Skip to content
Contact USI

Important Terms to Know as a Student

The language of the financial world can be confusing as a student, but it is still important to understand what they mean in relation to your finances. 

Cost of Attendance 

The cost of attendance refers to the amount of money it is going to cost you to attend college. This includes not only tuition but also room and board, school supplies, and even transportation. Having a general idea of how much you should expect to pay during college can save you a lot of worrying later.

Direct Subsidized Loans

Each year, students who meet the financial criteria for it, are offered direct subsidized loans. These loans are unique in the sense that they do not gain interest during your time in school, provided you are enrolled at least part-time, or during the six-month grace period after you graduate. Each student will be offered different amounts depending on what their financial needs are. Though they do not gain interest, they still need to be paid back and that is something to keep in mind.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

These loans are offered to most students and are not focused on financial needs. These loans will gain interest while you are in school and you will be required to pay the loan amount plus interest back when you graduate. However, it does still have a six-month grace period after you graduate.


Standing for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, this is a form, once filed, that can help you to determine what forms of aid you are eligible for and what aid you will receive each year. You need to be sure to fill out the application before the due date so that you can get all possible financial aid.


Grants are generally a needs-based form of financial aid. They provide a great source of extra money for school that does not need to be paid back.


Scholarships are another great source of extra money for tuition that does not need to be paid back. The difference is that scholarships are generally less need-based and focus more on career paths, academic standing, and community involvement. You should take the time to look at all scholarships that are available to you. Some are as simple as filling out a form while others may require essays or other tasks. They may seem tedious, but they could save you a lot of out-of-pocket money during college.

Minimum Monthly Payment

The minimum monthly payment refers to the lowest amount you are required to pay on your loans each month. You can always pay more than the minimum payment, which helps you pay less on the interest that those loans are gaining.

Loan Default

This is not a word that should be taken lightly. Defaults occur when you fail to make payments on your loans for an extended amount of time. Defaulting on your loans can result in a significant drop in your credit score and possibly, with student loans, garnishments to your wages. Sometimes unexpected things can happen in our lives that we are unprepared for. It is important to get in touch with your lender immediately if you think you are going to miss a payment. Showing your lender that you are concerned and would like to figure out what your options are in your situation shows them that you are trying.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

APR is a combination of all interest costs and added fees, shown as a percentage, that are associated with your loan. While interest rates only include the amount of interest you gain during the year, APR can show you a better picture of what you should expect to pay each year on your loans.

Credit Score

You have probably heard the words credit score quite a few times in your life. However, most people have no idea what their credit score actually consists of. Though it is a glorified term, your credit score is basically a measure of how much debt you have, how good you are at paying off that debt, and how many forms of debt you have. Credit scores are a way for lenders to see if you are someone they can feel safe lending their money to. Be warned, though, missing even one payment can significantly hurt your credit score and it can take a long time to get it back up! Generally, a good credit score is 700 or above.