Commonly Used Terms & Abbreviations

‌• CSS/Financial Aid Profile:

College Scholarship Service. The financial aid application administered by the College Board that may be required by certain independent colleges, universities and scholarship organizations. Approximately 350 schools require the CSS profile.

‌• ECA:

Estimated Cost of Attendance. An estimate of the amount that the university will charge a particular student.

‌• EFC:

Expected Family Contribution. The amount a student’s family is expected to contribute toward the student’s post-secondary education. The EFC is generated from the financial and family information provided by the student when completing the FAFSA.

‌• Eligible non-citizen:

Individuals who are not U.S. citizens, but are still eligible for various forms of financial aid. Such individuals are typically defined as U.S. permanent residents who possess Permanent Resident Cards (I-551 or I-151); a conditional permanent resident (I-551C); or non-citizens who have Arrival-Departure Records (I-94) from the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services with one of the following designations: Refugee, Asylum Granted, Parolee (the I-94 confirms paroled for a minimum of one year and status has not expired), or Cuban-Haitian Entrant. Please note that individuals in the U.S. on an F1 or F2 student visa, a J1 or J2 exchange visitor visa, or a G series visa (which pertains to international organizations) are not U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens and are not eligible for federal aid.

‌• Fellowship:

A financial grant or award from a foundation, university, agency or other donor for advanced study or research.


Free Application for Federal Student Aid. A mechanism used to determine a variety of need-based financial aid that includes the federal Pell Grant and various state financial aid scholarships and grants. Many scholarship donors and foundations require applicants complete the FAFSA as well.

‌• GED:

General Education Development. A test or certificate used to measure academic achievement or equivalency at the high school graduate level, generally used by an individual who did not complete high school.

‌• Grant:

A form of monetary financial aid award very similar to a scholarship. Like scholarships, grants do not require repayment and applicants typically must meet certain conditions and criteria.

‌• Loan:

A form of monetary financial aid that must be repaid, unlike scholarships and grants. Loans can come from a variety of sources including state and federal governments, private lenders, and donor foundations. Students seeking loans should read the repayment terms and conditions very carefully. Loans typically accrue interest. Interest rates vary, depending upon the loan type.

‌• PIN:

Personal Identification Number. A number assigned by the U.S. Department of Education that serves as an individual’s personal identifier for FAFSA purposes, in addition to their e-signature on the electronic FAFSA. The PIN also permits individuals to access the status of their FAFSA.

‌• POC:

Point of Contact. The individual or organization to whom inquiries should be directed.

‌• SAR:

Student Aid Report. The form generated from information provided after completing the FAFSA.

‌• Scholarship:

A monetary financial aid award given to students based upon specific criteria. Scholarships do not have to be repaid, and come in a variety of forms including, but not limited to, merit-based, need-based and/or athletic. Scholarships may be a one-time award, or may be repeated (renewable) every year the student is in school and may be based upon meeting established criteria.