Financial Aid Glossary

COA: Cost of Attendance. The total cost of college for the school year as calculated by colleges. Includes tuition, fees, books, supplies, transportation, food, housing and personal expenses.

CSS/Financial Aid Profile: The financial aid application administered by the College Board and required by some independent colleges and scholarship organizations to award private aid; available online at

Dependency Status: When you apply for federal student aid, your answers to questions on the FAFSA will determine whether you are considered dependent or independent. All dependent students must report parental income and assets as well as their own. Most undergraduate students are dependent.

Disbursment: The release of loan funds to the school for delivery to the borrower. Disbursements for most loans are made in equal multiple installments, and made co-payable to the borrower and the school.

EFC - Expected Family Contribution: The portion of your family’s financial resources that should be available to pay for college, based on a federal formula using the information on your FAFSA.

FAFSA - Free Application for Federal Student Aid: Completing the FAFSA is the key to applying for most financial aid. Without it students won’t be considered for federal loans, grants & work-study. Colleges also use information from a student’s FAFSA to put together financial aid packages. Find more information at

Financial Aid Package: The total amount of financial aid offered to a student, usually a combination of grants, scholarships, loans and work-study.

Financial Need: The difference between what it costs to attend a particular college and the amount it has been determined that a student and her/his family can afford to pay toward those expenses. The term "demonstrated financial need" is typically used to describe an assessment based on Institutional Methodology for undergraduate need-based, institutional funding. The amount that an applicant can be expected to contribute is measured according to standardized formulas. These standardized formulas include the federal and institutional methodologies.

Merit-Based Aid: Financial aid that is awarded based on a student's academic, leadership or artistic merit, or some other criteria, and does not depend on financial need. Merit-based awards may look at a student's grades, test scores, special talents, or extracurricular activities to determine eligibility. Emory University's athletic program is guided by NCAA Division III regulations and does not offer athletic scholarships. To apply for University merit-based aid, please contact your admissions office.

Need-Based Aid: Financial aid that is awarded based on a student's financial circumstance. Need-based aid can be awarded in the form of grants, loans, or work-study. Students who believe their families will need help in supporting their educational costs are encouraged to apply for need-based aid at the time they apply for admission to the University.

PIN: Personal Identification Number on the FAFSA. Serves as your e-signature on the FAFSA on-line.

SAR: Student Aid Report. The report summarizing the information you provide on the FAFSA.

W2: IRS form that is sent to you by your employer and includes salary information and taxes withheld for the prior year.


For more definitions of financial aid terms, click here.