College Admissions Terminology

Friday, August 3, 2012

College Admissions Terminology

DictionaryWith the release of the Common Application earlier this week, many rising high school seniors have officially embarked on the college application process. The application process, while exciting, can also be confusing and overwhelming. To help start your application process out on the right foot, the expert counselors at IvyWise have compiled the following guide to common college admissions terminology:

ACT – A standardized test used by college admissions officers to evaluate prospective students. The test has four sections: English, Math, Science, and Reading and is scored out of 36 points. All four-year colleges accept the ACT. You can learn more at

Advanced Placement (AP) – A program coordinated by the College Board whereby high schools offer college-level courses with specific curricula in a large number of academic fields. Participating students have the option of taking an AP exam at the end of the course to demonstrate knowledge and potentially earn college credit.

Bachelor’s Degree – A diploma earned after successfully completing a required course of study at a college or university. The degree usually takes four years and is abbreviated B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) or B.S. (Bachelor of Science).

Class Rank – A student’s place based on a rank ordering of students in a class by grade point average (GPA).

Common Application – An online application for admission that is accepted by nearly 500 participating US universities. It can be accessed online at Some colleges also require a school-specific supplementary form.

Concentration – A specific focus in an area of studies that is a subset of (or related to) your major.

Core Curriculum – A group of specially designed courses in the humanities, arts, social sciences, and sciences designed to give students a strong foundation in general education.

Deferral ­– A decision by a college to delay a final response to an Early Action or Early Decision application until the regular decision cycle.

Early Action – An application option that typically allows students to apply by November 1 or November 15 and receive an admission decision by December 15 that does not bind the student to attend if admitted.

Early Decision – An application option that typically allows students to apply by November 1 or November 15 and receive an admission decision by December 15 that commits the student to attend if admitted.

FAFSA – Abbreviation for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is used to determine eligibility for federal financial aid.

General Education (Gen Ed) Requirements – Courses selected from several divisions required for a college degree. These are usually completed during the first two years of college, before moving on to focused course work in major or minor areas.

Liberal Arts – An academic program that includes the sciences, social sciences, languages, arts, and mathematics, as distinguished from professional or vocational programs that focus on training for careers such as engineering, business, and nursing.

Major – The subject in which a student concentrates to earn a degree. For example, biology majors will have a degree in biology. Note: there are no set majors for prelaw, dental, medicine, and veterinary degrees – graduate work is necessary for each of these disciplines.

Minor – A secondary area of concentration, which may or may not be required by an institution.

Regular Decision – An application option that involves applying by a late fall or early winter deadline in exchange for an admission decision the following spring.

Rolling Admission – An application option by which colleges review and make decisions about applications as they are received. The application cycle usually opens in early fall and may extend into the spring or until the freshmen class is filled.

SAT – The most widely taken standardized test for college admission. The test contains three parts: writing, critical reading, and math and is scored out of 2400 points. You can learn more at

SAT Subject Test – SAT Subject Tests are standardized tests used to demonstrate proficiency or knowledge in one of 20 specific subject areas. You can learn more about SAT Subject Tests at

Student:Faculty Ratio – The number of professors per number of students at a college or university. For example, if a college had 2,400 students and 100 full-time professors, the student:faculty ratio would be 24:1.

Transcript – A copy of a student’s cumulative record, requested by all colleges and universities for admission purposes.

Undergraduate – A college student who has not yet received a Bachelor’s Degree.

Waitlist – A group of students held in reserve after a college makes its admissions decisions. If openings occur, students on the waitlist may be offered admission.

Yield – The percentage of students offered admission to a college who subsequently enroll.

Definitions sourced from The Truth About Getting In (Katherine Cohen, Hyperion); Admission Matters (Springer, Reider, Franck, Jossey-Bass)

Related Topics

12th Grade, College Admissions Trends, College Application Tips

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