A Financial Aid Glossary, Pt. 1: Acronyms

Posted: January 31, 2015

It's financial aid time! As financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz points out“Students who file the FAFSA in January, February or March receive more than twice as much grant funding, on average, as students who file the FAFSA later in the aid application cycle.” Thus it's important that you start planning to fill out the FAFSA asap. Unfortunately, the financial aid process is riddled with acronyms. This is an attempt to help you sort through them.

CSS PROFILE: The PROFILE is a service of the College Board and is used to college family financial information in addition to the FAFSA.

DRT: The Data Retrieval Tool, or DRT, is a web-based tool that allows you to retrieve your tax information from your current income tax statement, rather than working from hard copies of your tax return. The DRT comes online February 1 and is available to be used to file or correct your FAFSA about two weeks after you have filed your taxes. Watch the “IRS Data Retrieval Tool” video for more info.

EFC: The Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, is a number you receive based on the information you reported on the FAFSA. This number is a score, not a dollar amount, although, like a dollar amount, the smaller the number the more aid you are likely to receive.

FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA is available in hard-copy or in an interactive application on the web. It is free to file; don’t let anyone try to charge you to file FAFSA.

SAR: The SAR (“Sar”) is the Student Aid Report. You should receive your SAR a week or two after filing the FAFSA electronically. It will recap all the info you filed and will list your EFC, or expected family contribution.

See part 2 for definitions of various kinds of financial aid.

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