Know the Lingo
A Cheat Sheet of College Terms and Phrases
ACT - A college entrance test (like the SAT). Your scores on this tests will help determine what scholarships you can receive, what classes you will take your first year of college and even which colleges you can attend. They’re a big deal, but the good news is (a) you can practice for them, and (b) you can take them more than once to try to get a better score. Many colleges accept scores from either the SAT or the ACT, but some require one or the other.
Admission/Application/Acceptance - You must apply to get into college. The process colleges use to decide who gets in is called admission. Colleges review each application and decide which students to accept. Students receive a letter of acceptance or rejection.
Advanced Placement (AP) - AP courses are classes you can take in high school that offer college-level coursework. Students can get college credit for this work by taking an end-of-the-year exam which covers all of the course material.
Associate’s degree - the degree given for completion of a two-year program.
Bachelor’s degree - the degree given for completion of a four-year program.
Certificate - recognition that a student has completed a program of study in a specialized area.
Class rank - a measure of a student’s academic performance compared to all other students in the same grade at the same school.
College - school or training programs after high school.
College entrance exams - standardized tests used to measure skills important for college success; many colleges require applicants to take at least one; most common are the SAT and the ACT.
Credit - a measure of how much a particular course counts toward completing overall graduation requirements. Credits are typically equal to the approximate number of hours spent in class per week (i.e. 3 credit hours = 3 hours of in-class time).
Diploma - recognition that a student has successfully completed a specific program of study.
Doctorate - an advanced degree beyond the bachelor’s degree and usually beyond the master’s degree; also called a PH.D.
Dormitory - a building that houses students who live on a college campus; also called dorm or residence hall.
Electives - courses students elect to take, but are not required to take.
Expected Family Contribution (EFC) - the amount that, according to a government formula, your family should be able to pay toward college expenses. Your EFC is determined by information you submit on the FAFSA.
Extracurricular activities - (also known as co-curricular) activities in which a student participates outside of class, such as athletics, clubs or music.
FAFSA - Free Application for Federal Student Aid; the form students use to apply for financial assistance from the federal government.
Financial aid - money provided to a student to help pay for college; a Financial aid package is the combination of grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study that a student receives to help pay for college.
Financial need - the difference between what your family is expected to contribute and the total cost of attendance for one year of college. Financial Need equals Cost of Attendance minus Expected Family Contribution.
Full-time student - A student enrolled in a minimum of twelve undergraduate credit hours per semester or other
comparable period at an institution with a non-traditional calendar.
Grant - a financial award that does not need to be repaid.
Internship - a program that lets students apply their studies in a work setting.
Liberal arts - studies that cover broad knowledge in a wide variety of subjects.
Major - the area of study in which a student chooses to specialize.
Master’s degree - an advanced degree following a bachelor’s degree.
Merit-based aid - financial assistance based on a student’s academic success.
Need-based aid - financial assistance based on a student’s ability to pay for college.
Private college - an independent college set up by individuals or organizations.
Proprietary or for-profit schools - These schools can offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees, but most offer associate’s degrees or certificates in office management, medical assistance, cosmetology, dental hygiene, computer systems engineering, and more.
PSAT - The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test is designed for juniors and is co-sponsored by the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. The PSAT/NMSQT measures critical reading, math problem solving, and writing skills. It does not measure things like creativity and motivation, and it doesn’t recognize the special talents that may be important to colleges.
Public college or university - a college set up with government support.
SAT®- A college entrance test (like the ACT). Your scores on this tests will help determine what scholarships you can receive, what classes you will take your first year of college and even which colleges you can attend. They’re a big deal, but the good news is (a) you can practice for them, and (b) you can take them more than once to try to get a better score. Many colleges accept scores from either the SAT or the ACT, but some require one or the other.
Semester - A period of time, usually about fifteen weeks, during which college is in session. In semestered schools, most courses last just one semester and students must register at the school each semester. Similar to school terms.
Technical institute - an institution after high school that emphasizes practical career and job skills, especially in
technology and applied trades.
Transcript - a summary of a student’s academic work.
Transfer of credits - some students attend more than one college during their college careers. When they move or transfer from one college to another, they can transfer certain credit hours or classes from the old college to the new one. The new college determines which courses will count toward its graduation requirements.
Tuition - the portion of college costs attributed directly to paying for classes.
Undergraduate - a college student who has not yet earned a bachelor’s or associate’s degree.
University - an institution of that usually combines one or more colleges with other schools, such as medical or law.
Work-study - a Federal financial assistance program that provides students with jobs, usually on campus.