November 18, 2010
The Higher Ed Dictionary: A Translation Guide
Learning a new language tends to be a daunting task, only made slightly easier when the language is actually jargon in English. As you navigate the world of higher education, you’ll run into many terms that you might not have heard before.
Academic Advising: a process to help you make choices about your education, such as what to major in or what classes to take to earn a certain degree or certificate. For example, “When I went to Academic Advising, they helped me work out a plan so I can take all the right classes and graduate quickly.”
Accreditation: Accreditation in the United States is a voluntary, nongovernmental process, in which an institution and its programs are evaluated against standards for measuring quality. (from www.ed.gov). For example, “I looked into the school’s accreditation, and it all checks out!”
COA (Cost of Attendance): the total amount that attending a particular school will cost you, including tuition, fees, books, room and board, transportation, dependent care, and other school-related expenses. This varies by institution, as well as whether or not you’re a dependent or independent student, if you live on or off campus, and a variety of other factors.
EFC (Estimated Family Contribution): the amount of money that you and your family are expected to pitch in towards one year of post-secondary education. For example, “After I filed the FAFSA, my EFC came back as $2,000.”
FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid): the FAFSA is a form that determines what kind and how much federal funding you can receive for post-secondary education. This includes Pell grants, Stafford loans, Perkins loans, etc. For example, “If you haven’t yet filed the FAFSA, the priority filing deadline is March 30.” (Priority filing deadlines vary by college, so make sure you check your school’s deadline!)
Financial Aid: in a nutshell, it’s any kind of money that helps you pay for school. Financial aid INCLUDES scholarships, grants, student loans, and work-study programs.
Financial Aid Office: your go-to place for any questions you have about paying for school.
Matriculation: being enrolled in a particular degree program at a school. For example, “When I was an undergraduate student, I matriculated in English and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree.”
MPN (Master Promissory Note): a document that is signed when you take out a federal student loan, stating the terms and conditions of repayment. Read this very carefully before signing! (Most students elect to sign the MPN electronically online, but you can still sign a hard copy and mail it in.)
Orientation: a required introduction to your college, usually during the summer between your high school graduation and the beginning of your college education. If you don’t complete orientation, you are usually not allowed to register for classes, which could be a big problem!
PIN (Personal Identification Number): there are probably many PINs already in your life, but this PIN is specifically for e-signing the FAFSA.
Priority Filing Deadline: a date that varies by school that colleges use to distribute limited amounts of financial aid. If you file the FAFSA before this date, you have a better chance of receiving financial aid that doesn’t have to be repaid, such as grants and scholarships.
Registrar: the person (or people) who can help you enroll in classes. Usually, any changes to class schedules are made through the Registrar’s Office–including dropping classes, adding classes, withdrawing from classes, etc. They often keep records about graduation eligibility, manage privacy requirements, and more.
Registration: the process of signing up for classes each semester or term. This is often done online, and popular classes fill up VERY quickly! Many colleges allow upperclassmen to register first, since they have less time left to finish required classes for their majors, and then open it up to freshmen and sophomores. Pay attention to the date you are allowed to sign up, and make sure to start the process early so you can get into the classes you need.
Student loan: the definition of student loans is simple enough–it’s money lent by a bank or the federal government to a student for the purposes of paying for education. The trick is to be able to discern different types of student loans. Federal student loans (most commonly Stafford or Perkins) don’t require a credit check and typically come with a low interest rate and repayment terms favorable to the student borrower. There are also federal student loans provided to parents called PLUS (Parent Loan for Undergraduate Student) to help families pitch in towards the cost of college. Private student loans have a lot more variety, but they’ll come from banks or other lenders. Pay close attention to the interest rate, interest type (fixed or variable), and repayment term and options. These loans often have less favorable terms when compared to federal student loans, so be sure to read ALL the fine print–as with everything you sign!
If you have questions about other terms, we’ll try to provide answers for you! Just let us know in the comments section, or by posting a question for us on our Facebook page. And, if you’re a voracious reader of glossaries, you can check out this one on FinAid.org. Thanks for reading!Posted by: Sumiko