Common College Admission Terms Glossary – BigFuture (2023)

Common College Admission Terms Glossary – BigFuture (1)

What does admission mean? What is a transcript? What's the difference between early action and early decision? When applying to college, you're bound to come across unfamiliar collegiate terms. This glossary can help you make sense of all the college terms you're sorting through.


A standardized college admission test. It features four main sections: English, math, reading and science — and an optional essay section.

Admissions Process

The entire process you go through to get into college. To define admissions, you need to include a number of components. The process starts early in high school as you begin building your GPA and ends when you move into your dorm. Your research, college visits, applications, letters of recommendation, high school transcripts, and admissions essays are all important parts of the admissions meaning.

Admissions Decisions

The decisions made by the college admissions committee about which applicants receive acceptance letters and which applicants do not. Early decisions are available to students who submit their applications within each school's early decision timeline. See "Early Decision (ED)" for further information.

Admission Tests

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. Read more about admission tests.

Articulation Agreement

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.

Bachelor's Degree

When you complete the required courses and earn enough credits, typically after four years in college, you will earn a BA or bachelor's degree. Depending upon your major, you may earn a bachelor of arts (BA), bachelor of science (BS), or bachelor of fine arts (BFA).

Candidates Reply Date Agreement (CRDA)

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

Class Rank

A measurement of how your academic achievement in high school compares with that of other students in your grade. Your class ranking is primarily based on your GPA. Some schools calculate class rank differently than others, so check with your school officials for information on how your school calculates GPA.

Coalition Application

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

College Application Essay

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.” Learn more about college application essays.

College Credit

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. Learn more about AP and CLEP.

College Financial Aid Offer

An offer of financial assistance to those who receive acceptance to a college. The offer includes all the monetary assistance available to you to pay for college. Also called an award letter, a financial aid award letter, or simply an offer, your letter will include the need-based assistance you qualify to receive based on your FAFSA® (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and any other required forms such as the CSS Profile or an institutional form.

Common Application

A standard application form accepted by all colleges that are members of the Common Application association. The definition of the Common Application is synonymous with college application. You can fill out the Common App once and submit it to any one or several of the nearly 700 colleges that accept it. Go to the Common Application.

Deferred Admission

Permission from a college that has accepted you to postpone enrolling in the college. The postponement is usually for up to one year. Often, a college requires a good-faith deposit to hold your place for the deferment period. Additionally, your college may ask you to account for your experiences during deferment.

Demonstrated Interest

An action that demonstrates you have a sincere interest in attending a particular college. Many admissions committees consider this factor in making their decisions. Some of the ways you can demonstrate an interest in attending include a campus visit or virtual tour participation, having an initial interview, conversations with admission representatives, and applying for early admission.

Early Action (EA)

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. Learn more about applying early.

Early Decision (ED)

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. Learn more about applying early.


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Everyone planning to attend college should fill in and submit a FAFSA prior to their first year. It determines if you qualify for financial assistance with tuition so you can attend the school of your choice. Your college offer may be based on your FAFSA results.

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. It might also include work-study assistance. Learn more about financial aid.

Grade Point Average (GPA)

A number that shows overall academic performance. It's computed by assigning a point value to each grade you earn. It is also a key factor in determining your class rank.

Legacy Applicant

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").

Need-Blind Admission

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

Open Admission

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.

Placement Tests

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. They can also determine whether you need to take a basic course. Read more about placement tests.

Priority Date or Deadline

The date by which your application—whether it's for college admission, student housing, 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.

Rolling Admission

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.


College Board’s standardized college admission test. It features three main sections: math, reading and writing, which includes a written essay. Learn more about the SAT.

Sophomore Standing

The status of a second-year student. A college may grant sophomore standing to an incoming first-year student if they have earned college credits through courses, exams, or other programs at a previous school.


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

Transfer Student

A student who enrolls in a college after having attended another college. Before transferring, you should check with your current and future colleges to find out which credits will transfer.


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

Universal College Application

A standard application form accepted by all colleges that are Universal College Application (UCA) members. Established in 2007, this application offers shortcuts—such as no recommendation letter requirement—that may help you complete your package sooner. However, not all colleges accept it, so check with your school to make sure. Go to the Universal College Application.

Waiting List

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. Learn more about waiting lists.

Weighted Grade Point Average (GPA)

A grade point average that's calculated using a system that assigns a higher point value to grades in certain classes, typically more difficult ones. 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.

Virtual College

Online college classes. Some colleges are entirely virtual and do not maintain an actual campus, while others offer online and in-person courses. While virtual college classes are often more convenient because they allow you to set your own schedule, some subjects, such as science labs, require hands-on participation that you cannot do online.


Common College Admission Terms Glossary – BigFuture? ›

Article Content. The fall semester, which begins in August, is the traditional start term for freshmen students. Most merit-based scholarships are only awarded to students entering in the fall semester. Please see our scholarships and financial aid web page for complete deadline information.

What is a college entry term? ›

Article Content. The fall semester, which begins in August, is the traditional start term for freshmen students. Most merit-based scholarships are only awarded to students entering in the fall semester. Please see our scholarships and financial aid web page for complete deadline information.

What is admission term? ›

: the fact of being accepted as a student at a school.

What do you call a person applying for college? ›

You're also considered a prospective student all the way up until you accept (or decline) your offer of enrollment (assuming you've been admitted to that school). For example, Lila is a high school senior who is interested in applying to Brown, the University of Chicago, and Boston University.

What does admitted mean on a college application? ›

ADMIT. If you receive a fat envelope in the mail with an admit decision, congratulations – you've been accepted to the university! This is a no-strings-attached decision, meaning you don't need to meet any additional requirements or submit any additional information.

What are the 4 college terms? ›

Some colleges and universities operate on the quarter system with the academic year divided into four terms: fall, winter, spring and summer. Students usually need to be enrolled for three out of four quarters.

What are the college terms in order? ›

Traditionally, colleges and universities offer three semesters during each academic year:
  • Fall semester – 15 weeks.
  • Spring semester – 15 weeks.
  • Summer semester – 12 weeks.
Nov 6, 2022

What's the base word for admission? ›

The noun admission stems from the Latin word admissionem, meaning "a letting in." It often refers to a fee charged for entry, but it can also describe the process of being granted entry.

What does per term mean in university? ›

Per term means “per semester” if the school has a fall/spring semester schedule. It means “per trimester” if the school divides classes into a fall/winter/spring schedule. It means “per quarter” if the school divides classes into four rolling terms over the course of a full year.

How long should a college admission be? ›

The length of time a college application takes depends on the college's requirements. Requests vary from school to school, but it generally takes about six weeks to gather everything you need.

What do you call a friend from university? ›

noun. Definition of classmate. as in colleague. a member of the same class in a school, college, or university She was widely regarded as the most likely to succeed among her classmates.

What do you call a new student? ›

At college or university, freshman denotes students in their first year of study. The grade designations of high school are not used, but the terms sophomore, junior, and senior are kept at most schools.

What is a male college student called? ›

The word “alumnus” refers to an individual male graduate.

What is most important for college admission? ›

Courses and Grades

A student's grades in college-preparatory classes remain the most significant factor in college admission decisions.

What are the most common student statuses in college? ›

The two broad status types for degree-seeking students are enrolled and unenrolled with continuing degree candidacy. Enrolled statuses include regular enrollment, in absentia enrollment, and dissertation completion enrollment (DCE).

What is the difference between accepted and admitted? ›

Admitting something is kind of like saying it out loud and just acknowledging that whatever the subject matter is actually exists. Accepting it is actually looking at something in a deeper meaning or value.

What are the academic terms in college? ›

The most common terms are semesters and quarters.
  • Semesters divide the academic year into two pieces, a fall (or autumn) semester and a spring semester. Semesters are about 15 weeks long. ...
  • Quarters divided the academic year into three pieces, a fall (or autumn) quarter, a winter quarter and a spring quarter.

What is 5 terms in college? ›

An academic year in the United States is 2 semesters (i.e. starting in autumn, ending in late spring). Therefore, five semesters is 2.5 years of a “4 year” bachelors degree. Each semester is around 15 weeks of classes plus an exam week.

What are the academic terms in the US? ›

The academic year consists of trimesters or quarters - three terms/quarter academic year, as a rule, includes three major periods, autumn, winter and spring, every 10-12 weeks of training and additional years of unit from 1 to 11 weeks. The concept of “semester” and “quarter” in American education are very close.

How many terms do college students have? ›

There are generally two semesters per academic year: Fall (beginning in August or September) and Spring (beginning in January). Some semester-based schools also offer a Summer session that is shorter than a regular semester and is not a part of the regular academic year.

What is a college class itinerary called? ›

A class schedule is a list of classes a student is taking and includes course name and number time and location of the class.

What is college terminology for freshman? ›

Freshman/First-Year Student: Also known as incoming students, these are learners who are in their first year of study at a college or university. Full-Time Student: To qualify as a full-time student, learners must take a minimum number of credits per semester.

What is another word for general admission? ›

In a general admission (also known as open seating or free seating) scheme, each spectator has a ticket.

What is the verb used with admission? ›

admit is a verb, admissible is an adjective, admission is a noun:The criminal admitted his guilt.

What is the phrasal verb of admission? ›

admit of something

to show that something is possible or likely as a solution, an explanation, etc. The situation was too urgent to admit of any delay.

What does 3 terms mean in college? ›

A trimester system divides the academic year into three sessions: fall, winter, and spring.

What is a good term GPA in college? ›

Once you're in college, many institutions expect you to maintain at least a 2.0 to remain enrolled. However, programs and scholarships tend to require a higher minimum GPA, usually around 3.0. As you get ready to graduate, a particularly high GPA (3.75 or higher) may mean that you graduate with distinction.

Is two terms one semester? ›

The academic term of a college may be a semester which means there are two terms in a single year, and the academic session is divided into two equal semesters. In some colleges, trimester pattern is followed which divides a year into three parts each being 4 months in duration.

Does my college essay have to be 650 words? ›

The primary essay for your college application, often called a personal statement, is typically around 400-600 words. The Common App personal statement — which is used as the primary application essay by more than 800 colleges — must be 250-650 words.

Is 30 colleges too many to apply to? ›

While there's no cap on the number of schools you can apply to, some students, especially those from affluent backgrounds who want to go to a selective college, can go overboard, applying to more than 20 or 30 colleges. Personally, I would strongly discourage any student from applying to more than 15 colleges.

What GPA is needed for UCLA? ›

GPA and test scores of middle 25%-75% students
High School GPA4.18 - 4.32
ACT Composite Score29 - 32
ACT English Language Arts30 - 35
SAT Evidence Based Reading & Writing670 - 760
2 more rows

What do you call a former student of a university? ›

synonyms for former student

On this page you'll find 17 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to former student, such as: alum, alumna, alumnus, doctor, grad, and recipient.

What do you call a former college classmate? ›

An alumnus or alumna is a former student and most often a graduate of an educational institution (school, college, university). According to the United States Department of Education, the term alumnae is used in conjunction with either women's colleges or a female group of students.

What do you say to someone who didn't pass the bar? ›

Here are a few ways that you can help support them during this difficult time.
  • Wait for them to talk about it. ...
  • Don't assume they'll retake it. ...
  • Don't ask what their score is. ...
  • Continue to talk to them about topics other than the bar. ...
  • Ask them how you can best support them. ...
  • Educate yourself on how to approach this with empathy.
Apr 27, 2022

What can I say instead of freshman? ›

synonyms for freshman
  • novice.
  • rookie.
  • undergraduate.
  • beginner.
  • greenhorn.
  • underclassman.
  • undergrad.
  • frosh.

What do you call a smart student? ›

brainy. adjective. informal very intelligent, especially at school or college.

What is a word for top student? ›

Valedictorian is an academic title for the highest-performing student of a graduating class of an academic institution.

What is the boss of a college called? ›

A chancellor is a leader of a college or university, usually either the executive or ceremonial head of the university or of a university campus within a university system.

What do college students call their professors? ›

Students tend to default calling their faculty “Dr.”. While many of your faculty will indeed hold doctorates (Ph. D., Ed. D., J.D., M.D., etc.)

What do you call college kids? ›

nounperson studying at institution of higher education.

How do colleges pick students? ›

Offers of admission are based on each school's enrollment objectives. Making admissions decisions is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Large state schools may use a test score and GPA formula. Highly selective schools may have multiple reviewers with many voices weighing in on a decision.

What are 3 factors top colleges look for? ›

Good grades, a challenging high school curriculum, standardized test scores, extracurriculars, and a strong essay are a few key factors admissions officers assess. Each university may emphasize different elements of the application process.

What is a college hook? ›

Hooks are basically all the factors beyond grades and test scores that might engage interest and secure college admission. We've always recognized that certain traits or activities helped applicants stand out from the crowd. What may surprise you is just how many hooks there are.

What is the hardest year for college students? ›

Everyone's college experience is different. Many people including myself have found the third year to be the most difficult. This is the year in which you will start to take classes that are specifically for your major. The classes for your major tend to be more challenging than core classes.

What year do most colleges look at? ›

Your first year and sophomore year affect your cumulative GPA, which is important to most colleges. However, a solid academic record in your junior year is likely to carry more importance with an admissions committee.

What is the most popular college class? ›

Here are StraighterLine's top 10 classes for 2022 based on student enrollment, plus a few honorable mentions:
  • College Algebra. ...
  • Anatomy & Physiology I. ...
  • Microbiology. ...
  • English Composition I. ...
  • Anatomy & Physiology II. ...
  • Introduction to Nutrition. ...
  • General Calculus I. ...
  • Introduction to Psychology.

Does being admitted to a college mean I got accepted? ›

Admit. If you receive a fat envelope in the mail with an admit decision, congratulations – you've been accepted to the university! This is a no-strings-attached decision, meaning you don't need to meet any additional requirements or submit any additional information.

What's the difference between waitlisted and accepted? ›

What Is a College Waitlist? Getting on a college waitlist means that an applicant has all the necessary qualifications and has been fully reviewed by an admissions counselor. However, the school could not offer them a letter of acceptance at that time.

What does it mean to be academically accepted? ›

Being admitted means the college recognizes and celebrates your academic ability and preparation, as well as your potential to contribute outside the classroom on their campus.

What is the term for first year college students? ›

The four years of undergraduate education are called: (1) freshman year, and someone in their first year is a freshman. You might sometimes hear this shortened to "frosh." (2) sophomore year, and someone in their second year is a sophomore.

What is the difference between a college term and semester? ›

Each academic institution operates according to an academic calendar, with terms marking the beginning and end of each session of classes. A semester is a calendar that divides the academic year into 15 - 17 week terms.

What does college term tuition mean? ›

Tuition is the associated charges or fees for learning at a college or university. Tuition usually applies to one academic year of class—generally from September to April. Tuition typically increases each year, with some schools raising fees by three percent annually.

What is it called when you take a year break before college? ›

A gap year is a period of time between high school and college when students take a break from their studies to pursue other activities, which could include travel, work or volunteering.

What are the 1st 4 years of college called? ›

The first four years of college are the undergraduate years, and a student studying for a bachelor's degree is called an undergraduate. The four years refer to the total accumulated credit hours; a student may take fewer or more than four years to attain their undergraduate degree.

What is the term for students in college? ›

Student classification refers to the familiar names for the four undergraduate years: freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior.

How long is 4 terms in college? ›

A quarter system consists of four 10-week sessions in the fall, winter, spring, and summer. The average full-time student takes 3-4 courses per term, or 9-12 credits. An academic year on the quarter system normally runs from mid-September through early June.

Is a term bigger than a semester? ›

Semester is an English world that means a half year or a time period of six months. The academic term of a college may be a semester which means there are two terms in a single year, and the academic session is divided into two equal semesters.

How many classes are in one term in college? ›

The standard course load for full-time university students

The standard course load for full-time students is 12 to 18 hours which usually comes out to about 4 to 6 courses per semester.

What are three ways to lower the cost of college? ›

1. Improve Your Chances of an Affordable College Cost
  • Apply to generous schools. ...
  • Don't commit early to a college. ...
  • Look for scholarships before and during college. ...
  • Improve your financial aid eligibility. ...
  • Learn how to evaluate aid packages. ...
  • Get college credit on the cheap. ...
  • Get a student job during college.

What is the most expensive part of college? ›

Tuition & Fees

College tuition and fees are the greatest costs of attending college. Consider taking courses at a lower-cost community college then transfer the credits to university to save money. Also, take as many credits as you can per semester to graduate ASAP and not extend your college beyond 5 years.

What are the other terms of tuition fee? ›

synonyms for tuition
  • charge.
  • expenditure.
  • fee.
  • instruction.
  • lessons.
  • price.
  • schooling.
  • teaching.

What is it called when you skip a year of college? ›

A gap year is when you take a year off, typically between high school graduation and college.

What is a gap year in college called? ›

(Learn how and when to remove this template message) A gap year, also known as a sabbatical year, is a period of time when students take a break from their studies, usually after completing high school or before beginning graduate school.

What is it called when you take 2 years of college? ›

An associate degree is a two-year degree typically offered at community colleges, technical colleges, and career colleges. However, some four-year universities offer them as well. Examples of some associate degrees include Associate of Arts (AA) and Associate of Science (AS).


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