Higher Education in Maryland
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Higher Education in Maryland

Important Terms

  • Award Notification

    • When the State of Maryland offers you a scholarship or grant, the Office of Student Financial Assistance will send you an official award notification. This notification will list the name of the scholarship or grant, how much money you will receive and which school the award is for. The award will be sent to you via email and/or regular mail. You must accept the award online in our MD CAPS financial aid system at https://mdcaps.mhec.state.md.us
  • Cost of Attendance

    • The total amount of money it will cost for you to go to college for a year is called the cost of attendance. This amount includes tuition and fees, room and board or housing/living costs, and allowances for books, supplies and other necessities. Where you choose to live (on-campus, off-campus or with your parents) is also a factor used in determining the total cost of college.  The total amount of financial aid a student receives may not exceed the student's cost of attendance.
  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

    • This figure is determined by the information you report on the FAFSA and is calculated by federal methodology. Your EFC combined with your college costs will determine your eligibility for a Federal Pell Grant and other need-based aid.
  • Family Income

    • Family income includes all income (taxed and untaxed) for you and your parent/guardian (if you are a dependent student) that is reported on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

  • Federal Methodology

    • Federal Methodology is a formula used to calculate the amount of money that you and your family are expected to pay for college. This formula, established by Congress, is used nationwide for all students. The most important factors in the formula are the income and assets of you and your parents and the size of your family.
  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

    • The FAFSA is the primary application you must complete and file to apply for federal student aid, State of Maryland financial aid, and most institutional financial aid that colleges award to students. If you are a dependent student according to the FAFSA, you must complete your section of the FAFSA and you must have your parents complete the parent section of the FAFSA. You may file the FAFSA at www.fafsa.gov
  • Financial Aid Package

    • Your financial aid package consists of the total amount of financial aid you receive. Your package may contain federal grants, loans and work-study, State scholarships or grants, and scholarships, grants or loans from your college.  A student may not receive more financial aid in their package than their cost of attendance, as determined by the institution.
  • Financial Need

    • The difference between the cost of attending your college and the amount of your EFC is your financial need. Your financial aid package is based on the amount of your financial need.
  • Full-time Student

    • If you enroll as an undergraduate for 12 credits or more each semester, you are considered a full-time student. If you enroll as a graduate student for 9 credits or more each semester, you are considered a full-time student.
  • Grade Point Average (GPA)

    • Your GPA is the average of your grades, where the grades have been converted to a 4.0 scale, with 4.0 being an A, 3.0 being a B, and 2.0 being a C.  A cumulative GPA is the average of all your grades when you attended a high school or college (i.e., cumulative GPA of grades 9-12 of high school).
  • Graduate Student

    • A college student who is enrolled in a master's or doctoral program is called a graduate student.
  • Grant

    • Grants are financial aid you do not have to pay back and are usually for students who have financial need. The largest Maryland State grant program is the Howard P. Rawlings Educational Assistance Grant. The largest federal grant program is the Federal Pell Grant.
  • Loan

    • A loan is money you borrow that you must pay back with interest. Federal funds provide most of the money used in making educational loans. The Stafford Loan and the Perkins Loan are federal loan programs.
  • Official Transcript

    • An official transcript is a list of all classes taken and all grades received by the student, and is sent by the school in a sealed envelope, usually with an original signature of a school official and an official seal.

  • Overaward

    • A student may not receive more financial assistance, from all sources combined, than their cost of attendance.  Cost of attendance is determined by the institution's financial aid office. 
  • Part-time Student

    • If you enroll as an undergraduate for 6-11 credits, you are considered a part-time student. If you enroll as a graduate student for 6-8 credits, you are considered a part-time student.
  • Promissory Note

    • If you accept a scholarship that has a service obligation, you must sign a promissory note. The note is a binding legal document that states the terms and conditions of repayment of the scholarship should you not complete the service obligation.
  • Scholarship

    • A scholarship is financial aid you don't have to pay back and is usually given to students who are recognized for academic achievement, athletic ability, or other talents.
  • Service Obligation

    • Some scholarships and grants require that you work in State or local government or non-profit agencies in your chosen field after you complete your education. If you fail to complete your service obligation, you must then repay the money you received, with interest.
  • Student Aid Report (SAR)

    • The SAR summarizes the information you included on the FAFSA you filed. The SAR will tell you your EFC and whether you are eligible for a Federal Pell Grant. You should receive your SAR approximately 3 days after you file your FAFSA online at www.fafsa.gov.
  • Title IV School Code

    • When you complete the FAFSA, you need to indicate the six-digit Title IV code for each college or university you list on the form. You can find a list of the Title IV school codes online at www.fafsa.gov or at www.finaid.org.  You can also obtain the information at your high school guidance office, college financial aid office, public library, the Federal Student Aid Information Center, or the Office of Student Financial Assistance.
  • Undergraduate Student

    • A college or private career school student who is enrolled in a certificate, nursing diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree program is called an undergraduate student.
  • Work Study

    • Work study is part-time employment during the school year, usually at an on-campus job.


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