EFC: The expected family contribution to a student’s college costs, calculated as part of the financial aid application process based on family income, assets and other factors.

COA: Cost of attendance, the total amount a student’s college education is expected to cost. It includes tuition, fees, housing, meals, books, transportation, travel and other costs.

FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the primary application form used by all colleges and universities to determine a prospective student’s financial assistance needs.

CSS Profile: The College Scholarship Service Profile, a secondary financial aid application required by many private colleges and scholarship programs, along with the FAFSA.

Need-based aid: Financial aid awarded solely on the basis of a student’s relative ability to pay for college.

Merit-based aid: Financial aid based on other considerations such as academic, athletic or artistic achievement.

Work-study: Money paid to a student for working on campus during his or her enrollment. Work-study jobs are restricted to 10 hours a week and do not cover a significant portion of most colleges’ costs.

Deferred loan: A student loan that does not have to be paid back for a predetermined period. Most student loans are deferred until six months after graduation.

Subsidized loan: A loan whose interest is paid by the government during the deferment period.

Unsubsidized loan: A loan whose interest continues to accrue during the deferment period and must be paid off entirely by the borrower.

Alternative loan: A form of unsubsidized loan issued by a private lender. It generally requires an adult co-signer and cannot be consolidated with other student loans.

Stafford Loan: The primary, federally guaranteed student loan. Stafford loans can be both subsidized or unsubsidized, and the amount that can be borrowed is limited.

Parent PLUS Loan: An unsubsidized loan issued by private lenders based on the creditworthiness of the student’s parents. They carry higher interest rates than Stafford loans and are not deferred.

Source: College Placement Services