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College Vocabulary


The college admissions process has its own vocabulary. Understanding this vocabulary can make the process less mysterious and more accessible to you. Definitions of some key words are listed below.

Advanced Placement Test (AP) - a test given to high school students, usually at the end of their junior or senior year, after they have completed certain AP or Honors courses. Many colleges give advanced standing and/or credit for these College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB) sponsored tests if students earn a score of 3, 4, or 5 on them.

American College Test (ACT) - a test which measures aptitude and skill in English, mathematics, reading and natural science.

Associate Degree - a degree granted by a college or university for a program that requires two years of full-time study.

Common Application - an application form developed and widely accepted by participating colleges and universities.

Deferred Admission - an accepted student can delay entrance by a year (or a semester).

Early Action - permits you to apply to a college or university of your choice and receive a decision early in the senior year, well in advance of the normal spring response dates. Though you will hear early regarding your admission, you are not committed to attend and you may apply to other colleges. If you are applying for financial aid, you will follow the aid application deadlines set by the institution. You are not required to make a commitment before May 1, but you are encouraged to do so as soon as a final choice is made.

Early Decision - requires you to commit to a college or university at the time of application that, if admitted, you will enroll. You should apply under an Early Decision plan only if you know that you can make a well reasoned, first choice decision. Upon admission the institution will require a nonrefundable deposit well before May 1. You may apply to other colleges but are permitted to have only one request for financial aid at or near the time admissions is offered. If admitted, you must enroll unless the financial aid award is inadequate.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC) - the total amount the federal government expects students and their families to pay toward college costs from their income and assets.

Fee Waiver - permits eligible students to submit college applications or test registration forms without the fee. A limited number are available through guidance counselors and educational for students who qualify.

Financial aid package/award - a combination of grants/scholarships, loans and work-study that the college is able to offer you to meet your financial need. 
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) - the primary form used to determine your eligibility for financial aid. Should be filled out in January or February of your senior year.

Federal Work Study Program - an award of on-campus part-time employment for students who demonstrate financial need. The maximum amount a student can earn under this program is determined by financial need.

National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) - scores from the PSATs given in October are used to determine if a student qualifies for a National Merit Scholarship.

Open Admissions - the college admits all applicants who have a high school diploma or GED.

Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test (PSAT) - this test is an abbreviated form of the SAT I and is designed to give juniors an opportunity to practice taking a test which is similar to the SAT . It is given in October of the junior year.

Regular Decision - most colleges have an early winter application deadline (January 1 or 15 or February 1); they generally notify candidates between March 1 and April 12. Students then have until May 1 (the common reply date) to respond to the colleges.

Rolling Admission - is a term used to describe the application process in which an institution reviews applications as they are received and offers decisions to students soon after they are made. If you are applying for financial aid, you will follow aid application deadlines set by the school. You may apply to other colleges and you will not e required to make a decision regarding enrolling before May 1.

Scholarship - a form of financial assistance which does not require repayment and is usually made to a student who shows potential for distinction, usually in academic performance.

Scholastic Assessment Test I: Reasoning Test (SAT I) - this test, graded on a scale from 200 to 800, measures students’ mathematical and verbal ability and skill. Note: The test was formerly called the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).

Scholastic Assessment Test II: Subject Tests (SAT II) - one hour tests offered in subjects such as English foreign languages, science, history, and mathematics.

Student Aid Report (SAR) - reports the information from your FAFSA.

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) - a test used to evaluate the English proficiency of those students whose first language is not English.

Unmet Need - difference between the cost of education, the total financial aid award + expected family contributions.

Wait List - is a term used by institutions to describe a process in which they may initially delay offering or denying admission, but rather extend the possibility of admission in the future. Colleges offer admission to wait list candidates if insufficient numbers of regularly admitted candidates accept their offers of admission.