US FINANCIAL AID: A GLOSSARY

I realized that I’ve been using a lot of rhetoric in my articles so here’s a run-down of everything that might need to be explained. For those who come from countries with free tuition, or US students who are filing for the first time, this list is for you.

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For the squeamish, just imagine the dripping as your tears cascading down the FAFSA homepage.
  • FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) – Ohhh, the FAFSA. This cumbersome application is what any American student will need to complete before being eligible for any aid. Step one, file your taxes. Step two, file your FAFSA.
  • Grants – Federal grants are need-based and do not need to be repaid unless you withdraw from school.
  • Scholarships – You’re not going to get scholarships through the FAFSA directly, you need to apply for the thousands that are available elsewhere. Generally, scholarships do not need to be repaid, but if the conditions of the award are broken (e.g. your GPA slips, you change majors, you quit the same sport your entire scholarship was based on, etc), you run the risk of losing your scholarship(s).
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I’m not saying that student loans are predatory, but I’m definitely implying it.
  • Subsidized federal loans -A loan where the government pays the interest while a student remains enrolled in a qualified college or university. I know what you’re thinking:  “Why would the government even charge interest on student loans?” To which I respond, “That’s a great question. A great question indeed.”
  • Unsubsidised federal loans – Interest on the unsubsidized student loans starts to add up as soon as the loan is disbursed to the school.
  • [WATCH] More on federal or “DIRECT” loans.

  • EFC or Estimated Family Contribution – is the grand indicator of just how much aid a student is eligible to receive after submitting the FAFSA. High EFC = less aid, low EFC = more aid.
    • Students under the age of 24 with high income parents will have a higher EFC and less aid; even if parents refuse to contribute to the students educational finances.
    • The blow of EFC can be diminished in households with only one parent (e.g. divorce, death, estranged, etc), preferably the parent with lower income.
  • COA (Cost of Attendance) – the total amount it will cost you to go to college each year. This includes: tuition and fees, on-campus room and board (or a housing and food allowance for off-campus students), and allowances for books, supplies, transportation, loan fees, etc. It can also include other expenses like an allowance for the rental or purchase of a personal computer, costs related to a disability, or costs for eligible study-abroad programs.
  • Work-study – This is a part-time job that you’ll need to apply for while you are enrolled in school. The job typically only guarantees 10-15 hours per week and usually delivers paychecks monthly (instead of weekly or bi-weekly like “normal” jobs do). The upside of work study is that you get “on the job” training where you would not otherwise and the job is typically on-campus; the downside is that the hours are limited and the pay is typically minimum wage (plus or minus a few quarters per hour).
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Feel like begging for $1s on the stage? I don’t blame you.