerous factors when it comes to qualifying for the Pell Grant award, so if you’re interested in learning more about this federal grant, you can check out this resource from the U.S. Department of Education.
Loans: An amount of money borrowed from a lender to pay for school that is expected to be paid back, usually with interest. This is one of the few forms of financial aid that can lead to student debt. There are all sorts of loans out there, federal and private. Just be sure that before ever accepting a loan, you take the time to read the policies in fine detail, as you are responsible for paying them back.
Scholarships: Funding awarded to students on the basis of academic achievements or financial need to help pay for school. These can come from a multitude of sources, including your prospective school, your state, and many other organizations. Here’s a list of possible sources we’ve compiled with our financial aid specialist to aid in your search.
Other Important Terms
Scholarship Displacement: A reduction of grant or scholarship funding offered by your prospective college. Best described as an adjustment to a student’s financial aid, this usually happens whenever a student receives another outside scholarship or grant that would lead to a student being “over-awarded” based on their financial need.
Unusual Circumstances Appeal: A formal request that can be made to the financial aid office to adjust your financial aid as a result of significant financial changes that may affect your ability to pay for school. Because the FAFSA uses financial documents from two years prior to the current school year, it’s possible for changes in life to affect your ability to afford school. Whether it’s an unexpected serious expense, a loss of employment, or any changes in assets or income that affects your financial eligibility, all of these and more are worth mentioning to your financial aid office.
SAP: Stands for Satisfactory Academic Progress. These are the requirements set by the U.S. Department of Education that need to be met in order to maintain your financial aid eligibility. In total, there are three:
- Maintain an overall GPA of 2.0 or higher
- Earn at least 67% of all course credits attempted
- Complete your current program of study before attempting a certain number of credits
Connect with a Financial Aid Specialist
Making sure that you have these terms in your financial aid dictionary can help with your college journey and how best to afford it. If you have any questions about these terms or anything else financial aid, please reach out to the Campus financial aid office by sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at (312) 741-1416. We’d be more than happy to help you!