Financial Aid Dictionary

Below, we define some terms frequently used by colleges and universities.  

Cost of Attendance

Our estimate of each year’s total college costs includes tuition and fees, housing and food, books and supplies, personal expenses, and transportation. View Notre Dame's Cost of Attendance.

CSS Profile

The CSS Profile ( collects information about you and your family’s financial circumstances to help the University offer institutionally based funding in the form of need-based scholarships. Some of the questions on the CSS Profile are also included on the FAFSA, but the extra information provided on the CSS Profile helps us to more fully understand your family situation. School Code: 1841 

Learn more about the CSS Profile at Apply or Renew

Demonstrated Need

This is the Cost of Attendance for Notre Dame minus your Student Aid Index (SAI). Notre Dame is one of less than 60 schools in the nation that meet 100 percent of a family’s financial need primarily with grant assistance, but also through modest self-help which may include student loans and student employment.


Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is an application completed every year that collects information about the financial circumstances of your family to determine eligibility for federal aid programs. When you complete the FAFSA, you’ll automatically be considered for Federal Pell Grants and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, applicable state grants, Federal Work-Study eligibility, and Federal Direct Loans. You can access the FAFSA at StudentAid.Gov/FAFSA and use the Federal School Code for the University of Notre Dame: 001840.

Learn more about the FAFSA on our page Apply or Renew.

FAFSA Contributor

Any individual required to provide consent and approval for federal tax information (FTI) along with their signature on the FAFSA® form, including the student; the student’s spouse; a biological or adoptive parent; or the parent’s spouse (stepparent).

FAFSA Family Size

Captures the appropriate number of family members and dependents in the applicant’s household based on the IRS dependency for tax purposes.

FAFSA Primary or Custodial Parent

For a dependent student whose parents are divorced or separated, the primary or custodial parent is the parent who provides the greater portion of the student’s financial support and is required to provide their information (and if applicable their spouse’s information) on the FAFSA form.

FAFSA Submission Summary

Is the report the student receives once they have successfully submitted the FAFSA. It contains information about your application and the Student Aid Index

Financial Aid

Money from grants, scholarships, benefits, or loans used to pay the cost of college.


Money used to pay for college that does not have to be repaid.


The College Board's Institutional Documentation Service. This is the document processing center we use to manage financial aid application materials for prospective students applying to Notre Dame. After you submit the CSS Profile, keep an eye on your applicant portal, because there will be a checklist of documents we require you to upload through the IDOC portal.

Independent Student

Federal regulations require that all students under the age of 24 be considered a dependent of the parent for the purposes of financial aid. Only when a student has been declared a ward of the court, has been in foster care after the age of 13, is considered an unaccompanied (homeless) youth, or has experienced other similar circumstances may a student be considered independent. Students who believe they may qualify under one of the above exceptions should contact our office directly for additional information.

Merit-based Financial Aid

Money offered to students who show exceptional accomplishment, leadership, commitment to service, and intellectual ability. Notre Dame offers a limited number of merit scholarships to first-time incoming students.

Need-based Financial Aid

Money offered to students whose families need assistance with the full cost of paying for college. Notre Dame offers need-based scholarships, loans, and work to meet your need.

Need-blind Admission

Students are admitted to Notre Dame on the basis of their academic and personal records of achievement; a student’s ability to pay is never considered when making an admission decision.

Net Price

The amount that the family pays for one year of college. This is calculated by subtracting the total amount of grants and scholarships from the Cost of Attendance.

Student Aid Index (SAI)

The Student Aid Index (SAI) is an eligibility index number that a college’s or career school’s financial aid office uses to determine how much federal student aid the student would receive if the student attended the school. This number results from the information that the student provides in their FAFSA form.

Total Income

The sum of all positive income to a family before pre-tax deductions. Total income excludes losses from investments, businesses, benefits, and any other source of negative income. Business deductions for the use of the home, depreciation, or other household expenses are also excluded from total income calculations. Because total income includes the sum of all positive income and excludes the deductions above, total income is not the same as a household's adjusted gross income from a tax return.


The process the federal government uses to confirm that the data reported on your FAFSA is accurate. If you are selected for verification, Notre Dame will request additional documentation that supports income and other information that you reportedNotre Dame does not prepare financial aid offers for students selected for verification until all requested documents are received and reviewed.