Financial Aid 101: Definitions

New to the financial aid process? Below, we define some terms frequently used by colleges and universities.  

  • Need-blind admission: Students are admitted to Notre Dame on the basis of their academic and personal records of achievement, not based on whether their family has the money to pay.
  • Financial aid: Money given or loaned to help pay for college. Financial aid can come in the form of gift (scholarships and grants) and self-help (loan and work). At Notre Dame, 69 percent of undergraduates who applied received some type of aid.
  • Need-based financial aid: Money given 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. Forty-seven percent of this year’s first-year students received a median need-based scholarship of $38,900 (excluding loan and work).
  • Merit-based financial aid: Money offered to students who have an exceptional accomplishment, leadership, commitment to service, and intellectual ability. A limited number of merit scholarships are offered at Notre Dame to first-time incoming students. Merit scholarships do not require students to demonstrate financial need.
  • Cost or price of attendance: Our estimate of each year’s total cost of college includes tuition and fees, room and meals, books and supplies, personal expenses, and transportation. Notre Dame’s average cost of attendance is currently $71,801.
  • Expected family contribution (EFC) or family share: The total amount students and their families are expected to pay toward college costs from their income and assets for one academic year. This amount is determined on an individual basis using information you report on the financial aid applications. The information includes the size of your family, number attending college, income and assets, and other personal circumstances.
  • Net price: The amount of money the family pays for one year of college, calculated as the price of attendance minus grants and scholarships from all sources.
  • Demonstrated need: This is the cost of attending Notre Dame minus your family share (EFC). Notre Dame is one of only 66 colleges nationally that meets 100 percent of demonstrated financial need.

Questions about financial aid terminology or processes? 

Check out our financial aid FAQ or reach out to us at