College Glossary of Terms
ACT: College admission test that measures English, math, reading, and science reasoning. Scores range from 1–36 along with a composite score and 11 sub-scores broken down by subject areas. An optional writing test isoffered. Calculators are permitted on the math test but not on the science test. Pick up registration forms at school or register online at www.act.org.
Advanced Placement (AP®) Tests: Designed for students who have completed college level work in high school, AP® tests are given in specific subject areas and are used to determine if a student may gain advanced standing in college.
Admission: The decision to allow a student to enter a college or university.
Admission Test: A standardized test used in the admission process to predict the likelihood of a student’s success
Application:Aformal request for admission to a college or university; requires the submission of forms and other materials.
Aptitude:A natural ability or talent.
Associate’s Degree (A.A., A.S.):A two-year degree that generally prepares a student for further study. Some associate’s degree programs provide sufficient training for specific careers, but many students in two-year collegesplan to complete their studies at a four-year college.
Bachelor’s Degree (B.A., B.S., B.F.A., B.A.A.): Afour-year degree in a specified subject.
Certificate: Recognition provided to a student for completion of a short-term vocational or career training
Class Rank: A student’s approximate standing in her/his graduating class, based on grade point average (e.g.,
72nd in a class of 410; in the “upper fifth” of the class).
Common Application: A standardized application form used by a consortium of colleges for admission.
Degree: The rank or title given by a college or university to a student who has met certain academic requirements.
(See “Undergraduate Degree.”)
Diploma: Certificate issued by a school, college, or university to a student who has met coursework and graduation
Doctorate Degree (Ph.D.): Master’s Degree plus advanced graduate courses in specialized area. Normally
requires three to five years of additional full-time studies after completion of a Master’s Degree.
Early Action: Early action is used primarily in highly selective colleges. Early action follows the same timetable
as early decision (see below), but allows the accepted candidate until May 1 to accept or decline the offer of
admission. Under an early action program, it is possible for an applicant to be denied admission outright and
not automatically deferred for later consideration.
Early Decision: Not to be confused with early action, early decision is a plan under which a student applies to the
first-choice college early in the fall (usually by November 1 of the senior year) and agrees by contract to enter
that college if offered admission. Early decision applicants are judged on the basis of their junior year test
scores, class rank, and grades.
Important Note: Early decision and early action programs vary from college to college. Read the literature of
each college carefully, and ask questions if you do not understand some aspect of the program.
Early Intervention: A process that begins in the late elementary and middle school grades when counselors and
educators introduce the concepts of preparation for college and the admission process to students and parents.
Educational Testing Service (ETS):A nonprofit agency established by The College Board to produce educational
Expected Family Contribution (EFC): An amount the student and student’s family are expected to contribute
toward his/her education. It is used in determining eligibility for federal student aid.
Extracurricular Activities: Any school activity, such as athletics, drama, or music, that offers the student an
opportunity to complement his or her classroom experiences.
FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) www.fafsa.ed.gov: A form required by the government for
application to any federal education aid program. A FAFSA is used to determine the specific Federal Student
Aid programs that can contribute to a student’s total college financial aid package and in what proportions.
High school seniors should submit the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1. The FAFSA is processed
free of charge and must be submitted each year a student applies for financial aid.
Financial Aid or Assistance: Any financial award to a student (grant, scholarship, or loan).
Grade point average (GPA): An indicator of the student’s overall scholastic performance.
Grants: Awards based on financial need that do not require repayment. Grants are available through the federal
government, state agencies, and educational institutions.
Honors program: Any program offering the opportunity for superior students to enrich their educational experience
through independent, advanced, or accelerated study.
Letter of Recommendation: An assessment of the student’s aptitudes, abilities, and interests, written by a teacher
or counselor and used by colleges and universities in the admission process.
Major: The subject of study in which the student chooses to specialize; a series of related courses, taken primarily
in the junior and senior years of college.
Master’s Degree (M.S., M.A.): Bachelor’s Degree plus graduate courses in specialized area. A Master’s Degree
usually requires two additional years of full-time studies after completion of a Bachelor’s Degree.
Open admissions: The policy of some colleges of admitting virtually all high school graduates, regardless of academic
qualifications such as high school grades and admission scores.
PLAN: a pre-ACT test and examination of interests and skills for 10th graders.
Post-secondary: Opportunities that are available after graduation from high school (secondary school); usually
refers to colleges and universities in the admission process. May also be required for scholarship applications.
PSAT/NMSQT®: Preliminary SAT® and National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Enables students to practice
for the SAT® Reasoning Test and serves as the qualifying test for scholarship competitions conducted by
National Merit Scholarship Corporation.
Regular Decision: The application process in which a student submits an application to an institution by a specified
date and receives a decision within a reasonable and clearly stated period of time, but not later than April
Rolling Admission: The application process whereby a college reviews an application when the individual folder
(application form and all supporting data) is completed and communicates the admission decision within a few
weeks of reviewing the folder.
SAT® (Reasoning Test): College admission test designed to measure critical reading, math, and writing skills
needed for academic success in college. SAT® scores range from 200 to 800 in each of the three sections
(writing, math, and critical reading). By definition, a score of 500 on any section means that 50 percent of
the test takers did more poorly than you on that section. One adds the writing, math, and critical reading
scores to answer the question, “What did you get on the SAT®?” The SAT® is frequently preferred, and
sometimes required, by colleges on the East and West Coasts. Bring a calculator to use for the SAT® math
section. Pick up registration forms at school or register online at www.collegeboard.com.
Scholarship: Financial aid based on merit and paid directly to the student in the form of an outright gift. Some
scholarships are given to students who exhibit a particular ability or skill, such as in music or athletics.
Standardized Tests: Tests such as the ACT and SAT® that provide college admission officers with a comparative
standard for evaluating a student’s academic aptitude and likelihood of success in college.
Student Aid Report (SAR): The information received after the FAFSA has been processed. The SAR reports the
Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
Transcript: The official record of high school or college courses and grades, generally required as part of the college
Work/Study: Money earned in a job obtained through the help of the college’s financial aid office. Hours/location
of the job are compatible with academic life and school schedule.