Financial Aid & the Federal Aid Program Terms

Financial aid can be overwhelming enough when you do understand what all the specific terms mean. Just because the language is new, however, doesn’t mean that it’s difficult. Most college financial aid terms are pretty easy to remember, once you know how they connect to your daily life at school.

  • FAFSA: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This form is required for any student who wants to be considered for federal aid of any kind. Make sure you get your form in by the deadline.
  • Fees: fees can be charged for anything from seeing a doctor in the campus health center to replacement costs for losing a library book. Additionally, you may see something listed as "student fees," which cover some student services that the school provides and/or may be the basis for the student government budget.
  • Financial aid: anything related to the way you are paying for school. Loans, scholarships, grants, work awards and any other resource you use are all considered part of your financial aid.
  • Grants: similar to scholarships in that you don't need to pay them back. Some grants may be connected to your course of study, or allow you to do research while still having your financial needs taken care of.
  • Loan: money your school (or a bank, or even a relative) is giving you, but that you must pay back at some point. Some loans have no interest, some loans don't collect interest until you graduate and some loans have terms that are connected to your plans after graduation (loans that are forgiven over time for teachers, for example).
  • Room and board: the cost of having a place to sleep (room) and food to eat (board) while at school.
  • Scholarship: money being given to you for your studies. You usually do not need to pay scholarship money back. Scholarships can come from your school, an organization or a contest.
  • Tuition: the cost of your classes. Some schools charge tuition based on how many units you are taking, while others charge a base rate per semester, as long as you stay within a certain range of units.
  • Work study: this is basically an on-campus job that you will have as part of your financial aid package and is funded through the federal government. You are not allowed to make more money in your work study job than has been allocated in your financial aid package.

As long as you manage your money well while in school, financial aid shouldn't cause you too much stress. Remember, too, that the financial aid office is there to help if you ever find yourself needing more information or clarification.