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College Glossary

ACT (American College Testing)
Admission Tests 
Admission Tests - Accommodations
Articulation Agreement
Class Rank
College Application Essay
College Credit
Common Application
Deferred Admission
Early Action (EA)
Early Decision
FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
Financial Aid Shopping Sheet
Grade Point Average (GPA)
Legacy Applicant
Need-Blind Admission
Net Price
Open Admission
Placement Tests
Priority Date or Deadline
Rolling Admission
SAT (Standardized Admission Test)
SAT Subject Tests
Sophomore Standing
Transfer Student
Universal College Application
Waiting List
Weighted Grade Point Average (GPA)
Work-Study Programs

A standardized college admission test. It features four main sections: English, math, reading and science — and an optional essay section. You can find out ACT Test Dates, locations, and enroll here:



Also known as college entrance exams, these are tests designed to measure students’ skills and help colleges evaluate how ready students are for college-level work. The ACT and the College Board’s SAT are two standardized admission tests used in the United States. The word "standardized" means that the test measures the same thing in the same way for everyone who takes it.



Beginning in January 2017, the College Board (SAT Test) will use a new streamlined process for requesting testing accommodations for students. The new review process means that the College Board is allowing automatic approval of accommodations in more situations. SSD coordinators and others who submit requests don’t have to do anything different. Continue to submit requests on SSD Online as you always have. In many cases, you will notice that the request process is quicker, with fewer requests for documentation.


To request accommodations for an administration of the ACT, students must first: • Create an ACT web account, or log in to an existing account • Register for a test date. When registering for the ACT test for the first time, students should indicate that they need accommodations. Upon completing the registration process, students will receive an email with instructions on how to work with a school official to submit a request in the Test Accessibility and Accommodations System.




An agreement between two-year and four-year colleges that makes it easier to transfer credits between them. It spells out which courses count for degree credit and the grades you need to earn to get credit.

Candidates Reply Date Agreement (CRDA)

An agreement many colleges follow that gives applicants until May 1 to accept or decline offers of admission. This agreement gives students time to get responses from most of the colleges they have applied to before deciding on one.



A measurement of how your academic achievement compares with that of other students in your grade. This number is usually determined by using a weighted GPA that takes into account both your grades and the difficulty of the courses you’ve taken.

Coalition Application

A standard application form accepted by members of the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success. You can use this application to apply to any of the more than 90 colleges and universities that are members of the Coalition.




An essay that a college requires students to write and submit as part of their application. Some colleges offer applicants specific questions to answer, while others simply ask applicants to write about themselves. Colleges may refer to this as a “personal statement.”




What you get when you successfully complete a college-level course. You need a certain number of credits to graduate with a degree. Colleges may also grant credit for scores on exams, such as those offered by the College Board’s AP Program® and CLEP.



A standard application form accepted by all colleges that are members of the Common Application association. You can fill out this application once and submit it to any one — or several — of the nearly 700 colleges that accept it. You can access the Common Application here:



Permission from a college that has accepted you to postpone enrolling in the college. The postponement is usually for up to one year.

An option to submit your applications before the regular deadlines. When you apply early action, you get admission decisions from colleges earlier than usual. Early action plans are not binding, which means that you do not have to enroll in a college if you are accepted early action. Some colleges have an early action option called EA II, which has a later application deadline than their regular EA plan.

An option to submit an application to your first-choice college before the regular deadline. When you apply early decision, you get an admission decision earlier than usual. Early decision plans are binding. You agree to enroll in the college immediately if admitted and offered a financial aid package that meets your needs. Some colleges have an early decision option called ED II, which has a later application deadline than their regular ED plan.



To apply for most financial aid — including federal and state student grants, work-study, and loans — you’ll need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Completing the form is now easier than it used to be, thanks to the new IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

The FAFSA is available online at

October 1 is the first day you can file the FAFSA.

You can complete, submit and track your application online. This is the easiest way to apply for federal aid. The online program even checks your data before it is transmitted to the processing center, so there's less chance of making an error.

Financial Aid

Money given or loaned to you to help pay for college. Financial aid can come from federal and state governments, colleges, and private organizations.



The Financial Aid Shopping Sheet (PDF) is a consumer tool that participating institutions will use to notify students about their financial aid package. It is a standardized form that is designed to simplify the information that prospective students receive about costs and financial aid so that they can easily compare institutions and make informed decisions about where to attend school. The Shopping Sheet became available for use beginning in the 2013-2014 award year.

A number that shows overall academic performance. It’s computed by assigning a point value to each grade you earn. See also Weighted Grade Point Average.

Grants are called gift aid because they do not have to be paid back. Grants come from federal and state governments and from colleges. Most grants are need based, which means they are usually given based on your or your family’s financial circumstances.

A college applicant with a relative (usually a parent or grandparent) who graduated from that college. Some colleges give preference to legacy applicants (also called “legacies”).

Borrowing money from a bank, government or lending company is called taking out a loan. A loan must be paid back with an extra charge called interest. The federal government offers low-interest loans to students with financial need. Other lenders charge more interest.




A policy of making admission decisions without considering the financial circumstances of applicants. Colleges that use this policy may not offer enough financial aid to meet a student’s full need.



Net price is the real price that a student pays to go to a college. It’s the published price of the college minus the gift aid that the student receives. The net price of a college is often much lower than its published price. Most colleges now offer a tool on their websites called a net price calculator. This online tool gives you an estimate of the actual price you would pay to go to a certain college, based on information you enter about your finances. Your net price will be different for every college, so it’s a good idea to use each college’s net price calculator.

A policy of accepting any high school graduate, no matter what his or her grades are, until all spaces in the incoming class are filled. Almost all two-year community colleges have an open-admission policy. However, a college with a general open-admission policy may have admission requirements for certain programs.

Tests that measure the academic skills needed for college-level work. They cover reading, writing, math and sometimes other subjects. Placement test results help determine what courses you are ready for and whether you would benefit from remedial classes.

The date by which your application — whether it’s for college admission, student housing, scholarships or financial aid — must be received to be given the strongest consideration.



The college official who registers students. The registrar may also be responsible for keeping permanent records and maintaining your student file.

An admission policy of considering each application as soon as all required information (such as high school records and test scores) has been received, rather than setting an application deadline and reviewing applications in a batch. Colleges that use a rolling admission policy usually notify applicants of admission decisions quickly.

The College Board’s standardized college admission test. It features three main sections: math, reading and writing, which includes a written essay. You can learn about Test Dates, locations, and enroll here:



Hour-long, content-based college admission tests that allow you to showcase achievement in specific subject areas: English, history, math, science and languages. Some colleges use Subject Tests to place students into the appropriate courses as well as in admission decisions. Based on your performance on the test(s), you could potentially fulfill basic requirements or earn credit for introductory-level courses. You can learn about Test Dates, locations, and enroll here:

Scholarships are also gift aid. Scholarships come from governments, colleges and private organizations. They may be awarded for academic or athletic ability, interest in a certain subject, or volunteer work, for example. Some scholarships are given based on membership in an ethnic or religious group. Companies may also give scholarships to children of employees.



The status of a second-year student. A college may grant sophomore standing to an incoming freshman if he or she has earned college credits through courses, exams or other programs.

The official record of your course work at a school or college. Your high school transcript is usually required for college admission and for some financial aid packages.


A student who enrolls in a college after having attended another college.



A college student who is working toward an associate or a bachelor's degree.

A standard application form accepted by all colleges that are Universal College Application members. You can fill out this application once and submit it to any one — or several — of the more than 3,044 colleges that accept it. Go to the to find out which colleges accept it and to complete application.

The list of applicants who may be admitted to a college if space becomes available. Colleges wait to hear if all the students they accepted decide to attend. If students don’t enroll and there are empty spots, a college may fill them with students who are on the waiting list.

A grade point average that’s calculated using a system that assigns a higher point value to grades in more-difficult classes. For example, some high schools assign the value of 5.0 (instead of the standard 4.0) for an A earned in an AP class.

Go here to see how to convert your GPA to a 4.0 scale:


The Federal Work-Study Program offers paid part-time jobs to help students pay for part of their college cost.




Source: The College Board, 250 Vesey Street, New York, NY 10281 -

The College Board is a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity.


When I started applying to college in the summer before my senior year, I was confused and helpless; I didn’t even know where to start. However, I am so incredibly glad I found someone as amazing as Janice Royal to guide me through this process. She is not only extremely knowledgeable about this subject and has lots of useful resources, but she is one of the kindest people I have ever met. When I got a concussion in October of 2019, right in the middle of application madness, Janice couldn’t have been more helpful to help me finalize my personal statement for the Common Application and other early application supplemental essays. She sat with me for hours to perfect my UC application, and I felt so confident clicking the submit button. When I felt discouraged, she invited me to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee with her while she gave me endless amounts of support not only then, but throughout the whole college application process, which is something I appreciate so very much.


So far, I have already gotten into amazing schools with her help, including UCSB, San Diego State (with honors), and Cal Poly SLO; and I still have yet to hear back from many other universities! If I were to do the whole application process again, I couldn’t possibly imagine choosing anybody besides Janice Royal. She has such a big heart and mind and I am so glad I had the opportunity to work with her.

Allie Griffith, Student, UCLA 

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