Glossary of Terms
College Application Decision Plans (a.k.a., Admission Types)
Decision Plans are application deadline choices offered by a college. These choices are provided by each college to accommodate an applicant's readiness for application completion (i.e., all required components are ready and submitted by the deadline). At times it can convey an applicant's level of commitment to the college.
College decision plans fall into three major categories:
- Regular Decision (RD)
- Rolling Admission (RA)
- Early admission options, which offer additional variations:
- Early Decision (ED)
- Early Action (EA)
- Restrictive Early Action (REA), also known as Single-Choice Early Action (SCEA)
Common Application (a.k.a., Common App)
Though many colleges use their own online applications with their own set of questions (e.g., University of California, University of Texas, MIT), over 500 colleges accept the Common Application, which allows students to fill out one set of questions and send it to any of the campuses that use this format. In addition, each college will also have a supplement of a few of its own questions.
(Note: If you are only applying to one Common App school, check if the school has its own application, which would be less time-consuming.)
NEW: Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success
A new online college application system available for students beginning with the Class of 2017. The Coalition’s goal is “to improve the college admission application process for all students by developing a free platform of online tools to streamline the experience of applying to college.” he Coalition’s application is scheduled to be available in June 2016 as an alternative to the Common Application for students applying to the 90+ colleges and universities that are part of the Coalition. (In its first year, students may apply to these schools using either the Coalition’s application of the Common Application.) In April, prior to the activation of the online application, the Coalition will release its innovative online and mobile friendly “locker” where students in 9th through 12th graders will be able to store college application materials, including written files and videos, throughout their high school career. These “lockers” may also be shared directly with teachers, mentors, and counselors if students desire.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all high schools and colleges that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.
All colleges will require you to sign a FERPA Waiver as part of the application process.
Admit — You're in! You are being offered admission to a college to which you applied. Make sure you pay attention to the date by which you need to respond with your acceptance. Typically, merit/financial aid offers arrive after you are admitted.
Deferred – The admissions decision is being moved to a later date.
Deferred acceptance — You applied during the early admissions time frame but you were placed on hold to be considered again during the regular admissions time frame and accepted at that point.
Deny — You are not in. The decision is made by the college or university admissions committee.
Waitlist — You are not in but have been placed on a waiting list in case an opening becomes available. If you are waitlisted, you should still follow up with the college to let them know you remain interested (if indeed you are). Talk with your counselor if this happens to you.
Waitlist/Accepted – You were placed on the waiting list. An opening became available and you took it.
Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses — High school courses which may be counted as college credit or allow advanced placement in college courses. For more information, please check the College Board AP link and the Fairview IB/AP website. Important note: Test registration deadlines are often in early November - don't miss them!
American College Testing (ACT) — A national college admissions exam testing English, mathematics, reading and science reasoning. Most colleges require either ACT or SAT 1 test scores with your college application. For more information, visit the ACT website.
Award package — Another term for financial aid package which may include grants, loans and work study options.
Candidates Reply Date Agreement — If admitted to a college, a student does not have to reply until May 1. This allows time to hear from all the colleges to which the student applied before having to make a commitment to any of them. This is especially important because financial aid packages vary from one school to another. Not applicable for early decision applicants.
College-preparatory subjects — Courses taken in high school that are viewed by colleges and universities as a strong preparation for college work. The specific courses are usually in the core subject areas of English, history, world languages, mathematics, and science. The courses may be regular, honors‐level, AP or IB offerings, and the latter three categories are often weighted when calculated in the GPA.
College Scholarship Service (CSS) — When the federal government changed the FAFSA form several years ago, the College Board created this program to assist postsecondary institutions, state scholarship programs, and other organizations in measuring a family's financial strength and analyzing its ability to contribute to college costs. CSS processes the PROFILE financial form that students may use to apply for nonfederal aid. This form is submitted to some 300 private colleges and universities along with the FAFSA when seeking financial aid from these institutions. Participating colleges and universities indicate whether they require this form. This is the link to the CSS Profile website. Important note: Some questionable companies charge a fee to help you complete the CSS profile. This is not necessary.
Common Application — See Common Application at top.
Cost of Education — This includes tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation, and miscellaneous expenses. A student's financial aid eligibility is the difference between the cost of education and the Expected Family Contribution as computed by the federal government using the FAFSA.
Course Load — The number of course credit hours a student takes in each semester. Twelve credit hours is the minimum to be considered a full‐time student. The average course load per semester is 16 credit hours.
Credit Hours — The number of hours per week that courses meet are counted as equivalent credits for financial aid and used to determine you status as a full- or part-time student.
Early Action (EA) — See College Application Decision Plans above.
Early Decision (ED) — See College Application Decision Plans above.
Expected Family Contribution (EFC) — The amount of financial support a family is expected to contribute toward a child's college education. This amount is part of the formula used by the federal government to determine financial aid eligibility using the FAFSA form.
Federal Pell Grant Program — This is a federally sponsored and administered program that provides grants based on need to undergraduate students. Congress annually sets the appropriation; award amounts vary based on need. This is "free" money because it does not need to be repaid.
Federal Perkins Loan Program — This is a federally run program based on need and administered by a college's financial aid office. This program offers low‐interest loans for undergraduate study. Repayment does not begin until 9 months after the borrower drops to less than halftime enrollment status.
Federal Stafford Loan — This federal program provides low‐interest loans for undergraduate and graduate students. The maximum annual loan amount depends on the student’s grade level. Fixed interest rates will not exceed 6.8%. Repayment does not begin until 6 months after the borrower drops to less than halftime enrollment status. Several repayment options are available.
Federal Work‐Study Program (FSW) — A federally financed program that arranges for students to combine employment and college study; the employment may be an integral part of the academic program (as in cooperative education or internships) or simply a means of paying for college.
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) — This is the federal government's instrument for calculating need-based aid. It is available from high school guidance departments, college financial aid offices, and the Internet (www.fafsa.gov). The form should be completed and mailed as soon after January 1 as possible.
Gap — The difference between the amount of a financial aid package and the cost of attending a college or university. The student and his/her family are expected to fill the gap.
Gap Year - Typically this refers to taking a year off after graduating from high school and before beginning college. Students who want to take a gap year should apply to college and be accepted, then request a deferred enrollment. Talk to your counselor for details.
Grants/Scholarships — These are financial awards that are usually dispensed by the financial aid offices of colleges and universities. The awards may be need‐ or merit‐based. Most are need‐based. Merit‐based awards may be awarded on the basis of excellence in academics, leadership, volunteerism, athletic ability, or special talent.
Honors Program — Honors programs offer an enriched, top‐quality educational experience that often includes small class size, custom‐designed courses, mentoring, enriched individualized learning, hands‐on research, and publishing opportunities. A handpicked faculty guides students through the program. Honors programs are a great way to attend a large school that offers enhanced academic, social and recreational opportunities.
Merit Awards, Merit‐Based Scholarships — More "free" money, these awards are based on excellence in academics, leadership, volunteerism, athletic ability, and other areas determined by the granting organization, which can be a college or university, an organization, or an individual. They are not based on financial need.
Need Blind — Admissions decisions made without reference to a student's financial aid request, that is, an applicant's financial need is not known to the committee at the time of decision.
Regular Decision (RD) - See College Application Decision Plans above.
Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) — Each branch of the military sponsors an ROTC program. In exchange for a certain number of years on active duty, students can have their college education paid for up to a certain amount by the armed forces.
Residency requirement — The term has more than one meaning. It can refer to the fact that a college may require a specific number of courses to be taken on campus to receive a degree from the school, or the phrase can mean the time, by law, that is required for a person to reside in the state to be considered eligible for in‐state tuition at one of its public colleges or universities.
*Rolling Admission (RA) * - See College Application Decision Plans at top.
Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), also called the SAT I — A national college admissions exam testing mathematics, critical reading and writing. Most colleges require either SAT 1 or ACT test scores with your college application. For more information, visit: www.collegeboard.org
SAT Subject Tests (formerly known as SAT II Tests) — These subject-specific exams are given on the same test dates and in the same centers as the SAT I. More emphasis has been placed on these tests in recent years, not only because they are used for admission purposes, but also for placement and exemption decisions.
Student Aid Report (SAR) — Report of the government's review of a student's FAFSA. The SAR is sent to the student and released electronically to the schools that the student listed. The SAR does not supply a real money figure for aid but indicates whether the student is eligible.
Waiver to view recommendations — See FERPA Waiver above.
Universal College Application - Like the Common Application, the Universal College Application provides a common online application accepted by member institutions. Over 40 colleges accept the Universal College App. To find out more about this application, click here.