Glossary of Terms used in US College Admissions


Term Definition
Academic Record Academic information kept on file by the school. This record includes transcripts of grades, test scores, and related academic materials.
Accrued Interest The interest that accumulates on the unpaid principal balance of a loan.
ACT (American College Testing Program) A nonprofit agency that designs and administers tests used by college and university admission offices. The ACT tests students’ ability in English, mathematics, reading, and reasoning.
Admission Test A standardized test used in the admission process to predict the likelihood of a student’s success in college (See ACT and SAT).
AP (Advanced Placement 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 and/or college credit.
Application Formally submitting required forms and materials for admission to a college or university.
APR (Annual Percentage Rate) The interest maintained on a loan for a one-year period.
Articulation Agreement An agreement between a two-year community college and a four-year college, that guarantees a graduate of the two-year school admission to the four-year school.
Bachelor’s Degree Also called a baccalaureate degree. A four-year degree for study in specific subjects. A B.A. (Bachelor of Art) usually requires a foreign language, a B.S. (Bachelor of Science) includes more science and math, and a B.F.A. (Bachelor of Fine Arts) emphasizes fine and applied arts.
Capitalization The addition of unpaid accrued interest to the principal balance of a loan, which increases the total outstanding debt.
Certificate Recognition provided to a student for completion of short-term vocational or career training programs.
CIS (Career Information Service) The CIS is a computer program that lists information about careers, postsecondary educational training programs, and scholarships. This program is available in many high school counseling centers and is updated annually.
Class Rank A student’s approximate standing in his or her graduating class. Rank is based on grade point average and presented either in “percentiles” (such as “upper fifth”) or numerical order (such as 72nd in a class of 410).
College Admission Counselor A professional educator employed by the college or university to assist students with the admission process, exploration of educational options and the transition from high school to postsecondary education.
College Catalogs A publication developed by a college or university to promote and present information about its respective institution: campus setting, academic programs, student life, costs, and other related information.
College Fair or (College Night) A program organized to allow high school students and their parents to meet and talk with representatives from different colleges and universities.
College Guides Publications that include profiles of colleges and universities and can be used as part of the college exploration process.
College Preparatory Courses High school courses that provide students with the knowledge and skills required to do college-level study.
College Visit On-site visit by student to a college or university campus to observe first-hand the academics, student life, and related campus features. Students may visit independently or as part of an Open House.
College A postsecondary educational institution where students study to earn two- or four-year undergraduate degrees.
Community Colleges Public educational institutions that offer certificate programs (one year) and associate degrees (two years). Students may transfer from a community college to a four-year school.
Consolidation Combining two or more education loans into a new loan with a new payment schedule and interest rate.
Credit Hour A unit of academic credit that often represents one hour of class time per week for a period of study (semester, quarter, etc.).
Default The failure to repay a loan in accordance with the terms of the promissory note. For federal student loans, default occurs after a delinquency exists for 270 days on an account.
Deferment An approved temporary suspension of loan payments based on certain events and criteria.
Deferred Admission The practice by some colleges of allowing an accepted student to postpone enrollment for one year.
Delinquency The failure to make scheduled monthly loan payments when they are due.
Diploma A document issued by a school, college, or university to students who have met coursework and graduation requirements for a degree.
Disbursement A transaction that occurs when a lender releases loan funds.
Elective An optional course that a student may take to meet total graduation requirements but that is not required for the student’s program of study.
ETS (Educational Testing Services) ETS is a private nonprofit organization that provides information about college and graduate school admissions and placement tests.
Expected Family Contribution (EFC) The dollar amount that a family is expected to pay toward a student’s educational costs. This calculation is based on family earnings, assets, number of children in college, and size of family.
Extracurricular Activity Any school activity, such as athletics, drama, or music, that offers the student the opportunity to complement his or her classroom experiences.
FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) The federal application form that US students must complete in order to apply for virtually all types of financial aid: Pell Grants, State Grants, Institutional Grants, Tuition Waivers, Work Study, and Loans.
Federal Perkins Loan A US federal loan program that carries a low interest rates and may be offered by a college as part of a student's financial aid package.
Federal Stafford Loan This US federal student loan is obtained from a local bank/credit union and insured by a guarantee agency. In some cases, the federal government pays the interest while the student is in school.
Fee Waiver Students may qualify to have four-year college application fees and/or SAT/ACT fees deferred if they can show proof of financial need, such as eligibility for the school free lunch program. See your high school counselor.
FFELP The US Federal Family Education Loan Program, formerly know as the GSL (Guaranteed Student Loan Program). States often have designated agencies who administer FFELP.
Financial Aid (or Assistance) Any financial award given to a student. It may be in the form of a grant, scholarship, work-study job or loan.
Financial Need The difference between the student's educational costs and the Expected Family Contribution.
Forbearance A temporary suspension of loan payments due to a financial hardship, during which interest continues to accrue.
Four-year schools Colleges and universities that offer professional degrees (Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral degrees).
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) See FAFSA (US only).
GPA (Grade Point Average) An average of the student's academic achievement in grades for a specific time period. An accumulated GPA is the average over an entire school year.
Grace Period The period (usually six months) after a student graduates, leaves school, or drops below half-time enrollment and before student loan payments must begin.
Graduation Requirements Standards set by the school or state for awarding a high school diploma.
Grant An outright financial gift for college costs, usually based on financial need. A grant is a form of financial aid that does not have to be paid back.
Guarantee Agency (or Guarantor) An agency that guarantees (or insures) repayment of a borrower's student loans if the borrower dies, becomes permanently and totally disabled, has a loan discharged in bankruptcy, or defaults.
Independent Institution A nonprofit educational institution that is not funded by public taxes. Tuition costs are the same whether the student lives in that state or is a resident of another state.
Interest The rate, based on the total amount owed, that is associated with borrowing money.
Interview Face-to-face conversation (individual or group) between a prospective student and the admission representative(s) of a college or university.
Lender The private financial institution that provides the money to be borrowed through the student loan program.
Liberal Arts A course of studies in college that provides a well-rounded education in the arts, sciences, and the humanities as well as career courses.
Loan Money borrowed to pay for college expenses. Loans must be repaid, usually with interest.
Major The program of study in which students concentrate their coursework, time, and attention.
Minor A subject of academic study requiring less intense specialization than a major.
Open Admission Some colleges offer admission to all students who apply. Such colleges usually have extensive programs designed to provide remedial or developmental help to students who enroll with academic deficiencies.
PLUS Loan (Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students) A US federal student loan for parents who wish to borrow on behalf of their dependent child. Loan funds come from participating financial institutions, and repayment begins 60 days after the loan funds are fully disbursed.
Postsecondary After graduation from high school (secondary school). Colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher education are often referred to as “postsecondary institutions.”
Prerequisite A course required before taking another course ( i.e. French 101 would normally be required before taking French 102).
Promissory Note A legal and binding contract signed between the lender and the borrower that states that the borrower will repay the loan as agreed upon in the terms of the contract.
Proprietary Institution A for-profit school often specializing in technology related fields or trades such as beautician or barber.
PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) The PSAT/NMSQT is a practice test designed to prepare high school juniors for the SAT and is used in the awarding of National Merit Scholarships. Colleges do not often use the PSAT scores as admission criteria.
Public Institution A school that is tax supported. Tuition costs are less for students who live in the same state as the school.
Recommendation A written assessment of a student’s aptitudes, abilities, and interests. Recommendations are usually written by teachers, counselors or employers and are used by colleges and universities in the admission process.
Regular Decision A term that describes a traditional college application process in which an institution reviews most of its applications prior to notifying the majority of its candidates.
Rolling Admission A term that describes an application process in which an institution reviews applications as they are received and offers decisions to students as applications are reviewed.
Scholarship An award of financial aid that typically does not have to be paid back. A scholarship is usually awarded to students who demonstrate or show promise of high achievement in an area such as academics, athletics, or a special discipline.
Servicer An entity that enters into a contract with a school or a lender to help it maintain loan records and student accounts.
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 successes in college.
Student Aid Report (SAR) The form a US student receives after filing a FAFSA. The SAR notifies the student of his/her eligibility for federal student aid.
Subsidized Loan A student loan awarded on the basis of financial need, which is determined by the FAFSA. If you qualify for a subsidized loan, the federal government pays interest on the loan (subsidizes the loan) until repayment begins and during authorized deferments.
The College Board A non-profit organization, whose members include counselors, admission officers, college faculty, and financial aid officers. They sponsor many tests, education services, and materials connected with the college admission process.
Title IV Codes A postsecondary school code number used on the FAFSA. The applicant designates which schools he or she is applying to for admission. These are different from the college codes used for the SAT and ACT tests.
TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) A test given worldwide by the Educational Testing Service to determine a student’s ability to function in an English-speaking classroom environment. The test is used for undergraduate, as well as graduate, admission.
Transcript The official record of a student’s high school or college coursework and grades. A transcript is usually required as part of the college admission process.
Tuition The cost for attending classes at a college, university, or vocational school. Tuition does not include room and board.
Tutoring Assisting a student with some aspect of his or her schooling, such as mathematics or language skills. Tutoring goes beyond the attention given to the student in a regular classroom setting.
Undergraduate Degrees Two-year (Associate’s) or four-year (Bachelor’s) degrees.
Undergraduate Student A student who has not yet received a bachelor's degree.
University An institution, which may be the same as a college, but which usually offers both graduate and undergraduate degrees, as well as research facilities.
Unsubsidized Loan A student loan for which the student is responsible for paying the interest that accrues from the date the fund are disbursed to the date the loan is paid in full, regardless of the student’s enrollment status.
Vocational/Technical Education A program of study designed to train students for a particular occupation, business, or trade.
Wait List A term used by institutions to describe a process in which the institution does not initially offer or deny admission, but extends to a candidate the possibility of admission in the future.
Work Study A financial aid program that allows a student to work on-campus or with approved off-campus employers to earn money to pay for college expenses. Federal Work-study is funded by a federal grant to the school; the school funds campus work-study.
Graduate Student A student who has already received a bachelor's degree and is working toward a Master’s or Doctoral degree.