An academic calendar lists important key dates for students to track and keep in mind throughout the academic year. Most academic calendars list important dates for the following events: availability of schedule of classes, beginning date for class registration, tuition fee payment deadline, first day of classes, last day to drop/add/withdraw classes without college approval, tuition & fees refund deadline, federal holidays, complete session withdrawal deadline, last day of classes, final exam study dates, final exam dates, commencement, seasonal breaks (fall, winter, spring, summer), etc.
ACT® (American College Testing)
The ACT® is nonprofit organization dedicated to education and workplace success through the issuance of a standardized test used for college admissions. The ACT® covers four areas using multiple-choice answers: English, mathematics, reading, and science, all scored on a scale of 1 - 36. It also offers an optional writing exam, which does not affect the student’s overall test score. Accepted by all four-year colleges and universities in the United States as a gauge for higher education admission, it is also used in more than 225 universities outside of the U.S. Most students take the ACT® during their junior or senior year of high school. The ACT® is an assessment competitor of the SAT®.
An academic year is one complete school year at the same school, or two complete, half years at different schools. For schools that have a year-round program of instruction, nine months is considered an academic year.
ACT® School Code
ACT® school codes are four-digit codes assigned to colleges and universities for students to use when taking the ACT®. Since many colleges and universities require aptitude testing results as part of their admissions process, students may have their ACT® results electronically sent to the colleges/universities of their choice by using the four-digit ACT® school code. This reduces any miscommunication on the submission of test scores and minimizes risk of any potential testing fraud.
Add a Course
To add a course in college is to increase the number of classes to your course schedule, with the intention of attending, and receiving a grade at the end of the term. Students should be aware of the deadlines to add classes, as there will be a point in time when you may be unable to add without academic/monetary consequences.
The admissions office is frequently the applicant’s first exposure to the university when inquiring about the college application process and other questions associated with their application. It is also the first location a student’s application is reviewed by trained admissions evaluators; they review and analyze high school and/or college transcripts, standardized test results, English proficiency results, and other documents that may arrive with the student’s application packet. Within the Admissions Office might be a group of international and domestic recruiters, who visit high schools and college fairs, representing and marketing their college/university in efforts to attract potential students to apply. The admissions office works in tandem with many other school departments and often interacts with other administrators, departmental staff, students, parents, and other members of the public. See: Recruiter (Domestic/International).
Annual Taxable Income
Your annual taxable income is the amount of income used to determine how much tax you owe in a given year. This can include wages, salaries, bonuses, tips, investment income, and unearned income.
Application fees are associated with applying to and submitting your application to a college or university. The cost offsets the time and expertise required to review an application in order to make an appropriate admissions decision. Most, if not all, community colleges typically do not charge an application fee, whereas universities charge anywhere from $40 - $90 per school application. Some colleges/universities offer application fee waivers for students with special financial circumstances.
Application Fee Waiver
An application fee waiver allows an applicant to apply to college/university without paying the application fee required by the school.
Used by colleges and universities as part of a student’s initial or transfer admission evaluation; typically fulfilled by a college applicant when taking the SAT® or ACT® test, which measures abilities such as capability, capacity, reasoning, comprehension, etc.
These are typically two-year programs of study to obtain general knowledge of a specialized subject and necessary training to prepare students for entry-level positions in the workforce such as nursing, welding, massage therapy and other vocational areas. Students can study for an Associate’s Degree at a local community college and/or technical school. The most common types of Associate’s Degrees are:
- Associate of Arts (A.A.)
- Associate of Science (A.S.)
- Associate of Applied Science (AAS)
These are typically four-year programs of study to obtain general knowledge of a specialized subject which tend to be academic in nature, such as history, communications, biology, business, etc. Students either transfer from a community college to attend a university in order to study for a bachelor’s degree or they apply directly for admission to a four-year university. Graduates may qualify to apply for entry or management-level positions in the workforce. The most common types of bachelor’s degrees are:
- Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
- Bachelor of Science (B.S.)
- Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)
- Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS)
A borrower is someone who receives money (such as an educational loan) on the promise to pay it back over a period of time, plus applicable interest and fees, within an agreed-upon time.
A college certificate is issued when a student participates in a program that typically requires fewer credits than an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree program. Some examples of certificates are issued in the fields of pharmacy technician, welding, HVAC, collision repair, automotive engine repair, construction trades, health services management, etc.
The Common Application (also known as the Common App) is an undergraduate college application that is used by more than 800 member colleges and universities in 49 states, including the District of Columbia. It is also used by schools in Canada, China, Japan, and many countries in Europe.
Also known as a junior college or technical college, community colleges are affordable post-secondary education institutions, mainly funded by taxpayers and government, that take two to three years to complete. Students receive an associate’s degree or certificate in their field of study, and/or transfer to a four-year university to obtain a (four-year) bachelor’s degree.
Used by colleges and universities as part of a student’s initial or transfer admission evaluation; typically fulfilled by a college applicant when they have completed (with passing grades) subject courses, such as English, math, science, foreign language, social science, fine arts or career technical education, which measure their skill, knowledge and/or experience.
Conditional admission means that a student has been accepted to a college/university on the promise the student will complete certain requirements that may have not been met at the time their application was evaluated. For international students, this may mean they have not provided a passing score from an English language test (see: TOEFL®, IELTS™, Pearson Test of English Academic) and might need to enroll in an English language school before official admission to college/university. For domestic students, college/university admission is conditional upon the student’s successful completion of their final year of high school.
Continuing/Adult Re-Entry/Non-Traditional Student
Continuing students (also known as adult re-entry or non-traditional students), are those who are resuming their educational studies after being away for a number of years, or beginning their academic career for the first time. In most cases, they are over 25 years old and may have already had experience in the workforce, military, raising a family, retired, and may want to learn for personal fulfillment or to further advance in their career.
Cost of Attendance (COA)
The estimated total cost of attending an institution for one academic year. This amount may include the following: tuition, fees, room and board, transportation, books and materials, personal living allowance, health insurance, and other costs related to certain student circumstances.
1) Credit refers to the amount of money you borrow and your ability to borrow to purchase goods and services. Credit is extended to you from a credit grantor with which you make an agreement to pay back the amount spent, plus applicable interest and fees, within an agreed-upon time.
2) Credit refers to a measure of hours or units that a student receives while taking college courses. Credits usually represent an hour of instruction each week during the course of a term. Most college courses represent an average of 3 to 4 credits per term.
Credential evaluating is the act of officially confirming/validating/approving the previous courses that a student took (based on a review of the student’s official transcripts) provided the necessary knowledge for a student to have passed the course and will be able to apply that knowledge to college courses. It is essentially comparing a description of a course (from the school’s perspective) to the description of the same course from an approved evaluation agency that specializes in course descriptions or “credentialing.” This may occur if there are discrepancies between non-traditional methods of schooling and institutions outside of the United States. Every application submitted to a school may or may not be subject to a credential evaluation, and some higher educational institutions have their own credentials “department”; others use the services of a third-party credential evaluating service.
Also known as the College Scholarship Service Profile, the CSS PROFILE, administered by the College Board, is an online form generally used by many United States private colleges for students wishing to apply for non-federal financial aid. The form varies based on the school which the student is applying to. Whereas public and state universities use the FAFSA® to provide state and federal need-based aid or merit-based scholarships, private colleges that provide significant need-based institutional aid use the CSS PROFILE.
Debt collection is the course of pursuing payments of loan debts due by borrowers.
Debt consolidation is a method of debt refinancing that involves taking out one loan to pay off others.
Default is failure to repay a loan outlined in the agreed promissory note. Most federal student loan default occurs when a payment isn't made in more than 270 days. It can result in legal consequences and a loss of eligibility for additional federal student aid.
A deferment is a temporary postponement of payment on a loan that is allowed under certain conditions and during which interest generally doesn’t accrue on certain types of subsidized loans.
A degree is an official certification of completion of classes which focus on a particular area of research. There are many levels and types of degrees (such as online), which require a certain amount of years to successfully study. See: Associate’s Degree, Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree, Doctoral Degree.
A department is a division within a university that is devoted solely to one academic area of study, e.g. the Department of Public Programs, the Department of Business. In some academic departments, there are further divisions within it’s academic study called schools, e.g. School of Journalism, School of Economics.
Department of Homeland Security
The Department of Homeland Security is a part of the Executive Branch of the United States government.
Direct Consolidation Loan
A Direct Consolidation Loan combines federal education loans into one loan for free via completion of the Federal Direct Consolidation Loan Application and Promissory Note. You will have a single monthly payment on the new Direct Consolidation Loan.
Direct PLUS Loan
Direct PLUS Loans are federal loans that graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students use to help pay for education expenses.
Discretionary income is a factor used in determining a borrower’s eligibility for certain repayment plans and/or loan rehabilitation. It’s the difference between annual income and a percentage of the poverty guideline for the borrower’s family size and state of residence.
This is the highest level of college degree (also known as Ph.D. programs) one can obtain. Doctoral Degrees can take several years of study to obtain specialized knowledge of a subject which tend to be academic in nature, such as history, communications, biology, business, etc. Students might need to meet certain qualifications, such as the possession of a Master’s Degree, pass a battery of standardized tests, and/or provide letters of recommendation to enter a Doctoral program. Most Ph.D. graduates may qualify to work as experts in their field of study such as business or research, or they may become post-secondary professors themselves. The most common types of doctoral degrees are:
- Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
- Juris Doctor (J.D.)
- Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)
- Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS)
A dormitory is a building that provides students a place to live and study, primarily at four-year universities, but can also be found at boarding schools, high schools, or other private educational institutions. Dormitories may house one person per room or multiple students, depending on arrangement.
Early action is a college admission policy that allows applicants to apply and receive notice of their admission early. Applicants accepted under early action are not under a binding agreement to attend that school and may submit applications to other schools.
Early decision is a college admission policy that allows applicants who commit to attend a school to apply and receive notice of their admission early. If an applicant is accepted, he or she agrees to attend that school and must withdraw all other applications.
There are several types of educational loans. See: Federal Direct Subsidized Student Loan, Federal Direct Unsubsidized Student Loan, Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan, Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan (PLUS), Private Loan
English Language School
An English language school is a school where one studies English as their foreign language. They are typically geared toward teaching students conversational and comprehension in the English language. Students may vary by age, educational background, and/or work experience. International students who may not yet have a college/university level comprehension of the English language can apply for a student visa and attend an English language school in the United States in preparation to apply and attend a college/university while remaining in the U.S. (under certain conditions).
Educational Service Agency
An educational service agency is a regional public multiservice agency that is authorized by state law to develop, manage, and provide services or programs to local education agencies, such as public-school districts.
An eligible program is a program of organized instruction or study of a certain length that leads to an academic, professional, or vocational degree or certificate, or other recognized education credential.
An emancipated minor is someone who has been legally deemed an adult by a court in his or her state of residence. If you are an emancipated minor, you are considered an independent student and will not provide information about your parents on the FAFSA® form.
An endorser is someone who agrees to repay the Direct PLUS Loan if the borrower becomes delinquent in making payments or defaults on the loan. The endorser may not be the student on whose behalf a parent obtains a Direct PLUS Loan.
An Endorser Code is an identifying number associated with a Direct PLUS Loan application. The code is used by an endorser when completing a Direct PLUS Loan endorser addendum to the Master Promissory Note (MPN) for the loan.
An enrollment deposit is a monetary “confirmation” that you are securing your intention to enroll and attend college or a university. It also serves as a placeholder for your spot in the school’s incoming freshman class, as well as helps give the school a head count for planning upcoming courses, housing, and at times, either applied towards your tuition, orientation costs, student programming, or other student-related services.
Enrollment Deposit Deadline
An enrollment deposit deadline is the final date to submit your deposit, which secures your place in the upcoming freshman class at school, and allows you to begin planning your college experience: orientation, class registration, advisor appointment, dormitory assignment, etc.
Enrollment Deposit Waiver
An enrollment deposit waiver is an exemption from paying the enrollment deposit fee, required to secure your spot in your school’s incoming freshman class. Contact your program’s department or admissions department for further information on this financial need-based request.
Enrollment status is reported by the school you attended, and indicates whether you are, or were, full-time, three-quarter time, half-time, less than half-time, withdrawn, graduated, etc.
Entrance counseling explains the obligations you agree to adhere to as a condition of borrowing a Direct Loan. Topics include: Understand Your Loans, Manage Your Spending, Plan to Repay, Avoid Default and Make Finances a Priority.
Exit counseling provides important information that you need to know as you prepare to repay your federal student loan(s). Topics include: Understand Your Loans, Plan to Repay, Avoid Default, and Make Finances a Priority.
Expected Direct Costs
Charges included in the Cost of Attendance that the student/family pays directly to the college.
Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
An eligibility index that college financial aid staff use to determine how much financial aid you would receive if you were to attend their school. The EFC is calculated according to a formula specified in law and is based upon the information provided by the student and their family on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).
Extended Repayment Plan
The Extended Repayment Plan allows you to repay your loans over an extended period. Payments are made for up to 25 years. There are specific eligibility requirements to qualify for this plan.
An F-1 visa is an endorsement on your passport that indicates your intention to study at an academic or language training school in the United States. An F-1 visa can be obtained by presenting a Form I-20 (issued by the school to the student) to your U.S. embassy or consulate during your visa interview. A spouse or dependents of the F-1 visa holder might be able to apply for an F-2 visa under certain conditions.
Free Application for Federal Student Aid is form administered by the U.S. Department of Education and is used to determine disbursement amounts of various forms of financial aid to prospective and current undergraduate and graduate students.
FAFSA® School Code
FAFSA® school codes are six-digit codes assigned to colleges and universities for students to use when filling out the FAFSA®. Since financial aid departments require FAFSA® information from potential students, the student must provide a means in which to communicate their financial information to schools they are considering to attend, hence, the six-digit code the potential student can provide on their FAFSA®. These codes might begin with either a zero, G, B, or E; be aware that some schools may have multiple codes, especially if their school has multiple locations, specialized programs, and/or campuses.
Family Financial Responsibility (FFR)
Many schools award institutional need-based scholarships and grants based upon a more comprehensive calculation of family financial circumstances using information provided on the CSS PROFILE or the institution's own financial aid form. This can result in a higher (or lower) figure than the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) might indicate with its Expected Family Contribution (EFC) estimate.
Household size does not mean people who physically live with you, but more about who you support financially. If you do not financially support anyone, you will enter “1” for yourself on the FAFSA® form.
Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan
Loan funds provided to graduate students by the U.S. Department of Education, through the school. This federal loan program allows graduate students with no adverse credit history to apply for a loan amount up to their Cost of Attendance each year, less any other financial aid received.
Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan (PLUS)
Loan funds provided to the parents of dependent undergraduate students by the U.S. Department of Education, through the school. This federal loan program allows parents with no adverse credit history to apply for a loan amount up to the cost of attendance each year, less any financial aid received by the dependent student. Repayment of principal and interest begins immediately once the loan is fully disbursed with some options to delay payment available.
Federal Direct Subsidized Loan
A Federal Direct Subsidized Loan is a federal student loan for which a borrower isn’t generally responsible for paying the interest while in an in-school, grace, or deferment period.
Federal Direct Unsubsidized Student Loan
A Federal Direct Unsubsidized Student Loan borrowed through the Direct Loan Program offers students a low, fixed interest rate and flexible repayment terms. It is not based on financial need. The borrower is responsible for paying all the accumulated interest, until the loan balance is paid off.
Federal Pell Grant Program
The Pell Grant is the largest federal grant program offered to undergraduates. It is designed to assist students from low-income households. To qualify for a Pell Grant, a student must demonstrate financial need by completing and submitting the FAFSA® form.
Federal Perkins Loan
A Perkins Loan was available to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students until Sept. 30, 2017; the program has since expired. The Perkins Loan was a subsidized loan, meaning the federal government pays the loan’s interest while the borrower is in school.
Federal Student Aid
Federal student aid is financial assistance from the government in the form of grants, loans, and/or work-study to assist students with college or career school. Students have to complete the FAFSA® form to apply for this aid.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is a grant that is awarded to an undergraduate student who demonstrates exceptional financial need to help pay for their education. Awards can range from $100–$4,000 and do not need to be repaid.
Federal Student Loan
Federal funds made available to the student that must be paid back by the student. Students must complete Entrance Counseling and a Master Promissory Note (MPN) to receive these loans. Repayment begins six months after the student ceases to be enrolled at least half-time with options to delay payment available. To be eligible, the student must be enrolled at least half-time in an eligible program of study.
Federal Work-Study provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need. The program encourages community service work and work related to your field of study. To receive funds, you will need to be awarded work study and secure a job.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) is a United States federal law that protects student privacy of their personally identifiable information (PII) and applies to all educational institutions that receive federal funds. The law declares that parents of students under 18, or eligible students (those over 18, or who have matriculated to an educational institution beyond high school) be allowed to view and suggest changes to their educational records. It also states that schools must always obtain written permission from parents or eligible students in order to release a student's PII. Exceptions to receiving records without permission may include: legitimate requests from school officials, requests from school in which the student is transferring to, and cases involving directories, where information in an educational record may contain names, addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, and not considered harmful or an invasion of privacy. Eligible students or parents must be notified of any proposed release of such information, and given time to respond, should they not want these details to be disclosed. Student identification/social security numbers are not included in this definition and are never released without prior written permission by eligible students or parents. Schools must annually notify parents and students of their rights regarding the FERPA.
Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFEL)
The Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program was a program that worked with private lenders to provide education loans guaranteed by the federal government. The FFEL Program ended in 2010. All loans are now made through the Direct Loan Program.
A final exam is a test which evaluates a student’s overall comprehension of topics covered during a course over the past semester. Most colleges and universities devote a few days to one week of studying time without attending classes, allowing students for intense preparation for their final exams at the end of each semester.
Financial aid is money to help pay for college or career school.
Financial Aid Appeal Letter
A financial aid appeal letter is a written request from the college applicant to each of the colleges he/she applied to, and is written after receiving their financial aid award letter directly from the school. Common reasons why some people may request additional aid include: a new dependent in the family, unexpected medical bills due to an unforeseen accident or illness in the family, unemployment, or under-employment. Appeal letters are reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the school’s financial aid director.
Financial Aid Award Letter
A financial aid award letter is a notification sent from the school(s) to the student applicant, and informs the prospective student how much financial aid they can receive from the school. The total amount of financial assistance is based on the information the student (and/or parent(s)) provided when they completed and submitted their FAFSA®. All sources of aid (federal, state, college, in the form of loans, grants, work study, etc.) vary from student to student, as do the amounts, since tuition and fees differ from school to school.
Financial Awareness Counseling
Financial awareness counseling provides tools and information to help you understand your financial aid and assist in managing your finances. Topics include: Understand Your Loans, Manage Your Spending, Plan to Repay, Avoid Default and Make Finances a Priority.
The student's Cost of Attendance minus their Expected Family Contribution, or Family Financial Responsibility (if applicable).
A period of time when your monthly loan payments are temporarily stopped or reduced. Interest will continue to be charged on your loans. Be aware that unpaid interest may be capitalized (added to your loan principal balance) at the end of your forbearance period.
A Form I-20 is a U.S. government-issued form that provides supporting documentation for the issuance of a student visa. The form is also known as a “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.” It is only issued by SEVP-certified schools that have accepted the student to their college/university/vocational school. The form provides all necessary student and school identification information, including the student’s SEVIS number and SEVIS school code.
An FSA ID consists of a username and password which gives you access to the U.S. Department of Education’s online systems and can serve as your legal signature when completing electronic documents.
GED (General Educational Development)
The GED, developed by Pearson Education (a British-owned educational company), is a series of tests divided into four categories (reading and writing, science, mathematics, and social studies) that provide certification that the testee has the knowledge, skills, and competence equivalent to that of a student whom has sufficient knowledge of the same subjects and has obtained a high school diploma.
General Admission Requirements
Typically a variety of high school courses, (English, mathematics, lab and social sciences, foreign language, and fine arts or career and technical education) which must be taken for a predetermined number of years with a passing grade. These courses are evaluated for general admission to a four-year college or university. Applicants who earned a G.E.D., homeschooled, or educated through other non-traditional methods are still required to fulfill general admission requirements, providing proof using alternate methods, e.g. competency, aptitude, and/or graduation requirements, transcripts, etc.
Funds awarded to the student that do not have to be repaid, unless the student fails to meet certain criteria, such as a service requirement that is specified as a condition of the gift aid or not completing the period for which the aid was awarded. Gift aid can include awards such as grants, scholarships, awards, waivers, etc. Gift aid can be awarded based upon many factors, including (but not limited to) financial need, academic excellence, athletic, musical, and/or theatrical talent, affiliation with a variety of organizations, and/or career aspirations.
Graduate or Professional Student
A graduate or professional student is one who is pursuing education opportunities beyond an undergraduate (bachelor's) degree. Graduate and professional programs include master's and doctoral programs such as Ph.D., J.D., and M.D., among others.
Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
A GRE is a standardized exam that evaluates a prospective graduate student’s aptitude for abstract thinking in vocabulary, mathematics and analytical writing. It is typically used by graduate schools to determine a student’s eligibility to enter graduate school.
Graduated Repayment Plan
The Graduated Repayment Plan starts with lower payments that increase every two years. Under this plan, you make payments for up to 10 years (between 10 and 30 years for consolidation loans).
For college application purposes, this is the date that a student has officially completed their high school studies or completed their general educational studies in an alternate manner and have received a diploma, GED or certificate of completion. Note: This is different from a matriculation date, in which a student has officially been admitted to a college or university.
A school’s graduation rate is the percentage of a school’s full-time, first-time degree- or certificate-seeking students who complete their degree or certificate within 150 percent of the published length of the program in which they are enrolled.
Graduation requirements are specific conditions which must be met before a student can graduate/receive a degree. These conditions may include the following: successful completion (with passing grades) of a predetermined number of credits, a predetermined number of credits taken at the school the student wishes to graduate from, grade point average, and/or general studies coursework (which may be composed of mathematics, first-year composition, etc.).
A grant is a monetary gift for people pursuing higher education. It is often based on financial need and does not need to be repaid (unless, for example, you withdraw from school and owe a refund).
Gross income is your total income before deductions.
A Guaranty Agency is a state or private non-profit agency that serves two major roles in the FFEL program; Administer scholarship programs specific to a borrower’s home state and serve as lender. Agencies insure federal loans against default by paying off lenders.
Half-time enrollment is an enrollment status applied to students who are only enrolled in half of the expected full-time course load. Half-time enrollment can affect the cost of attendance (COA) and/or some financial aid awards. Each school may have different half-time enrollment specifications.
Head of Household
For tax purposes, you might claim head of household if you are unmarried and responsible for more than half of the cost of keeping up your and your dependent's home. Whether you are head of household can affect how you report tax return information on the FAFSA® form.
A homeless individual is someone without a home who generally lives in shelters, parks, motels, hotels, cars, or with someone else due to not having anywhere else to go. Homeless individuals can still receive federal student aid.
The act of teaching school subjects at home rather than the student learning at a public or private school at a location outside their residence.
The International English Language Testing Systems is a test which measures English language skills for non-native speakers. The four main parts students are tested are in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. International students typically from non-English speaking countries must provide proof of English comprehension when applying to colleges/universities in the United States as part of their international admission requirements. The test takes an average of two hours, 45 minutes to complete.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a federal law enforcement agency, operates under the Department of Homeland Security. ICE’s mission is to shield the nation from the cross-border crime and illegal immigration that could potentially threaten national security and public safety. The Student and Visitor Exchange Program for international students is operated under the Department of Homeland Security.
Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan
Eligible loans: Direct loans and FFEL Program loans other than those in default, PLUS loans made to a parent borrower, or Consolidation Loans that repaid a Direct or Federal PLUS Loan made to a parent borrower. Consolidating a Federal Perkins Loan may make you eligible.
Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan
Eligible loans: Direct loans other than those in default and parent PLUS loans. Consolidating a Federal Perkins Loan, FFEL Program loan or Direct PLUS Loan made to a parent may make you eligible.
Income Share Agreement (ISAs)
A student's contract with their institution or a private entity to pay a percentage of their future earnings for a fixed period after graduation in exchange for funds to pay for their education while enrolled.
An independent student is at least 24 years old, married, a graduate/professional student, a veteran, a member of the armed forces, an orphan, a ward of the court, someone with legal dependents (not a spouse), an emancipated minor, or someone who is or at risk of being homeless.
Estimated expenses in the Cost of Attendance that are not paid directly to the institution.
An intern is usually a college or graduate student that participates in an internship program. See: Internship
An internship is a program where an intern (usually a college or graduate student) is supervised in a workplace environment in order to gain “real world” experience within their particular field of interest. This experience is not typically considered paid temporary employment, but instead, the student is awarded college credit, which is applied to their academic transcript. See: Intern
International admissions is commonly associated with a college or university’s admissions department, but specializes in requirements that students from other countries must meet in order to be admitted to the school. International transcripts and other evaluation scores must be translated to an American equivalency by a highly-trained staff before an admittance decision can be made.
Interest is a loan expense charged for the use of borrowed money. Interest is paid by a borrower to a lender. The expense is calculated as a percentage of the unpaid principal amount of the loan.
Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant
You may be eligible for the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant (IASG) if your parent or guardian died as a result of military service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11, and you are not eligible for a Federal Pell Grant.
Job Placement Rate
A school’s job placement rate is the percentage of graduating students who obtained employment either in the recognized occupation for which they were trained or in a related, comparable, recognized occupation within a determined period after receiving their degree/certificate.
A judgment lien gives a creditor the legal right to keep property when the owner fails to pay a debt. It can only be granted by a court. A student (or parent in the case of a parent borrower) with a judgment lien will not qualify for federal student aid.
Legal guardianship is a designation by a court that authorizes someone to care for an individual in place or absence of parents. Having a legal guardian qualifies you as an independent student, such that you do not have to report your parents’ income on the FAFSA® form.
A lender is the organization that made the loan (borrower’s school, bank, credit union, etc.).
Litigation is the act or process of bringing or contesting a legal action in court.
A loan is money borrowed from the federal government or a private source like a bank or financial institution, and must be paid back with interest over a specified period of time.
Loan discharge is the removal of a borrower’s obligation to repay a loan under certain circumstances including but not limited to death, disability, bankruptcy, fraud, and identity theft.
Student loan forgiveness is offered to encourage certain types of employment. A loan may be fully or partially forgiven after a certain number of years of qualifying employment.
An M-1 visa is an endorsement on your passport that indicates your intention to study at a vocational or technical school in the United States. An M-1 visa can be obtained by presenting a Form I-20 (issued by the school to the student) during your U.S. embassy or consulate during your visa interview. A spouse or dependents of the M-1 visa holder might be able to apply for an M-2 visa under certain conditions.
A major is a subject, or main focus of your studies while in college or at university. A predetermined number of classes/credits must be taken (with passing grades) along with general education classes (e.g., math, English, science, etc.), in order to receive a degree in your specified major.
When a student wants to change their major from one subject to another. Typically, the student will need to first visit their academic advisor to inform them of their intent to switch majors, or refer to an online link for further information on changing their major. If visiting their advisor, they will then be informed of any requirements (such as GPA), prerequisites (completion of certain classes), or other checklist items to complete before officially submitting their intention to change majors. They will then be advised to refer to their school’s registrar, admission, dean’s office, or online form, to submit the major change request.
Major Change Requirements
When a student wishes to change their major from one subject to another, they will need to research if they have met the criteria necessary in order to successfully change their major. Some criteria may be: GPA, completion of prerequisite courses, submission of a student’s portfolio.
Master Promissory Note (MPN)
An MPN is a legal document that contains the Borrower’s Rights and Responsibilities and Terms and Conditions for repayment. Direct PLUS and Direct Subsidized/Unsubsidized loans have different MPNs.
These are typically one to two year programs of study to obtain further specialized knowledge of a subject which tend to be academic in nature, such as history, communications, biology, business, etc. Students must have graduated and received a Bachelor’s Degree, met a minimum GPA requirement, and/or have passed a graduate exam, such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Graduates may qualify to apply for entry or management-level positions in the workforce. The most common types of Master’s Degrees are:
- Master of Arts (M.A.)
- Master of Science (M.S.)
- Master of Business Administration (MBA)
- Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
This is the date that a student has officially been admitted to a college or university, and is the first step for the college/university’s admissions department in preparing to notify an applicant that they have been accepted. Note: This is different from a student’s graduation date, which typically refers to the date an applicant officially graduated from high school or completed their general educational studies in an alternate manner.
A meal plan is a pre-purchased package of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for students to redeem at a school’s various cafeteria(s) and/or dining hall(s). Plans generally range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per semester, allowing flexibility for the student to use the plan as needed, or every day for all necessary meals. Most schools use a student’s ID or meal card debit system for students to redeem, allowing for easy tracking of the account’s remaining balance. Some plans also allow you to add money that is not associated with a meal plan, allowing the student freedom to eat outside of the school’s cafeteria(s) and/or dining hall(s).
Merit-based means that something is based on a student's skill or ability. For example, a merit-based scholarship might be awarded based on a student's high grades.
A minor is a subject, or secondary focus of your studies while in college or at university. A predetermined number of classes/credits (usually less classes/credits than a major, hence called a “minor”) must be taken (with passing grades) along with general education classes (e.g. math, English, science, etc.), in order to receive a degree or certificate in your specified minor.
Amount of direct and indirect costs remaining after all gift aid is applied. Net price can be covered through a variety of sources, including: savings, income, and educational loans.
An official transcript is a complete record of a student’s academic activity at a high school, college, or university. It includes courses taken and passed, failed, dropped, withdrawn, and/or repeated. They typically have a college seal (golden sticker or embossed) or signature of the registrar. Official transcripts sent and received within institutions in the United States are generally issued directly from the issuing institution and sent to the receiving college/university in a sealed envelope via postal carrier service, or, are sent electronically by a variety and number of secure transcript services used by the institutions. Some colleges/universities accept official transcripts delivered in person, however, transcripts must still remain in their sealed, original envelope, or they may be deemed unofficial and the student will need to request another official transcript once again. See: Unofficial Transcript.
An offset is when a payment from the U.S. Department of Treasury (such as an income tax refund) is reduced or stopped to pay off a delinquent debt. The remainder of a refund will be processed; an offset shouldn't delay it unless the entire refund is applied to the debt.
The Ombudsman Group is dedicated to helping resolve disputes related to the federal student aid programs, including Direct Loans, Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans, Perkins Loans, and grant programs.
Online learning is the act of taking a class in order to earn a degree (certificate, certificate of completion, etc.) with the majority of education being received through the Internet. It may also include various methods of learning over the Internet by viewing videos, real-time interaction with an instructor or program, e-mail, etc.
This is a special date (or series of dates) where the college/university hosts newly admitted students to help familiarize them with the campus, and provide information for opportunity and support networks, resources, tools and tips for college life. It also gives students a chance to meet other students, helping to ease the transition to high school to college life.
An out-of-state student is a student who is attending a college or career school outside of his or her state of legal residence.
A parking permit allows a student to park their vehicle in a specific, reserved parking lot at a college or university, or, if the student lives in a dormitory on campus, assigned residence hall parking lots. Permits are usually sold or renewed by the academic year and costs vary from school to school; at times, the proximity of the parking lot to the main campus determines the price. Though community colleges might charge a small fee (or none at all) for parking, universities tend to charge a range of a few hundred dollars for on-campus parking privileges.
Partial Financial Hardship
Partial financial hardship is an eligibility requirement under the Income-Based Repayment and Pay As You Earn repayment plans. See: Repayment Plans.
Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Plan
The Pay As You Earn Plan is a repayment plan with monthly payments that are generally equal to 10% of your discretionary income, but never more than the 10-year Standard Repayment amount.
Payroll deductions are amounts of money withheld from your paycheck by your employer.
Pearson Test of English Academic
The Pearson Test of English Academic measures English language skills for non-native speakers by measuring three areas: speaking and writing, reading, and listening. International students typically from non-English speaking countries must provide proof of English comprehension when applying to colleges/universities in the United States as part of their international admission requirements. The test takes an average of two-and-a-half to three hours and 20 minutes to complete.
Personally Identifiable Information (PII)
Personally Identifiable Information refers to identifiable information such as a student’s name or school ID number and indirectly identifiable information such as dates of birth or other information that can highlight a student’s identity (directly or indirectly) through research with other information. Please see the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Regulations, 34 CFR §99.3, for a complete definition of PII as it pertains to specific educational records.
PLUS is a student loan, which is part of the Federal Direct Student Loan Program, and offered to parents of students enrolled at least half-time, or graduate and professional students, at participating and eligible post-secondary institutions. The original meaning of the acronym was "Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students" but is now obsolete.
PLUS Credit Counseling
PLUS credit counseling helps graduate/professional students and parents of eligible dependent undergraduate students understand the obligations associated with borrowing a PLUS loan and assists them in making careful decisions about taking on student loan debt.
A prepaid tuition plan, also known as a section 529 plan, lets you lock in future tuition rates at in-state public colleges at current prices and is usually guaranteed by the state in which the plan was established.
A pre-professional certificate is usually issued by two-year colleges and confirms your specialized knowledge in a specific skill such as cosmetology, auto repair, HVAC, welding, nursing, computer security, etc. Some certificates are called Certificates of Competency or Certificates of Completion; the difference being the length of time it takes to finish your program of studies, thus enabling graduates to enter the workforce sooner than those studying for an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
Principal refers to the sum of money lent, on which interest is paid.
A student or parent loan from a commercial, state-affiliated or institutional lender used to pay for up to the annual Cost of Attendance, less any financial aid received. Private loans have varying interest rates, fees and repayment options and usually require the applicant to be creditworthy, or have a creditworthy cosigner. Repayment generally begins immediately.
Program Admission Requirements
Program Admission Requirements are more detailed, rigorous academic conditions that must be met in order for a student to study their desired major. For example, a university may have a minimum requirement of a 2.5 GPA for general admission; however, if the student wishes to major in Computer Information Systems, the student must have a minimum GPA of 3.6 to be accepted into the program to study CIS.
Level of the degree-granting program in which a student is enrolled. Program levels may include: undergraduate (students seeking an associate degree, an undergraduate certificate, or a baccalaureate degree); post-baccalaureate (such as teacher certification); or graduate (students working on a master's degree, graduate certificate, doctorate, or professional degree). The amounts and types of financial aid for which a student is eligible is determined, in part, by their program level.
A proprietary school is a private, for-profit school that provides education and training.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Help Tool
This tool will help you understand the following about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program: what is required to participate, if an employer qualifies, which loans qualify, which forms to submit, and other actions to take to receive PSLF.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program
The PSLF Program forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 (10 years) qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan, while working full-time for a qualifying employer.
A recruiter is an official representative of a college or university that provides information to potential students about the school, such as the types of degrees offered, admission requirements, and college life. Domestic recruiters can often be found visiting college fairs, high schools, and community colleges throughout the United States. International recruiters travel to other countries to pique the interest of potential students for their school’s study abroad program. Specialized recruiters sometimes visit national and/or international high schools and/or colleges on behalf of their sports programs to scout for talented athletes.
A registrar’s office keeps and maintains the school’s official records, such as student transcripts, leave of absence, disciplinary records, and current and previous catalog(s) of classes, while complying with federal, state, and institutional rules and regulations, including student privacy laws (see FERPA). At times, they also establish and uphold policies which determine a student’s residency status. They are also involved in planning and implementing the class registration process, academic and final exam calendar, enforcing curriculum prerequisites, and policies regarding the drop/add/withdrawal of courses. They determine a student’s graduation eligibility, award academic honors, assign class ranking, and schedule efforts associated with graduation and/or convocation ceremonies. This highly-organized department provides administrative support to faculty, staff, administration, students, parents, and other members of the public. Once a student has been admitted to a college or university, the registrar’s office is a frequently visited office for its “business” and recordkeeping side of a student’s academic career.
A regular student is one who is enrolled or accepted for enrollment at an institution for the purpose of obtaining a degree, certificate, or other recognized education credential. To be eligible for federal student aid, you must generally be a regular student.
Loan rehabilitation is one method of getting your student loan out of default. To begin the rehabilitation process, you must contact your loan holder. If you’re not sure who your loan holder is, log in to your account to get your loan holder’s contact information.
Repayment is paying back money you borrowed by making scheduled payments to a loan holder or servicer.
Repayment plans are a set up and agreed upon arrangement between a borrower and lender that describes how the borrowed money will be paid back. The plan clearly states the original amount of the loan, how much will be paid toward principal, and how much will be applied to interest. It will also list the due date(s) for every payment and add any other related fees to the loan. The repayment plan must be agreed upon before the loan can be disbursed to the borrower. Repayment plans may be modified at the lender’s discretion.
A school’s retention rate is the percentage of its first-time students who are seeking bachelor's degrees who return to the institution to continue their studies the following fall.
Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) Plan
The REPAYE Plan is a repayment plan with monthly payments that are generally equal to 10% of your discretionary income.
Room and Board
Room and board is generally the cost of housing and food while attending college or career school.
The SAT® is a standardized test administered by the Educational Testing Service, on behalf of the College Board, a not-for-profit organization, whose goal is to expand access to higher education. Originally known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, this college admissions test covers writing, reading, and mathematics; both testing sections, writing and reading, and mathematics, are worth up to 800 points each, with a total score ranging from 400 - 1,600 points. Most students take the SAT® during their junior or senior year of high school. The SAT® is an assessment competitor of the ACT®.
SAT® School Code
SAT® school codes are four-digit codes assigned to colleges and universities for students to use when taking the SAT®. Since many colleges and universities require aptitude testing results as part of their admissions process, students may have their SAT® results electronically sent to the colleges/universities of their choice by using the four-digit SAT® school code. This reduces any miscommunication on the submission of test scores and minimizes risk of any potential testing fraud.
Satisfactory Academic Progress
Satisfactory academic progress is the process a school uses to determine if a student is meeting all of his or her educational requirements and is on target to graduate on time with a degree or certificate. This process may vary across schools.
Scholarships are gifts that don’t have to be repaid and are designed to help students pay for an undergraduate degree. They can be a one-time gift or are renewable, depending on the scholarship.
A school is a smaller division within a university that is devoted solely to an academic area of study, e.g. School of Journalism, School of Economics. Some schools might belong to a larger grouping known as a department, e.g. Department of Public Programs, Department of Business.
A school closure is an institution that no longer provides educational services to students.
An institution's expectation that a student contributes toward their education using a combination of loans, student employment such as Federal Work-Study, and/or summer savings.
A Service Obligation signing is an agreement to teach full-time, in a high-need field, at an elementary/secondary school/educational service agency for low-income students, and for at min 4/8 academic years following their ending of the grant assisted study.
SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System)
The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System is a nationwide, web-based system the U.S. government uses to maintain up-to-date information on nonimmigrant students, exchange visitors, and their dependents. It also assists in identifying violators, so the appropriate reinforcement actions may be taken (i.e. denial of admission, denial of benefits or removal from the United States.)
SEVIS Identification Number
A SEVIS identification number is assigned to a student who is planning on attending a higher education institution or English Language program in the United States and is listed on their Form I-20 (or Form DS-2019 for J visa holders). It is located on the top right corner of the Form I-20 and begins with the letter “N” followed by up to 11 numbers (e.g. N0002123457). This SEVIS ID number is separate from a person’s passport number, as a SEVIS ID indicates the passport holder is planning to study, or is already a student in the United States.
SEVIS School Code
A SEVIS school code is an identification number assigned to the school the student is planning on attending and is located above the barcode on a Form I-20. For example, the SEVIS school code for UCLA in Los Angeles, California, is LOS214F00297000. Applicants should make sure the school code is correct, as some schools have different SEVIS codes to reflect their satellite campus(es), or English Language program on campus. Failure to confirm the correct campus could result in the reissuance of an updated Form I-20 to be mailed to you, costing additional waiting time for you to receive it and plan your travels to the United States.
SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program)
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program operates under the Department of Homeland Security and helps bridge other governmental organizations whose interest lies in information related to nonimmigrants that are residing in the United States for the purposes of studying at U.S. academic, vocation, technical, or English Language schools. The SEVP manages schools and nonimmigrant students that hold F-1, M-1 visas as well as their dependents. The SEVP administers SEVIS, a web-based system that ensures that all necessary governmental agencies have access to data related to nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors, in the name of preserving national security. See: SEVIS
Standard Repayment Plan
The Standard Repayment Plan is the basic repayment plan for the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) and Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Programs. Payments are fixed and made for up to 10 years (10 - 30 years for Consolidation Loans).
A standardized test is a test that is designed to assess individuals against a common standard. For example, the SAT® and ACT® are standardized tests that some colleges require for consideration for admission.
States offer financial assistance to eligible residents to help reduce educational costs. Some state aid is first come, first served, so complete your FAFSA® form early. Contact your state grant agency for more information.
Student Aid Report (SAR)
A Student Aid Report is a paper or electronic document that gives you some basic information about your eligibility for federal student aid (such as EFC and FFR) and lists your answers to the questions on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).
Student Fraud is any situation where an individual falsifies information in order to qualify for student aid. Examples of student fraud include using false information on the FAFSA®, such as income or marital status, or reporting an invalid high school diploma.
Student Loan Debt Burden
Student loan debt burden is the percentage of a borrower’s monthly income that is dedicated to his or her student loan payments. The smaller this percentage, the lower the debt burden.
A prospective student who wishes to study in another country must obtain a student visa from that country. Depending on your course of study and type of school you plan to attend will determine the type of visa you will need. The visa is a special endorsement which is added to your government-issued passport and is only issued to students that have been accepted to an SEVP-approved school, registered for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and have paid the SEVIS I-901 fee. Once the school issues you a Form I-20, the international student can apply at their local U.S. Embassy or Consulate for one of two student visas: F-1 or M-1 visa. The Form I-20 must be presented to the consular officer when attending your visa interview. See: F-1 visa, M-1 visa, SEVIS, SEVP.
The TEACH Grant funds students who are completing/plan to complete coursework that is required to be a teacher, and who agree to teach full-time in a high-need field at an educational service agency or school for low-income students for at least four years.
TEACH Grant Initial and Subsequent Counseling
The TEACH Grant Initial and Subsequent Counseling process acquaints the student to the TEACH Grant program and the TEACH Grant service obligation.
A teach-out plan is a written agreement among schools that provides for the equitable treatment of students and a reasonable opportunity for students to complete their program of study if a school ceases to operate before they have completed their program of study.
A teacher is a person who provides professional direct instruction to students.
The Test of English as a Foreign Language measures English language skills for non-native speakers by measuring four areas: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. International students typically from non-English speaking countries must provide proof of English comprehension when applying to colleges/universities in the United States as part of their international admission requirements. The test takes an average of two to three hours to complete.
Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge
A total and permanent disability discharge relieves you from having to repay your federal student loan(s) and/or complete your Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant service obligation.
An academic record which documents courses taken while attending high school, community college, or a university. It also lists the following: course name, grade earned, credits earned, GPA, major, minor (if applicable) and other relevant academic information as the institution deems academically appropriate.
Transfer Admission Credits
A predetermined number of credits assigned when taking and passing a course. For example, an English class is worth three credits. When a student takes an English class for two semesters and has received passing grades, they have earned a total of six credits.
Transfer Admission Requirements
These are academic conditions which must be met prior to moving from one academic institution to another. Some transfer admission requirements range from completing a predetermined number of credits, meeting a specific GPA, providing passing academic evaluation scores, etc.
A school’s transfer rate is the percentage of its full-time, first-time students who have transferred to another institution.
A transfer student is a student who has completed some academic credits at a college or university and has requested to enroll at a different institution.
Tuition is the amount of money you owe for receiving instruction, materials, and/or supplies, or for the rental or purchase of equipment, for a course of study at your institution.
An undergraduate student is a student who is enrolled in an undergraduate course of study at a college/university or career school that usually doesn't exceed four years and leads to an undergraduate degree or certificate.
A university is a place of higher education for students to study, learn, and specialize in a variety of subjects. At a university, students generally spend 4 - 5 years before graduating and earning a bachelor’s degree. After receiving a bachelor’s degree, it is optional for the student to seek further education and obtain additional higher degrees. See: Degree
The student's Cost of Attendance, minus their Expected Family Contribution or Family Financial Responsibility (if applicable), less any need-based aid received, such as Gift Aid, Federal Work-Study or Federal Direct Subsidized Loans.
An unofficial transcript is a complete record of a student’s academic activity at a high school, college, or university. It includes courses taken and passed, failed, dropped, withdrawn, and/or repeated. Transcripts are considered unofficial if they are photocopied or printed by the student on plain paper from their school’s website and generally do not have an official college seal (or embossment), or registrar’s signature. They are mainly for student use only. See: Official Transcript.
Untaxed income is income you don't pay taxes on, such as Supplemental Security Income, child support, or federal or public assistance.
A federally mandated process to confirm the accuracy of data provided by selected applicants on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). To complete the verification process, the student, their parent(s), or spouse, if applicable, are required to provide certain documents to the school for review. If the documentation the student provides the institution doesn't match what was reported on the FAFSA®, verification can result in changes to the student's financial aid eligibility, and/or financial aid offers.
William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program
The Direct Loan Program is the federal student loan program under which eligible students and parents borrow directly from
A vocational degree is a certificate awarded to students attending a two-year educational institution that prepares them with the skills and experience for a particular trade or career. Vocational programs, however, take less time to complete than associate’s degree programs. Some examples of vocational degrees awarded are: medical coding and billing, auto mechanics, dental assisting, veterinary technology, etc.
William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program
The Direct Loan Program is the federal student loan program under which eligible students and parents borrow directly from the U.S. Department of Education at participating schools. Loans include Direct Subsidized, Direct Unsubsidized, Direct PLUS, and Direct Consolidation Loans.
To withdraw from a course in college is to drop a class from your schedule of classes, with the intention of not attending it, and not receiving a grade at the end of the term. Students should be aware of the deadlines to withdraw/drop classes, as there will be a point in time when you may be unable to withdraw without academic/monetary consequences.
A withholding is an amount of money that an employer takes out of your wages and pays to the government. If too little is withheld, you will owe additional taxes. If too much is withheld, you receive a refund.