Glossary of Admission and Financial Aid Terms

Award Letter – The official document, issued by the Office of Financial Aid, which lists all the financial aid awarded to the student. While award letters vary among institutions, the letter generally lists the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), Cost of Attendance (COA), and all the terms of the aid awarded. The award letter may be via paper or online. 

Candidate’s Reply Date – A national policy among members of the National Association for College Admission Counseling that permits a student to wait until May 1 to choose among offers of admission and financial aid.

Common Application – A general application form accepted by approximately 350 selective colleges and universities. These institutions agree to give the same preference to students whether they apply using the Common Application or the institution’s own application. Students who use the Common Application complete the form once and send photocopies or submit the online form to the colleges they choose.

Cost of Attendance (COA) – The student’s Cost of Attendance includes tuition, fees, and standard allocation designed to cover reasonable living expenses while attending school. The Cost of Attendance is determined by Rhodes using guidelines established by federal regulations (also known as Cost of Education or Student Budget). 

Early Action – An application process in which a student can apply to an institution and receive a decision in advance of the normal response dates in the spring. The student is not committed to enroll at the institution under Early Action.

Early Admission – Admitting students into college courses before they have completed the standard high school graduation requirements.

Early Decision – An application process in which the student is committed to enrolling at the institution if accepted. Only a student who can make a deliberate and well-reasoned first choice decision should apply using an Early Decision program.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC) – An amount that a student and parents can reasonably be expected to contribute toward college costs. For federal aid purposes, this is computed according to federal guidelines. The EFC is subtracted from the total Cost of Attendance to arrive at an estimate of a student’s demonstrated need.

Federal Direct Loan Program – Federally sponsored loan programs, which include the Direct Loan, Graduate PLUS Loan and the Parent PLUS Loan (for parents of undergraduate students). 

Federal Methodology (FM) – The formulas used to determine a student’s eligibility for federal Title IV funds. The formulas take into account income, some assets, expenses, family size, and other factors. FM is created by the U.S. Department of Education, approved by Congress, and revised every 5 to 8 years.

Financial Aid Package – A combination of aid (may include merit-based scholarship, grants, loans, and /or work study) awarded by an institution’s financial aid office and based on the FAFSA submitted by the student and her family.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – This application must be completed by all students who wish to be considered for federal and state financial aid at Rhodes College. Apply online at
Grant – A type of financial aid award based on need that is not repaid by the student. 

Institutional Methodology (IM) – A nationally accepted standard used by many colleges, universities, graduate and professional schools, and private scholarship programs for assessing a family’s financial eligibility to receive funding from the school to help meet the Cost of Attendance. While similar to the federal methodology, IM includes a comprehensive review of assets, income, family size, home equity, and other factors. Institutional Methodology also permits more generous treatment of medical/dental expenses, elementary and secondary school tuition payments, and child support payments in determining a family’s total available income to pay for the Cost of Attendance. Rhodes uses IM in its institutional financial aid evaluation. 

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 high school record, test scores (if submitted), special talents or extracurricular activities to determine eligibility. Rhodes College’s athletic program is guided by NCAA Division III regulations and does not offer athletic scholarships.

Needs Analysis – A process of reviewing a student’s aid application to determine the amount of financial aid a student is eligible for. Completing a needs analysis form is the required first step in applying for most types of financial aid. 
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 student employment. Students who believe their families will need help in financing their educational costs are encouraged to apply for federal need-based aid by completing the FAFSA,.

Parent Contribution – A portion of the Expected Family Contribution that is derived from the parents’ family income, assets, state and federal taxes, an allowance for family living expenses, and the costs of other family members in college.

Pell Grant – For undergraduate students, first baccalaureate degree only. Eligibility is based on Federal Methodology. The amount of the award ranges from $588 to $5,775, subject to Congressional appropriations, and will be reduced for students who enroll less than full time. 

Rolling Admission – An admission procedure by which the college considers each application as soon as all required materials have been received. The applicant’s credentials are compared to the set requirements for admission to that college. The college then notifies each applicant of acceptance or rejection as soon as possible. The college does not wait until all applicants have applied in order to compare applicants to one other.

Scholarships – Gift money awarded to students based on merit or other specific talents such as fine arts, athletics, community service or leadership.

Self Help – Financial aid self-help awards are available via programs that require the student to either repay the assistance or work for the assistance. Loans and student employment are examples of self-help awards.

Student Aid Report (SAR) – A form sent to the student after submitting the FAFSA to the federal processor. The SAR shows the information that was processed and indicates Pell Grant eligibility. For duplicate reports, visit 

Student Contribution – In addition to the amount parents are asked to contribute, students are also expected to help meet a portion of their own educational costs each year. A student’s minimum contribution may come from prior year earnings, summer employment, savings, and educational benefits. 

Subsidized Loan – The government pays the interest on the loan while the student is in school during any deferment periods. Subsidized loans are awarded based on financial need and may not be used to finance the family contribution. 

Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) – Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant for undergraduate students, first baccalaureate degree only. Federal grant awarded based on a federal formula using data provided in your aid application. Priority is given to students who are eligible for Federal Pell Grants. 

Unsubsidized Loan – With this loan, the government does not pay the interest while the student is enrolled. The student has the option to either pay the accruing interest monthly or allow the interest to capitalize (to be added to the principal). Either way, required payments do not begin until six months after graduation or six months after the student drops below half-time enrollment. Unsubsidized Direct Loans are not based on financial need and therefore may be used to finance the family contribution. 

Wait List – A term used by institutions to describe a process by which they may initially delay offering or denying admission, allowing the possibility of admission in the future.

Work Study Program – A financial aid program supported by the federal government and coordinated through the financial aid office, whereby an eligible student (based on need) may work part-time on campus while enrolled at the institution.


Financial Aid Applications
FAFSA (Rhodes Title IV code: 003519)

Download Forms
All Financial Aid forms can be found on the Rhodes Express Download Forms webpage.