College Lingo and Terminology Tips
The assigned school official who helps you choose classes and ensures you’re taking the right courses in order to graduate.
Also known as your academic counselor, your designated adviser will help you choose classes and make sure you’re taking the right courses for your major and minor. At some schools, advisers are faculty members. Other institutions may have entire positions dedicated to the role.
A measurement of time to divide up the academic year. Colleges and universities use two semesters, three trimesters or four quarters.
ADVANCED STANDING CREDIT
Credit for previously completed college-level work or demonstrated knowledge of a subject granted by taking advanced standing exams, such as Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) exams, among others.
An explanation of the financial aid a college will give a student, which may include grants, scholarships, student loans and work-study.
Designed and administered by the College Board, the College Level Examination Program is a group of tests used to assess a student’s college-level knowledge. Students can earn credit for college if they earn a high enough score in any of the 33 examinations. The CLEP is accepted by 2,900 colleges and universities and administered in more than 1,800 test centers.
A general application accepted by nearly 700 colleges and universities throughout the United States and abroad
CONCURRENT ENROLLMENT/DUAL ENROLLMENT
A process allowing high school students to take college-level courses that can be transferred to a college or university for credit. The credits may be available both for college and high school credit.
A program that combines classroom work and actual work experience. Students may get course credit for “co-ops.”
The number of hours assigned to a class; usually the number of hours students are in that class each week (e.g., a class held for an hour on Monday, Wednesday and Friday would be worth three credit hours). To be considered a full-time student, you must be taking a certain number of credit hours. Typically,full time is a minimum of 12 hours.
Credit hours are a unit of measurement that let’s you know what a course is worth, usually based on the number of one-hour classes per week. For example, a biology class taken from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday would likely be worth three credits.
A college’s option to postpone making a decision on whether to accept or deny an applicant.
A delay by a school in making the decision to accept or deny a student. Students who aren’t offered admission for early decision are often deferred and considered for regular decision.
An accepted student’s decision to put off a college’s offer of admission in order to take a one-year absence (e.g., to travel, work or take care of a family member).
A student’s expression of desire to attend a specific college or university.
May 1 is the day by which accepted students must notify a college of their intent to enroll and send in a nonrefundable deposit.
A process allowing high school students to take college-level courses that can be transferred to a college or university for credit. Also called concurrent enrollment. The credits may be available both for college and high school credit.
A process allowing students to apply to a college or university earlier than the standard deadline in order to receive an earlier decision. Students are allowed to apply to other schools at the same time and are not required to accept an offer of admission.
Early action allows students to apply to a school earlier than normal (often before November) in order to receive an earlier decision (usually by mid-December). Students are allowed to apply to other schools as well, but they typically need to let the accepting colleges know by late spring if they’ll be attending. With early action, you don’t have to accept an offer of admission.
A process allowing students to apply to only one college or university earlier than the standard deadline in order to receive an earlier decision. If offered admission, you’ll be required to withdraw all other applications and accept the offer of admission (unless you can show you can’t afford to go, taking into account the financial aid offered by the school). A school typically will let early decision applicants know by mid-December if they’ve been accepted, denied or deferred.
A class not required for your major or minor. These are generally courses you take for fun or just to see if something sparks your interest. Examples might include a theater class, a beginner’s Spanish class or volleyball.
Electives can help boost your GPA, fulfill your general education requirements, or just allow you to explore something of interest not required by your major or minor.
EXPECTED FAMILY CONTRIBUTION
The amount a student’s family is expected to pay toward the cost of college.
FREE APPLICATION FOR FEDERAL STUDENT AID (FAFSA)
A form that all students must fill out to be considered for federal financial aid.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form that all students must fill out to be considered for federal financial aid. The FAFSA form is available starting October 1 of the year BEFORE you attend college. (This form has to be filled out annually each year they plan to attend college.)
A form of financial aid based typically on need—funded by the federal government or nonprofit institutions—that does not need to be repaid.
The system of fraternities and sororities and their activities.
A paid or unpaid job in your field or major. Internships can provide you with work experience and sometimes college credit.
A major is your main field of study in an undergraduate program, typically requiring 30 to 60 credit hours. A minor is your secondary field of study, often providing more of a specialization to support your major. For example, a business major might
minor in economics.
Financial aid awarded based on the student’s achievements (e.g., academic) or talents (e.g., athletic or musical).
Financial aid that is awarded based on a student’s ability to pay for college.
An application essay in which a student gives more insight into his/her personality, achievements, history and character.
A class that you must take before taking the class at the next level (e.g., English 101 may be required if you want to take English 201).
PUBLIC VS. PRIVATE INSTITUTIONS
Public colleges are supported by state funds and typically are less expensive for residents of that state. Private colleges get their funding from tuition, endowments, alumni support and other donations. Although private colleges may have a higher sticker price, most offer substantial financial aid packages.
A letter written on your behalf, explaining why you make a good candidate. Most applications require three recommendation letters.
The standard admission process and timeline for a school. Typically, applications are due by January 1, and decisions are made by April 1.
Resident Advisor / Resident Assistant (R.A.)
A college student who supervises the other students living in a dorm, usually in exchange for free housing and food from the college or university.
A process of reviewing and making decisions on applications as they are received, rather than according to a specific deadline. This allows schools to review applications as they are received, providing students with a faster response.
R.A. (see also Resident Advisor / Resident Assistant)
Short for resident assistant or resident adviser, an R.A. is a college student who supervises the other students living in a college dorm, usually in exchange for food and housing from the school.
A form of financial aid—usually based on merit, such as academic or athletic—that does not need to be repaid.
Created by the professor, a syllabus outlines important information about the class. This might include test dates, deadlines for papers, required textbooks, expectations, homework assignments and policies specific to the course.
An official academic record from the student’s school that shows his/her courses and grades, as well as the dates attended.
A list of college applicants who haven’t been accepted or denied. As openings arise, the school may offer admission to students on the waitlist.
A job (typically on campus) that allows a student to earn money to help pay for the costs associated with college.