Academic year:
The time period in which a student’s academic work must be completed. Williams follows a “4-1-4” pattern consisting of fall semester, month-long Winter Study, and spring semester. Financial aid is based on the academic year and evaluated annually.
Adjusted Gross Income:
Wages, salaries, interest, dividends, etc., minus certain deductions from income as reported on a federal income tax return. Used by the Federal Methodology to determine eligibility for Pell grants and other forms of federal financial aid.
Award letter:
An official document, issued by the financial aid office, describing a student’s full financial aid eligibility for the academic year. This letter includes the student and parent contributions, the cost of attendance, and the amounts and types of financial aid available to the student. Financial aid award letters may be revised at the discretion of the financial aid office based on changes in family circumstance or additional information.


Book Grant:
Unique to Williams, the book grant covers the actual cost of required textbooks, course packets, and studio art fees for all students receiving financial aid.
The person who assumes legal obligations for the repayment of the loan principal plus interest. In the case of a Federal Perkins Loan, Federal Direct Loan, or Williams Loan, the borrower is the student. In the case of the Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan, the borrower is the parent.
The college administrator whose office manages billing and payment. The student account and the term bill are both administered by the Bursar’s Office. All financial aid funds are sent to the Bursar’s Office for disbursement into each student’s account.


Cost of attendance (COA):
An estimate of the total costs for an academic year at Williams. COA includes tuition and fees; room and board; and allowances for books, travel costs, and personal expenses. After subtracting the expected parent contribution and student contribution, financial aid covers the remaining cost of attendance.
Credit Balance:
The amount remaining in a student’s account after payment of all billed charges. See Disbursement.
This application must be completed by all students who wish to be considered for institutional financial aid at Williams. Apply online at the CSS PROFILE website.


Data Retrieval Tool (DRT):
The IRS Data Retrieval Tool allows students and parents to access the IRS tax return information needed to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and transfer the data directly into their FAFSA from the IRS web site. The Data Retrieval Tool is one of two options to satisfy the federal verification requirement (the other option is an IRS tax return transcript).
Failure to repay a loan according to the terms agreed to in the master promissory note. For most federal student loans, default will occur if no payment has been made in more than 270 days (unless the borrower has requested & received a deferment or forbearance). Borrowers may experience serious legal consequences if they default; borrowers having difficulty making monthly payments can choose a different repayment plan to continue making payments & avoid default.
A postponement of required payments on a loan, allowed under certain conditions (such as graduate school enrollment). During a deferment, interest does not accrue on Direct Subsidized Loans or Federal Perkins Loans; all other federal student loans will continue to accrue interest. Any unpaid interest accrued during the deferment period may be added to the principal balance of the loan(s).
Dependency status:
The definition of an applicant as dependent or independent of parent finances in determining financial aid eligibility. Questions on the FAFSA determine dependency status for federal aid purposes. Williams considers nearly all students “dependent” for institutional aid purposes. Dependency status for financial aid is unrelated to dependency for federal tax purposes.
Direct Loan:
See Federal Direct Loan.
The process by which funds are made available to students for use in meeting educational expenses. Financial aid funds and direct payments are disbursed to each student’s account (administered by the Bursar) to first pay any billed charges: tuition, fees, room & board, and any incidental expenses such as college health insurance. Any funds in excess of the billed charges constitute a credit balance.


Expected Family Contribution (EFC):
A measurement of family finances based on the information provided in the FAFSA. The EFC is reported on the Student Aid Report (SAR) and used to determine eligibility for federal financial aid-for example, the Pell Grant. Williams aid eligibility is not based on the federal EFC but on our own need analysis.
Expected parent contribution:
See parent contribution.
Expected student contribution:
The portion of the cost of attendance that is expected to come from each student’s summer earnings and, where applicable, savings and other student assets. Williams offers a one-time waiver of the summer earnings contribution under certain conditions, such as participation in an unpaid summer internship. The expected student contribution is separate from money earned through Federal Work Study or other need-based campus employment.


FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid):
The basis for federal financial aid eligibility which must be completed by all U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and other eligible non-citizens who wish to be considered for financial aid. Apply online at
Federal Direct Loan:
A federal student loan, made through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, for which eligible students and parents borrow directly from the U.S. Department of Education at participating schools. Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans and Direct Consolidation Loans are types of Direct Loans. The Federal Direct Loan program replaced the Stafford Loan Program.
Federal Methodology (FM):
The formulas used to determine a student’s eligibility for federal (Title IV) financial aid funds. The formulas take into account income, certain assets, certain expenses, family size and other factors. Retirement savings, home equity and non-custodial parents are not considered; stepparent finances are included. Distinct from Institutional Methodology (IM), which is used to determine eligibility for Williams financial aid funds.
Federal Work Study (FWS):
A form of need-based employment to help cover educational costs as part of a financial aid package. To help meet demonstrated financial need, Williams students may be eligible for either Federal Work Study (funded by the Department of Education; eligibility based on the FAFSA) or need-based campus employment funded by the college.
Financial aid officer:
A representative of the Office of Financial Aid who reviews a student’s application, awards aid, and helps the student in all aspects of the financial aid process.
Financial need:
The portion of the cost of attendance (COA) beyond a family’s ability to contribute to college, as determined by the Office of Financial Aid. Demonstrated financial need is equal to the COA minus the family contribution (including student and parent contributions). Williams is committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated need. See also institutional methodology.
A period during which monthly loan payments are temporarily suspended or reduced based on certain types of financial hardship. A lender may grant forbearance at a borrower’s request if the borrower is willing but unable to make loan payments. During forbearance, principal payments are postponed but interest continues to accrue; unpaid interest accrued during the forbearance will be added to the principal balance, increasing the total amount owed. Distinct from deferment, in which loan payments are temporarily suspended because a student meets predetermined conditions, such as graduate school attendance.


Grace period:
A period of time after a borrower graduates, leaves school, or drops below half-time enrollment during which they are not required to make payments on certain federal student loans. Some federal student loans will accrue interest during the grace period, which will be added to the principal balance of the loan when the repayment period begins.
Financial aid that does not need to be repaid. Many grants, including the Williams Grant, are based on financial need (Repayment may be required under certain uncommon circumstances–for example, if a student withdraws from school mid-semester and owe a refund.)


Institutional Methodology (IM):
The formulas used to determine a student’s eligibility for Williams financial aid funds. IM includes a review of income, assets, family size, home equity, and other factors; it also includes consideration of medical/dental expenses, elementary and secondary school tuition payments, and child support payments in determining a family’s total available income. In the case of divorced or separated parents, each biological parent is expected to contribute in proportion to their finances; however, stepparent finances are not included. Distinct from Federal Methodology (IM), which is used to determine eligibility for federal financial aid funds.
A loan expense charged for the use of borrowed money and paid by a borrower to a lender. Interest for federal student loans is calculated as a percentage of the unpaid loan principal amount.
Interest rate:
The percentage at which interest is calculated on a loan(s).


A financial institution that provides loan funds to parents or students. For federal Direct Loans (including parent PLUS Loans), the Department of Education is the lender. For federal Perkins Loans, Williams is the lender.
Loan origination fee:
An administrative fee assessed by the federal government and deducted from a loan before funds are made available. For Direct Subsidized & Unsubsidized loans first disbursed after October 1, 2016, the origination fee is 1.069%. (For example, if a student borrows $1,000, the origination fee will be $10 with the remaining $990 going to the student account.) For PLUS Loans, the fee is 4.276%.
Loan principal:
The amount originally borrowed. Simple daily interest is calculated based on the loan principal.
Loan servicer:
An organization that manages loan payments and administrative functions on behalf of the lender. Students can look up the loan servicer by logging into the National Student Loan Data System (


Master Promissory Note:
A binding legal document setting out the contractual terms of a loan. A signed master promissory note must be on file before loan funds can be sent to the student account. Promissory notes for Direct and PLUS loans are signed online.
Funding distributed on the basis of academic or artistic accomplishments or individual leadership, rather than a family’s ability to pay for college. Williams does not provide merit-based scholarships-all funding is based on financial need.


Need analysis:
The process by which financial aid officers assess each family’s ability to pay for the cost of a college education. The biggest factors in need analysis are income, assets, family size, and number of children in college; many other factors are incorporated to a lesser degree. The goal of need analysis is to provide an equitable and consistent assessment of each family’s unique financial situation.
Funding distributed on the basis of each family’s financial strength and ability to pay for college, primarily considering income, assets, family size and number of children in college. Williams provides exclusively need-based (as opposed to merit-based) financial aid.
Net Price Calculator:
A tool to estimate financial aid eligibility at Williams based on family finances. The Net Price Calculator is the best source of early financial aid information for college planning. If you have a complicated financial situation and are unsure how to answer certain questions on the Net Price Calculator, please feel free to give us a call.
NSLDS (National Student Loan Data System): is a federal database of financial aid information. It includes loan & grant summaries, as well as information about the loan servicer for Direct Subsidized or Direct Unsubsidized Loans.


Origination fee:
See Loan Origination Fee.


Parent contribution:
Our determination of parents’ ability to pay for college in the current academic year. The expected parent contribution is calculated by Williams financial aid officers based on an in-depth assessment of income, assets, family size, number in college, and many other factors. The parent contribution as calculated by our office is different from the federal EFC (Expected Family Contribution), which is based on a much simpler formula and used primarily to determine eligibility for federal funds such as the Pell Grant.
Pell Grant:
Financial aid awarded by the Department of Education based on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The Pell Grant does not need to be repaid.
Perkins Loan:
A federal loan allocated to schools by the Department of Education and distributed by Williams based on demonstrated financial need. Interest does not begin to accrue until the student leaves Williams. Perkins Loan repayment begins after a nine month grace period.
PLUS Loan:
Federal loans available to parents of undergraduate students. (PLUS Loans are also available directly to graduate students.)


The college administrator whose office manages enrollment, class registration, and academic standing.
Repayment plan:
The amount of monthly payments and total repayment period for a loan. The Standard Repayment Plan consists of equal monthly payments over a period of ten years. Borrowers can switch to another repayment plan that better fits their monthly finances by contacting the loan servicer. There is never a financial penalty for making early loan payments or paying more than the minimum required amount.
Room and board:
The expected cost of student housing (room) and food (board).


Money awarded to a student for educational expenses. Scholarships do not need to be repaid. At Williams, outside scholarships replace other forms of financial aid, first replacing loans and need-based campus employment eligibility, then the Williams Grant. At institutions that do not meet full financial need, scholarships may also fill the “gap” between the family contribution and the financial aid awarded.
Special circumstances:
Unusual situations affecting a family’s finances that were not reported in the CSS PROFILE or on family tax documents. We welcome additional information about special circumstances, which may affect financial aid eligibility upon review by financial aid officers.
Stafford Loan:
See Federal Direct Loan. Stafford Loans were the ancestors of the current Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized Loans; Direct Loans replaced the program that administered Stafford Loans.
State grant:
Funds awarded by state governments based on residency and financial need. Residents of Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Rhode Island can all use their state grants at Williams and are expected to meet the application deadlines required for those grants.
Student Aid Report (SAR):
A summary of the information reported on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).
Subsidized loan:
Loan for which interest does not begin to accrue until the student leaves school. See also Direct Loan Program.


Tax return transcript:
An official IRS document confirming data from the federal tax return. A tax return transcript is one of two options to satisfy the federal verification requirement (the other option is using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool).


Unsubsidized loan:
Loan for which interest begins to accrue after the loan funds are received; payments do not need to be made until the student leaves school.


A process, required of approximately 30% of students by Department of Education, through which financial aid officers check the information on a student’s financial aid application against the tax information received by the IRS. Verification can be completed either by using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or by requesting a tax return transcript from the IRS. Being selected for verification is essentially random and does not indicate a problem with your taxes or your financial aid application.


Winter study:
A month-long period between the fall and spring semesters in which students choose one of an eclectic mix of interdisciplinary courses, pursue independent research, or join a Williams professor on a travel program. Financial Aid will help cover the cost of Winter Study. The amount of aid varies according to the type of project.
Work Study:
See Federal Work Study.