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Scholarship Glossary & Terms

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Scholarships Glossary

This section introduces students to various terms and phrases used in relation to scholarships, financial aid applications and international student offices across the world. Familiarize yourself with these terms so that you are sure not to miss any relevant information about your application when applying.

A

Academic year

A measured term of enrollment (fall and spring semesters). It is the period during which school is in session. In some cases, it may also include a summer term.

Accredited

Accreditation of educational institutions is done by regional and specialized accrediting associations. For example, The U.S. Department of Education recognizes accrediting bodies for purposes of institutional financial aid eligibility and other areas in which the federal government has an interest.

Accrued interest

Interest that accumulates on the unpaid principal balance of a loan.

Aggregate loan amount

The total amount disbursed to a borrower under a given loan type throughout the borrower's academic career.

Alternative loans

Private loans are education loan programs established by private lenders to supplement the student and parent education loan programs that are available from federal and state governments.

Annual loan limit

The maximum amount that a student may borrow at a particular grade level in one academic year.

Associate degree

An undergraduate academic degree granted after completion of two years of study. Community colleges and career colleges generally award associate degrees.

Award

A specific amount of financial assistance to pay for education costs offered to a student through one or more financial aid programs. Individual schools determine the amount and types of assistance it will offer the student along with any other types of assistance the student will receive.

Award letter

A document issued by the financial aid office listing the types and amounts of all the financial aid awarded to the student.

Award year

The time period which financial aid awards are made over an academic year.

B

Bachelor's degree

An undergraduate academic degree awarded for a course of study that generally lasts four years. Colleges or universities generally award bachelor's degrees.

Borrower

The person who receives loan funds and is legally obligated to repay those proceeds with interest at a future date per the conditions established in a promissory note.

C

College aid

Financial aid from your college or school.

Consolidation

The action of combining several loans into one (original loans are paid in full by new loan).

Co-signer

A person who signs the promissory note in addition to the borrower and is responsible for repaying the debt or loan if the borrower does not pay.

Cost of attendance 

The total cost of attending college, including tuition and general fees, room and board, lab fees, books, travel costs, supplies, and study abroad costs.

D

Default

Failure to repay a student loan according to the agreed terms. Student loan default has serious consequences- the defaulted loan will be reported to credit bureaus which will possibly damage your credit rating, and you will not be eligible for other aid until you make arrangements to repay your defaulted loans.

Deferment

A period during which a borrower may suspend loan payments. To have your loans deferred, you must first contact your lender and be approved for the deferment. The repayment period for the loan is often extended by the length of the deferment period.

Delinquency

Failure to make monthly loan payments when due. Delinquency begins with the first missed payment.

Direct loan

A low-interest loan for both undergraduate and graduate students. Federal Direct Loans can be subsidized or unsubsidized. The amount you can borrow each year is determined by your grade level, dependency status and total amount borrowed to date. 

Disbursement

The process of releasing the financial aid funds to the borrower. The funds are first credited to the student's account to pay for their tuition, fees, room and board. Any excess funds are then refunded to the student by direct deposit or check. 

E

Endorser

An individual who signs a promissory note and agrees to repay the loan in the event that the borrower does not.

Enrollment status

The student’s current status at a given university. Status types include full-time, part-time, less than part-time, leave of absence, graduated, or withdrawn.

F

Fellowship

The term refers to money awarded to assist students perusing research or study in graduate or professional programs. Fellowships differ from scholarships in that they are intended to support research purposes and are generally merit-based awards as opposed to need based.

Financial aid

Financial assistance provided by federal and state entities as well as universities to help pay for a student’s college education.

Financial aid administrator

The Financial Aid Administrator is a university employee involved in the administration of financial aid. The administrator is also known as a financial aid advisor, officer, or counselor.

Financial aid package

A Financial Aid “package” is also known or called a Financial Aid Award and is a combination scholarships, tuition waivers, grants, loans, and/or work-study. The Financial Aid Office creates the package based on what the student is eligible for.

G

GED

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

Graduate assistantships

There are three types of graduate assistantships:

  • Teaching Assistantships (TA)
  • Research Assistantships (RA)
  • Graduate Assistantships (GA)

TAs and RAs receive a full or partial tuition waiver and a small living stipend. TAs are usually required to teaching duties, RAs are required to perform research, and GAs are required to perform other duties that don't necessarily relate to their studies.

Grade level

A student's academic class level. Graduate or professional students are working on a degree beyond a bachelor’s degree, such as a masters, law, or doctorate degree.

Graduate student

A student who has obtained a bachelor's degree and is studying for an advanced degree.

Grant

A type of financial aid that does not have to be repaid by the student.

H

Higher education

This term refers to all programs for high school graduates, including vocational and technical schools, and programs at two and four-year colleges and universities.

I

Interest

A fee charged to the borrower for use of a lender's money. The percentage of interest you are charged and when interest begins to accrue on your federal loan is determined by the type of loan you borrow.

Interest rate

The percentage of a sum of money charged to a borrower for its use.

Interest-only payment

A payment that covers only accrued interest owed on a loan and none of the principal balance. Borrowers making interest only payments may make larger payments at any time.

J

Job placement rate

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 timeframe after receiving their degree or certificate.

L

Late fee

A fee that may be assessed if a scheduled payment is not made by the due date.

Lender

A financial institution that provides funds to a borrower.

Loan

Borrowed money. An advance of funds guaranteed by a signed promissory note in which the recipient of the funds promises to repay a specified amount under prescribed conditions. This type of financial aid is considered self-help, because the loans must be repaid under the terms and conditions of the promissory note that was signed when the loan was requested.

Loan balance

The total unpaid amount of a specific loan. This sum includes outstanding principal, capitalized interest, accrued interest, late charges, and any miscellaneous fees such as returned check fees.

Loan forgiveness

Under certain circumstances, such as practicing medicine in a national shortage area or teaching in a low income rural region, the federal government will cancel all or part of an educational loan.

Loan interviews

Students with educational loans are required to complete entrance counseling when they borrow a loan or money for the first time and exit counseling before graduation or leaving school. Entrance counseling is valid for 10 years from the original electronic signature date and is completed at www.studentloans.gov.

Loan period

The period of enrollment for which a loan application is certified. Also known as period of enrollment.

M

Merit-based aid

A means of determining eligibility for certain types of financial aid using merit, such as a specific accomplishment or talent as the determining factor, rather than financial need.

N

Need-based aid

This type of financial aid is based on financial need eligibility. The most common forms of need-based financial aid are grants, work-study, and subsidized Federal Direct loans.

Non-subsidized loan/ unsubsidized loan

A loan that is not eligible for federal interest benefits. The borrower is responsible for paying the interest on the outstanding principal balance of a non-subsidized loan throughout the life of the loan.

O

Out of state student

An out of state student is a student who studies an a state other than where they have residency. Tuition rates are based on your in state or out of state residency classification. Typically it is cheaper to study in the state where you have residency versus out of state. 

P

Part-time enrollment

In general, this means attending for six semester hours/ credits for an undergraduate student and at least 5 for a graduate per academic term. Financial aid requires a student must be in at least half time to be eligible for aid.

Private loans

Private loans provide supplemental funding when other financial aid does not cover costs. Banks or other financial institutions and schools offer these loans (not sponsored by government agencies) to students, generally with a parent as an endorser.

R

Repayment

The time during which a borrower actively pays back an education loan.

Repayment period

The period during which interest accrues on a borrower's loan and principal payments are required. The repayment period excludes any period of authorized deferment or forbearance.

Research assistantship

A form of financial aid awarded to graduate students in order to help support their education. Research assistantships usually provide the graduate student with a waiver for all or part of tuition plus a stipend for living expenses. As the name implies, an RA is usually required to perform research duties.

S

Scholarships

Scholarships are a form of financial assistance that does not need to be repaid. Scholarships can awarded based on any number of criteria, such as academics, achievements, hobbies, talents, and affiliations with various groups, or career aspirations.

The most common scholarships are academic and athletic scholarships. Students normally apply for scholarships by completing an application and in many cases, by writing an essay. Scholarships come from a variety of sources including governments, the university, churches, professional organizations and businesses.

Self help financial aid

Self help financial aid includes work study as you must work for the money received and loans which is money you borrow and must pay back.

State aid

Financial aid from a student's state of legal residence, most common in the U.S.

T

Transcripts

A list of all courses that a student has taken at a particular high school or college, with the dates and grades the student earned in each course.

Tuition payment plan

Select colleges offer a convenient monthly payment plan through allowing students to pay in monthly installments rather than one lump sum each term.

U

Undergraduate student

A student who has graduated from high school and is studying for a bachelor's degree.

Unsubsidized loan

An unsubsidized loan is a loan given to a student not eligible for a subsidized loan, that will begin accruing interest charges from the disbursement date forward. Interest is charged on these loans from the date of disbursement. 

U.S. Department of Education

The US Department of Education offers several federal student financial aid programs, including the Federal Pell Grant, the Federal Work-Study Program, the Federal Perkins loan, the federal Direct loan, and the Federal Parent and Graduate PLUS Loans. Students will need to be citizens of the U.S. to qualify for most of this aid.

W

Work study

Work Study is a program that provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing the opportunity to earn money to pay for educational expenses. Eligible students can work part-time to help fund their education.

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Last update: 21 Sep 2017