Terms and Definitions


Applying for and receiving financial aid will involve learning terms and definitions with which you may not be familiar. Below is a list of definitions that may help you through the process:

Cost of Attendance

Cost of attendance is the total cost of attending WAU for one year. The cost includes tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, and personal and transportation expenses. Your financial need is determined by subtracting your estimated family contribution (EFC) from the cost of attendance.

Estimated Award

An estimated award is based on the income estimates entered on the FAFSA. In order to confirm an estimated award, the Office of Student Financial Aid reviews you and your parents’ tax returns and W-2s to determine if the estimates were correct. If your family’s actual income is different from your estimates, or if you made mistakes on the FAFSA, your need will differ and the estimated award will be revised.

Estimated Family Contribution

Your estimated family contribution (EFC) is the amount of money your family is estimated to be able to contribute to your college costs. The cost of attendance minus your EFC equals your financial need.

Federal Aid

Students who demonstrate need may qualify for one or more types of federal financial assistance through Washington Adventist University, including:

  • Federal Pell Grant
  • Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG)
  • College Work-Study Program
  • Federal Direct Stafford Loan

Financial Aid Offer

Once your eligibility for need-based assistance has been determined, you will be considered for all of the types of aid for which you qualify. You may be offered a financial aid offer. Your need-based package may include one or more components including: gift aid in the form of scholarships or grants and self-help aid in the form of education loans or work-study funds. Your academic record, the extent of your need and the timeliness with which you complete your financial aid forms and application are all factors that determine the kinds and amounts of aid in your particular package.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a federal form administered by the U.S. Department of Education. Information you submit on the form is used to determine your estimated family contribution (EFC) or the amount of money your family should be able to put towards your education. The FAFSA is the application form for all federal financial aid awards such as Pell Grants, loans and work-study.  Their website is https://studentaid.gov/.


Grants are a form of gift aid or money that does not need to be paid back. Grants can be awarded either through federal funds or University funds. Your eligibility for grants is determined by your financial need.

Institutional Aid

Students who demonstrate financial need may qualify for one or more types of need-based institutional aid through the University, including scholarships and grants.

Students who demonstrate academic excellence may qualify for merit-based institutional awards through the University. (Note: Merit awards are counted in our calculation of a family’s financial need.)


Loans are the portion of your financial aid award that needs to be paid back. The University awards federal loans as part of the financial aid award; however, you or your parents may be eligible for additional loans depending on creditworthiness.

Merit Aid

Merit aid is awarded solely on the basis of academic achievement. The Office of Admissions grants merit aid (or merit scholarships) during the application review process. Awards are based on high school achievement and test scores. This aid is not dependent on financial need; however, receipt of merit awards will decrease your family’s financial need, not your estimated family contribution.

Need-Based Aid

Need-based aid is awarded on the basis of financial need as determined by information collected through the FAFSA. Need-based aid may include a combination of federal and institutional scholarships, grants, loans and work-study awards.

Room and Board

Room and board refers to the cost of housing and food on campus for one year. This cost may vary depending on your choice of room selection.


Scholarships are a form of gift aid or money that does not need to be paid back. Scholarships are awarded by WAU through University funds. Eligibility for these awards is determined by your academic achievement, financial need, or a combination of both, depending on the award.


For more information about financial aid at WAU, email finaid@wau.edu, or call 301.891.4005 or 1-800-835-4212 to speak to a Financial Aid Counselor.

Student Financial Aid
Washington Adventist University
7600 Flower Avenue
Takoma Park, MD 20912
Email: finaid@wau.edu
Phone: 301-891-4005
Toll-Free: 800-835-4212
General Fax: 301-891-4167