Useful Terms

Useful Terms 150 150 Explore Solutions

ACT Test (American College Test) –– tests English, mathematics, reading, and science. The score is the average of all four tests; the maximum score is 36

Academic adviser–– a senior faculty member in your area of concentration who is assigned to advise you on course selections and requirements. Before you declare your major, you will be assigned a temporary faculty adviser

Advanced Placement (AP) courses –– high-level high school courses in any of twenty subjects. Some colleges limit the number of AP credits that they will recognize. Check each college’s policy on AP credits

Apprenticeship –– someone who is learning by practical experience under skilled workers a trade, art, or calling

Associate degree –– a degree granted by a college or university after the satisfactory completion of a two-year full-time program of study

Award package –– the way colleges and universities deliver their news about student eligibility for financial aid or grants

Bachelor’s or baccalaureate degree –– the degree received after the satisfactory completion of a full-time program of study or its part-time equivalent at a college or university. The Bachelor of Arts (B.A) and the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) are the most common baccalaureates
Branch campus –– a campus connected to, or part of, a large institution

Candidates Reply Date Agreement (CRDA)–– if admitted to a college, a student must commit in writing by a specific date determined by the individual colleges

Career –– the sum total of your life experiences. It includes paid/unpaid work, volunteering, relationships, education, and leisure activities

College-preparatory subjects –– courses taken in high school that are viewed by colleges and universities as a strong preparation for college work

College Scholarship Service (CSS) –– the CSS PROFILE is in addition to the FAFSA and is for non-federal aid. Each college’s deadlines and forms may vary. Participating colleges and universities indicate whether they require this form

Common Application –– over 350 independent colleges and universities accept these standardized forms; they give them equal weight with their own application forms. Some schools require a Supplemental form to be completed.

Community College –– a 2-year government-supported college that offers an associate degree

Cooperative education (Co Op work study) –– A “Learn and Earn” program whereby a student participates in a structured classroom-based education in combination with practical work experience. Co-op work study provides academic credit and income for a structured job experience

Cost of education –– includes tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation, and miscellaneous expenses

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

Cross-registration –– the practice, through agreements between colleges, of permitting students enrolled at one college or university to enroll in courses at another institution without formally applying for admission to the second institution

Deferred acceptance –– the admissions decision is being moved for reconsideration with regular decision students

Double major –– allows a student to complete all the requirements simultaneously for majors in two fields

Early Action –– a student applies to a school early in the senior year and requests an early review and notification of admission. The answer usually takes three to four weeks after application (non—binding)

Early Decision –– allows students to apply to an institution early in their senior year and request an early notification of admission. The student signs a contract with the school at the time of application that indicates that if accepted, the student is obligated to attend that institution (binding)

ELC (Eligibility in the Local Context) –– the top four percent of students in each participating California high school’s graduating senior class are granted University of California eligibility, based on their successful completion of specific college preparatory coursework

Emphasis –– an area of concentration within a major or minor; for example, an English major may have an emphasis in creative writing

EOP (Educational Opportunity Program) –– University of California program designed for students with exceptional academic ability and promise despite a low-income or educationally disadvantaged background. EOP is open to students who meet the University’s regular admission requirements. In addition, special assistance is available through EOP to students who do not meet the regular admission requirements, but who can demonstrate the ability and potential to succeed at the University

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

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) –– 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 ( The FAFSA is deadline sensitive. A FAFSA form must be filled out to be considered for ANY type of financial aid, including scholarships from the institution you are considering

Federal Pell Grant Program –– a federally sponsored and administered program that provides grants based on need to undergraduate students. This is “free” money because it does not need to be repaid

Federal Perkins Loan Program –– 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 a student graduates

Financial Aid Package –– offer of financial aid, scholarships and grants from colleges that have accepted you as a student

GPA (Grade Point Average) –– the calculation of grades you receive either by semester or a four year cumulative

Gap Year –– a year spent traveling or working right after high school with the intent of maturing and identifying a major or field of interest or study

Grants/scholarships –– financial awards that are usually dispensed by the financial aid offices of colleges and universities. The awards may be need- or merit-based. Grants and scholarships do not need to be repaid

Greek life –– sororities and fraternities on campus

Honors program –– offers an enriched, educational experience that often includes small class size and a designated faculty advisor. You may apply for an honors program or be invited to enroll

Housing deposit –– a deposit required to reserve on campus housing. This deposit is time sensitive

Interdisciplinary –– faculty members from several disciplines contribute to the development of the course of study and may co-teach the course

Interested in playing sports in college –– check out the NCAA website at

Internship –– an experience-based opportunity whereby a student receives work experience related to his or her major

Intersession –– a period between two academic terms

Independent study –– allows students to complete some of their credit requirements by studying on their own. This varies at different colleges

Job opportunities –– a variety of on-campus jobs are available in addition to internships and work-study programs

Junior College –– a two-year post-secondary school whose main purpose is to provide academic, vocational and professional education

Lab –– additional required class time often spent outside of the classroom

Legacy –– family alumni

Major –– the concentration of a number of credit hours in a specific subject. Colleges and universities often specify the number of credits needed to receive a major, the sequence of courses, and the level of course necessary to complete the requirements

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

Minor –– an area of concentration with fewer credits than a major. The minor can be related to the major area of concentration or not; for example, English major may have a minor in theater

National Merit Scholarship –– scholarship awarded based on merit, the PSAT acts as the qualifying test for this award
Need blind –– admissions decisions made without reference to a student’s financial aid request

Official Transcript –– a sealed official academic report issued through the high school

Open admissions –– a policy of admission that does not subject applicants to a review of their academic qualifications

Pell Grant Program –– provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate students to promote access to postsecondary education

Performing Arts Audition –– a trial performance, as by an actor, dancer, or musician, to demonstrate suitability or skill often required by certain institutions for admissions

PLAN Tests –– a practice ACT test for high school sophomores

Portfolio –– a collection of your best work

PLUS Loan – a one year renewable loan with parents as the guarantor. There is no grace period for repayment (payments made while student attends school)

PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test) –– duplicates the kinds of questions asked on the SAT but is shorter and takes less time. Usually taken in the sophomore and junior year in October, the test also acts as a qualifying instrument for the National Merit Scholarship Awards Program

Quarter Term –– academic year is divided into four 12 week sections

Regular Decision –– applying in the normal application time frame.

Residency requirement –– Time requirement that is set by the college for a person to reside in the state to be considered eligible for in-state tuition at one of its public colleges or universities

Resume –– a written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experiences

Retention rate –– the number and percentage of students returning for the sophomore year

Rolling admissions –– there is no deadline for filing a college application. Responses are usually received within three to four weeks

ROP (Regional Occupational Program) –– a variety of excellent vocational and technical job training for high school students, out-of-school youth, and adults

ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) –– 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

SAR (Student Aid Report) –– report of the government’s review of a student’s FAFSA. The SAR is sent to the student and released electronically to the colleges designated by the student. The SAR does not supply a real money figure for aid but indicates eligibility

SAT Reasoning Test –– concentrates on verbal, mathematical reasoning abilities, and writing. It is given throughout the academic year at test centers with a maximum combined score for all three sections of 2400

SAT II Subject Tests –– subject-specific exams given on the same test dates and in the same centers as the SAT I

Secondary School Report –– Counselor report which includes a written student evaluation and a student’s class rating in regards to academic achievement, extracurricular accomplishments, personal qualities and class ranking. Report is accompanied with an official transcript, courses in progress, a school profile and transcript legend.

Semester –– academic year is divided into two 16 week terms with a break in the summer

Seminar –– a class that has a group discussion format rather than a lecture format

Stafford Loan –– a federal program based on need that allows a student to borrow money for educational expenses directly from banks, other lending institutions or the colleges themselves Repayment begins six months after a student’s course load drops to less than halftime

Student-designed major –– offers students the opportunity to develop a nontraditional major not available in an existing college catalog. Check specific colleges for availability

Study Abroad –– program to study a quarter, semester or year in a foreign country and receive credit toward your major

Technical Schools –– a general term used for two-year colleges which provide mostly employment-preparation skills for trained labor, such as welding, culinary arts and office management

Transcript –– see official and un-official transcript

Transfer program –– usually found in a two-year college or in a four-year college that offers associate degrees. It allows a student to continue his or her studies in a four-year college by maintaining designated criteria set down at acceptance to the two-year program. It is not necessary to earn an associate degree to transfer

Transfer student –– a student who transfers from one college or university to another. Credits applied toward the transfer will be evaluated by the receiving school to determine the number it will accept. Each school sets different policies for transfers

Un-official Transcript –– an academic report obtained through the high school counseling department

Undergraduate –– a college or university student who has not yet received a bachelor’s or similar degree

Virtual visit –– use of the Internet to investigate various colleges by looking at their home pages. A student can “tour” the college, ask questions vie e-mail, read school newspapers, and explore course offerings and major requirements on line. It is not a substitute for a live visit

Visual Arts Portfolio –– a compilation of an artist’s best work used to showcase skill, potential and talent. Most art programs want to see works that fall into three distinct categories: observational art, personal art, or a home exam. A portfolio is your personal interview; it represents you to the college or university

Vocational Schools –– operated for the express purpose of giving its students the skills needed to perform a certain job or jobs. Also referred to as a trade school or career college

Wait List –– you have not been accepted yet but have been placed on a waiting list in case an opening becomes available

Waiver to view recommendations –– the form many high schools ask their students to sign by which they agree not to review their teachers’ recommendation letters before they are sent to the colleges or universities

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 or simply a means of paying for college

Xtracurricular –– activities you do in your spare time.

Year out or Gap Year –– a year spent traveling or working right after high school with the intent of maturing and identifying a major or field of interest or study

Zip code –– soon to change to students’ new location!