College Prep 101: College Admissions Glossary of Terms

By IvyWise on Wednesday, November 30, 2016

college admissions glossary of terms.jpgLearn the College Admissions Lingo Before Starting Your College Prep


Ready to start your college prep but not sure what some of the college admissions lingo means? We’re here to help.

The college admissions process can be confusing to many families, and it doesn’t help that there’s a whole new set of terms and phrases related to the process that many are not familiar with. At IvyWise we aim to make applying to college as easy as possible by bringing families that latest college admissions news and information every week.

Below are some common college admissions terms that college bound families should become familiar with when beginning their college prep.


ACT – A standardized test used by college admissions officers to evaluate prospective students. The test has four sections: English, Math, Science, and Reading and an optional essay, and is scored out of 36 points. You can learn more about the ACT here.

Admission RateThe percentage of applicants who are admitted to a particular college. A sample of admission rates can be found here.


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.


Coalition ApplicationAn online application for admission created by the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success (CAAS) that is accepted by over 90 universities in the US. It is a newer platform that was launched in 2016. The CAAS application platform has a number of tools, including the locker, where students can store essays, projects, and other materials for review by counselors and admissions officers, the application itself, and resources for students who may have limited access to college prep materials and guidance.


Common Application – An online application for admission that is accepted by over 600 universities in the US, Canada, UK, and more. It can be accessed online here. Some colleges also require a school-specific supplement, which can ask for additional information like essays, short-answer questions, and more.


Demonstrated InterestA student’s level of interest and commitment to attending the institution to which he or she is applying as shown through visits, contact with the admissions office, application essays, and more.


Deferred Admission – An admission outcome wherein a student who has applied for early admission is not accepted or rejected, rather their application is reconsidered within the regular admission pool, and a decision on acceptance or rejection is revealed with other regular decision applications in the spring. Learn more about deferrals here.


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. Only US students qualify for federal financial aid, however some colleges may ask international applicants to complete the FAFSA in order to assess financial need.


Financial Aid – Money given or lent to students by a school or the US government to help cover the cost of college (international students generally are not eligible for financial aid).


GPAGrade point average, which is a number that represents the average value of final grades accumulated over all years of high school completed thus far. GPAs can be weighted, meaning advanced courses give students a numerical advantage, or unweighted, meaning all courses are given the same values regardless of rigor.


Informed InterestA subset of demonstrated interest, which is meant to show how informed a students is about a particular college or degree program. Students can demonstrate informed interest by writing detailed “why this college” essays that mention specific courses, professors, and more. They can also demonstrate informed interest in interviews, supplemental essays, and more.


Need-Blind/Need-Aware AdmissionColleges that have “need-blind” admissions policies do not take students’ financial needs into consideration when making admission decisions. Colleges that have “need-aware” admissions policies do consider students’ financial needs when making admission decisions.


PSAT/NMSQTThe PSAT/NSMQT is a preliminary version of the SAT. It is meant to prepare students for taking the SAT (or ACT) by simulating a shorter version of the exam, exposing students to relevant testing material, and showing students where they need to improve in order to reach their goal score on the SAT. The PSAT/NMSQT is also the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). This means that students who obtain a certain score on the PSAT can qualify for National Merit Scholarships, which can go a long way toward financing your college education.


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– A standardized test used by college admissions officers to evaluate prospective students. The test contains three sections: math, reading, and writing, and an optional essay section. The exam is scored out of 1600 points. You can learn more here.


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 here.


SCEASingle-choice early action (SECA) is an early application option that is similar to EA in that you are not bound to attend if accepted. However, with the SCEA restriction, you cannot apply early to any other school, be it early decision or early action, until you have heard back from your SCEA school. After you receive the school’s decision of acceptance, deferral, or denial, you may apply to other schools


Score ChoiceA score reporting option used by the College Board which allows students who have taken the SAT multiple times, or SAT Subject Test, to choose which test date for the SAT or which individual Subject Test score they would like to send to colleges, rather than sending scores from every time they’ve taken the exam.


Test-OptionalA test-optional college either doesn’t require SAT or ACT scores for admission, or deemphasizes the importance of SAT and ACT scores in the admissions process. Learn more about test-optional and test-flexible colleges here.


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. Learn more about waitlist decisions here.


Yield – The percentage of students offered admission to a college who subsequently enroll. Here’s a sampling of yield rates from some of the country’s top universities.


Is there an admissions term you’ve come across that we missed? Tell us in the comments below!


Related Topics
College Admissions Trends, College Prep
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