Know The Words…

When you are applying to college, it helps to know the lingo! Here’s a list of frequently used college admissions terms to keep you up to speed.


Application Terms

Admission Rate:  The percentage of applicants who are typically accepted from among the total applicants.

Application:  The way a student applies to a college.

Coalition App:  An online application system focused on college affordability. More than 150 schools use this application.

Class Rank:  Where a student falls in rank order when compared to the other students in the class as a whole.

Common App:  The most widely used online college application.

Early Action:  This is a non-binding agreement that allows students to apply early to a college. 

Early Decision:  This is a binding agreement. If accepted to the college, the student agrees to attend.

GPA:  Grade Point Average. GPA can be weighted or unweighted. Weighted GPA takes class difficulty into account. Unweighted GPA is based on a 4.0 scale.

Regular Decision:  Students who apply in late fall or early winter and are notified in early spring about admission.

Transcript:  A list of all courses taken and grades earned in high school or college.

Undergraduate:  A student who is in college but has not yet earned a degree.


Entrance Exam Terms

ACT:  American College Test is a college entrance test. It covers core academic areas (English, Math, Reading, and Reasoning) with an optional writing section. The ACT is usually taken in the junior year or early senior year.

SAT:  Standardized test used for college admissions. This test assesses college readiness. Test sections include Math, Reading, and Writing. The test also includes subject-specific areas.

TOEFL:  The Test of English as a Foreign Language; required of students whose official language is not English.


Admissions Terms

Acceptance:  The student has indicated he/she will accept the admissions offer and attend the offering college.

Admission: The student is admitted to the college in which he/she applied for admission.

Deferred Admission:  Permission from a college given to an admitted student to wait to enroll, usually up to one year.

Gap Year:  Taking a year off between high school and college, usually to learn a new skill, trade, or do volunteer work.

Open Admission:  This college accepts any applicant as long as he/she has graduated from high school.

Rolling Admissions:  The college considers the student’s application as soon as the application is complete. These schools still have application deadlines but provide quick notifications, usually within a month.

Waiting List:  Indicates the college is interested in the student and may offer admission as other students decline and slots become available. Students on a waitlist may not be fully admitted to the potential school until late spring or early summer.


Financial Aid Terms

Award Letter:  A letter indicating a student has been awarded some sort of scholarship or financial aid.

Demonstrated Need: The difference between college cost and what a family can afford to pay toward college’s expense.

Expected Family Contribution:  This is a dollar amount the federal government thinks your family can afford to pay for college costs.

Financial Aid Package:  The total amount of money a college is offering to a student. This includes scholarships, potential loans, and grants.

FAFSA:  Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Most schools require a completed FAFSA to determine eligibility for federal student aid.

Grant:  A grant is a form of financial aid that does not have to be repaid. However, it usually has terms and conditions around enrollment and graduation.

Loan:  This is a financial loan and must be repaid typically with interest. The repayment of the loan usually starts after the student graduates.

Room and Board:  Fees for a dorm room and a meal plan.

Scholarship:  A financial contribution to a student based on need, academic, or athletic achievements. A scholarship rarely has to be paid back.

Tuition:  The cost of college courses, not including fees, nor room and board.


Susan Ray