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Application Encyclopedia: College Terms Every Student Needs to Know

Student looks at colleges on Naviance. PC: Ernesto Estremera (278)

When applying for colleges, we often run across terms that we just don’t recognize, and a simple Google search can turn into hours of page-scrolling. This easy list of terms will hopefully help you on your way to applying for your dream school!

ACT: The American College Testing Program. A standardized test made to gauge students’ aptitude in English, reading, mathematics, and science. It is made up of four sections, along with the option of a writing portion, and is scored on a scale of 0-36. The score is an average of each section, which are also scored on a scale of 0-36. There is a fifth section made up of experimental questions, which have no effect on the students’ scores and are used to determine what kinds of questions will be used in future distributions of the test. The ACT is not accessible through the College Board; students must register through the ACT website.

Coalition Application: A college application accepted by over 130 public and private schools in the United States, dedicated to providing resources to low-income students through their platform. The website has a full list of all colleges and universities that accept the application.

College Board: The platform to access SAT registration and scores, along with standardized testing resources. AP and PSAT exam scores are also accessed through College Board. Students have the option to link their scores to Khan Academy and receive virtual lessons and practice tests in the areas they need support in.

College Confidential: A national forum for college and highschool students and parents to discuss college. Features include a popular subforum titled ‘What Are My Chances?,’ which allows prospective applicants to post their test scores, GPA, extracurriculars, and more to have their chances of admission to certain colleges evaluated.

College Point: A coalition led by Bloomberg Philanthropies dedicated to assisting low-income and low-opportunity students with applying to college. If a student meets the criteria the coalition sets (based on GPA, test scores, and income), they will be matched with a one-on-one advisor who will assist them in the college search and application process.

Common Application: Arguably one of the most common forms of college applications. The Common Application (also known as the Comm-App) only requires those applying to any of over 700 partner colleges and universities (international included) to fill out one application.

CSS Profile: The College Scholarship Service is distributed by the College Board and allows students to apply for financial aid. Private colleges examine a student’s CSS profile much more commonly than a public or state institution.

Deferred Admission: Common in early decision. The student in question has their early decision or early action application pushed to be considered during regular decision by the college in question

Early Action: Applying to a college or university early. Nonbinding.

Early Decision: Applying to a college or university early. Binding; the student must attend if accepted, regardless of price or other acceptances.

FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is an annually filled out and evaluated form that students complete to receive financial aid from the country or state. Not to be mixed up with the CSS profile, which colleges use to distribute funding from their own institution. The FAFSA is used by college students as well to determine need for financial aid each year.

Fee Waiver: Used to void application fees or test fees. These can be retrieved from the counselors, in the case of standardized testing, or directly from schools the student is applying to or from outside programs. Every student is given four fee waivers from the College Board.

Gap Year: Taking one year in between senior year graduation and freshman year in college. This year is often used to achieve financial stability or travel. Students can ask a college to defer their attendance, guaranteeing them a place once the year is over.

Naviance: A platform designed to help advance students’ college and career readiness. Naviance serves as a storage of important information that a student can then transfer to a college application, and also makes an effort to bring schools of interest to students’ attention.

Open Admissions: Students may enter a school with open admission as long as they have received a high school diploma or equivalent.

Prep Scholar: An online ACT and SAT preparation site that offers one-on-one online test prep for students, along with offering an extensive list of criteria for a large list of colleges and universities, allowing students to view average test scores and acceptance rates.

Questbridge: Questbridge is most notable for offering a service called the National College Match. Students rank up to twelve schools for early decision. If Questbridge matches the student in question to one of the colleges, based on financial need and academic standing, the student is accepted (binding) and given a full four-year ride.

Regular Admission: Applying for a college or university at the regular deadline. Acceptances are non-binding.

Rolling Admission: Students are encouraged to submit applications anytime during a large window. This is common practice for many undergraduate programs and law schools.

SAT: SAT, surprisingly, no longer stands for anything other than SAT. The SAT is an exam viewed by many colleges and universities to determine a student’s aptitude for certain subjects. The standardized test includes sections for math (two), reading (one), and writing (one), along with an optional essay portion.

Subject Tests: A subcategory of the SAT standardized test. Subject tests are designed to test a student’s aptitude for one particular area of study and are offered for a variety of languages, humanities, math, and sciences courses.

Supplemental Essay: A piece of writing a student is asked to complete upon applying to certain colleges and universities to include with their application.

Test Optional: A school that does not require applicants to submit standardized test scores.

Universal Application: Another type of college application that several schools accept. Currently, 34 American colleges and universities accept the application.


Hannah Cheatham (278)

Staff Writer


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