College Glossary

Entering college often presents students with a variety of new terms and titles to learn. The list below provides definitions for some of the new terminology that students may encounter.

College Glossary


Official recognition that a college, university, or trade school has met the standards of a regional or national association.

Gives motivated high school students the opportunity to take college-level courses in a high school setting. Thousands of colleges worldwide award credit, advanced placement or both to students with a qualifying score on AP Exams. AP Exams are scored 1 to 5, with 5 as the highest. 

The ACT is a college entrance exam administered by the American College Testing Corporation that measures educational development in English, mathematics, social studies, and the natural sciences. Scores are reported as 1 to 36, with 36 as the highest. Most colleges accept scores from either the ACT or SAT®.

An agreement between a two-year and four-year college within the same state that allows a two-year college student automatic admission to a four-year college if required courses are completed.

A college course of study that includes the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, mathematics, foreign languages, and fine arts.

Awarded by a college or university after satisfactory completion of a two-year program of study.

A document issued to a student financial aid recipient that indicates the type, amount, and disbursement dates of the funds awarded for various financial aid programs.

Awarded by a four-year college or university after satisfactory completion of a program of study.

Financial assistance for students and their families administered by a college. Funds, regardless of their source, are awarded to students by the college's financial aid office, and not by a state, federal, or private agency.

Allows a student to defer attendance decisions at participating colleges until May 1. This agreement gives students time to get responses from most of the colleges they have applied to before making a decision on one.

A national nonprofit membership association whose mission is to prepare, inspire, and connect students to college and opportunity. The College Board administers the PSAT/NMSQT®, SAT®, SAT Subject Tests™, Advanced Placement Program® (AP®), CLEP®, College Scholarship Service® (CSS®), and CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE®.

A group of colleges or universities that offer joint programs that allow students to share facilities and course offerings at member campuses. Consortiums are generally made up of neighboring schools.

A full-time paid employment related to a student's field of study. The student alternates between work and full-time study. As a result, the bachelor's program usually takes five years to complete.

When a student's application for early decision or early action is postponed, and will be considered with the regular applicant pool.

Allows an accepted student to postpone admission for one year.

The difference between the family contribution as established on the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and the total cost of attending college.

A program that gives special consideration to a student who applies for admission by a specified date, usually in early fall. Students are not obligated to enroll if admitted (also known as early notification).

A program that gives special consideration to a student who applies for admission by a specified date, usually in early fall. Students are obligated to enroll if admitted, and to withdraw applications from other institutions.

A nonprofit organization that develops college entrance tests, including the SAT and SAT Subject Tests, for the College Board.

The amount a family can reasonably be expected to pay for one year of college.

A state-operated investment plan that gives families a federal tax-free way to save money for college.

The need analysis form produced by the U.S. Department of Education that is required for students seeking aid by nearly all colleges and universities.
Indicates a student's overall scholastic performance. It is computed by assigning a point value to each grade.

Courses focusing on human culture, including philosophy, foreign language, religion, and literature.

Allows a student to earn credit through self-designed coursework, which is usually planned and evaluated by a faculty member.

A course of study that includes humanities, social science, natural sciences, mathematics, foreign languages, and fine arts.

Area of concentration in a particular field of study. Usually students specialize in their majors during their junior and senior years at college.

A scholarship program based mostly on scores from the PSAT/NMSQT. Each year, National Merit students receive scholarships ranging from several hundred dollars to full costs of attendance.

Schools that take any high school graduate until all the openings are filled. Almost all two-year colleges have an open admissions policy.

A policy in which the most desirable applicants get the best financial aid packages.

The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test is a standardized test that provides firsthand practice for the SAT® and SAT Subject Tests™. It also gives students a chance to qualify for National Merit Scholarship Corporation's (NMSC) scholarship programs.
Read about the PSAT/NMSQT.

College official who registers students and collects fees. The registrar may also be responsible for keeping permanent records, maintaining student files, and forwarding copies of students' transcripts to employers and schools.

Combines military education with college study leading to the bachelor's degree. For students who commit themselves to future service in the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines, there is usually an offer of financial aid. Not all schools offer ROTC.

Length of time stipulated by colleges or universities that students must spend on campus taking courses. The term also refers to time families or students must reside in a state before being considered eligible for state aid.

A rigorous and relevant curriculum that is cognitively demanding and challenging to students. In the Rigorous Core program, students must complete the Minimum Core requirements plus additional classes in English, Math, Social Studies and Science.  Completing the Rigorous Core program can make students eligible for a variety of prestigious scholarships.

Admissions procedure by which the college considers each student's application as soon as all the required credentials have been received (e.g., school record, test scores). The college usually notifies applicants of its decision without delay.

A 3 hour and 45 minute exam that measures the critical thinking skills needed for academic success in college.  It measures skills in three areas: critical reading, mathematics, and writing.

One hour, primarily multiple-choice tests that measure achievement in specific subject areas.

Divides the academic year into two equal segments of approximately 18 weeks each. Summer sessions are shorter, but require more intensive study.

The form sent to families in response to submission of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) indicating the Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

Official record of a student's coursework at a school or college. A high school transcript is generally required as part of the college application process.

Allow you to subtract, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, the amount of the credit from your total federal income tax bill.

A college student earning a bachelor's degree.

A list of applicants who may be considered for acceptance if there is still space after admitted students have decided whether or not they'll attend.

A federally funded program in which students take campus jobs as part of their financial aid package. To participate in a work-study program, students must complete the FAFSA.