College Admissions Acronyms & Terms

Our comprehensive list of acronyms along with definitions for popular terms related to the college admissions process can be found here.

The College Admissions process can be daunting for both students and parents. Throughout the process, there will be many terms and acronyms that may become confusing. We have put together a list of Acronyms and Terms to help guide you through the College Admissions process!

College Admissions Acronyms

ACT The ACT is a standardized test used for college admissions in the United States. The letters do not stand for anything specifically. The test is scored on a scale between 1 – 36, the average of the four subject area scores.

AI – Academic Index – A numerical score representing a student’s academic potential. It is calculated using a number of different data points including grade point average, standardized test scores, and academic achievement.

AIME American Invitational Mathematics Exam – The second of three exams from the American Mathematics Competitions (AMC). It is made up of 15 questions and is a 3-hour exam.

AMC 10/12 American Mathematics Competitions – AMC 10 is for students in their first and second year of high school and AMC is for students in their junior and senior years of high school.

AP Advanced Placement – An academic program in the US and Canada, that offers high school students college-level curricula and exams for college credit.

ARML American Regions Mathematics League – A non-profit organization that offers specialized mathematics competitions to high-achieving students in high school.

CEEB College Entrance Examination Board – A non-profit organization in the United States that administers standardized tests such as the SAT, AP exams, and PSAT/NMSQT nationwide. The board was formed over a century ago to create a uniform college admissions process.

CLEP – College-Level Examination Program – A college-level program that is administered by the College Board and is recognized by 2, 900 colleges and universities. 

CR – Class Rank – A measure of student performance in comparison to their peers and classmates in the same graduating class. It is determined by GPA.

CR (SAT) – Critical Reading – A section of the SAT exam that measured a student’s comprehension and analysis abilities. It is broken down into two sections: reading comprehension and sentence completion.

ECAs – Extracurricular Activities – Any activity performed by students that take place outside of regular academic coursework. This includes sports teams, clubs, community service projects, and music and theatre groups.

EFC – Expected Family Contribution – An amount of money that a family is expected to contribute toward a student’s education. It is a number used by college financial aid staff to predict how much financial aid you would receive if your student was to attend their school.

FAFSA Free Application for Federal Student Aid – An application form that US students fill out to determine financial aid eligibility from the federal government.

GE Reqs – General Education Requirements – Courses that undergraduate students are required to take across academic disciplines to ensure academic success and proficiency. 

GPA – Grade Point Average – A numerical representation of a student’s academic performance in highschool or university calculated by their grades. 

HYP – Harvard/Yale/Princeton, The “Big Three” Ivy League Schools – These are three prestigious and historic universities in the United States. 

IB International Baccalaureate – A globally recognized program that offers rigorous academic credit

NMSQT National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test – an exam taken by high school students to determine their eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship Program.

PSAT Preliminary SAT – A practice exam for the SAT that students in high school can take to evaluate their preparedness for the official SAT test. 

PSEO – Post-Secondary Enrollment Option – A program that allows high school students to enroll in college courses while still in high school for credit.

ROTC Reserve Officers’ Training Corps – A program that prepares college students for careers as military officers while also providing scholarship opportunities.

SAT Scholastic Aptitude Test, Scholastic Assessment Test, SAT Reasoning Test – A standardized test for evaluating students’ knowledge of specific academic subjects. The test measures reading, writing, and mathematics skills and understanding as a a means of predicting readiness for post-secondary education.

SAT II (Discontinued) – SAT Subject Tests – Discontinued by the College Board, Standardized tests for evaluating students’ knowledge of specific academic subjects. These are often required by colleges and universities as part of their admission processes. There are over 20 SAT II subject tests available. 

TA – Teaching Assistant – Student aids that support academic instruction in the classroom. They often have a variety of responsibilities including preparing learning materials, grading assignments, and providing academic support.

TOEFL Test of English as a Foreign Language – An exam designed to assess English language proficiency of non-native speakers. This exam is recognized by over 10,000 universities and institutions in over 150 countries.

USAMO United States of America Mathematical Olympiad – A selective and prestigious mathematics competition for high school students in the United States. 

ACT – The letters do not mean anything specifically. The ACT is a standardized test used for college admissions in the United States.

AI – Academic Index

AIME – American Invitational Mathematics Exam

AMC 10/12 – American Mathematics Competitions

AP – Advanced Placement

ARML – American Regions Mathematics League

CEEB – College Entrance Examination Board

CLEP – College-Level Examination Program

CR – Class Rank

CR (SAT) – Critical Reading

ECAs – Extracurricular Activities

EFC – Expected Family Contribution

FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid

GE Reqs – General Education Requirements

GPA – Grade Point Average

HYP – Harvard/Yale/Princeton, The “Big Three” Ivy League Schools

IB – International Baccalaureate

NMSQT – National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test

PSAT – Preliminary SAT

PSEO – Post-Secondary Enrollment Option

ROTC – Reserve Officers’ Training Corps

SAT – Scholastic Aptitude Test, Scholastic Assessment Test, SAT Reasoning Test

SAT II – SAT Subject Tests

TA – Teaching Assistant

TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language

USAMO – United States of America Mathematical Olympiad

College Admissions Terminology

Accreditation – process of validation in which colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning are evaluated. The standards for accreditation are set by a peer review board whose members include faculty from various accredited colleges and universities.

Affiliation – any religious order with which the school is affiliated.

All-American – high school sports award showcasing an athlete who is one of the top players in the country.

AP Awards – Awards given to students by the College Board.

            AP Scholar – Granted to students who receive grades of 3 or higher on three or more AP Exams.

            AP Scholar with Honor – Granted to students who receive an average grade of at least 3.25 on all AP Exams taken, and grades of 3 or higher on four or more of these exams.

            AP Scholar with Distinction- Granted to students who receive an average grade of at least 3.5 on all AP Exams taken, and grades of 3 or higher on five or more of these exams.

            State AP Scholar – Granted to the one male and one female student in each U.S. state and the District of Columbia with grades of 3 or higher on the greatest number of AP Exams, and then the highest average grade (at least 3.5) on all AP Exams taken.

            National AP Scholar – Granted to students in the United States who receive an average grade of at least 4 on all AP Exams taken, and grades of 4 or higher on eight or more of these exams.

Articulation – formal agreements (or some would call a partnership) between two or more Colleges and Universities. documenting the transfer policies for a specific academic program or degree in general.

Associate Degree – an undergraduate academic degree awarded by colleges and universities upon completion of a course of study intended to usually last two years or more. It is considered to be a higher level of education than a high school diploma or GED.

Bachelor’s Degree – an undergraduate academic degree awarded by colleges and universities upon completion of a course of study lasting three to seven years (depending on institution and academic discipline).

Brag Sheet – very similar to a student resume – it highlights your accomplishments, key experiences, leadership skills and employment throughout your high school career.

Byrd Scholarship – This is a scholarship program for top students. States run the program differently. Typically, guidance counselors coordinate the nominations for the high schools.

Candidate’s Reply Date Agreement – An agreement many colleges follow that gives applicants until May 1 to accept or decline offers of admission. This agreement gives students time to get responses from most of the colleges they have applied to before deciding on one.

Class Rank – Way to compare a student’s grades to those of her classmates. Students are given a number ranking based on their GPA. Class rank can be weighted, unweighted, or only include percentiles. Class rank is one criteria colleges use to determine an applicant’s academic abilities.

College Board – an American non-profit organization that was formed in December 1899 as the College Entrance Examination Board to expand access to higher education.

Common Application – an undergraduate college admission application that applicants may use to apply to any of more than 700 member colleges and universities in 49 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Canada, China, and many European countries.

CO-OP Program – Cooperative education is a structured method of combining classroom-based education with practical work experience. A cooperative education experience, commonly known as a “co-op”, provides academic credit for structured job experience.

Credit – Units that a school uses to indicate that a student has completed and passed courses that are required for a degree. Each school defines the total number and types of credits necessary for degree completion, with every course being assigned a value in terms of “credits,” “credit hours,” or “units.”

Credit by Examination – The awarding of college credit based on exams offered either at the college on-site or via AP or CLEP programs.

Cross Registration – a system allowing students at one university, college, or faculty within a university to take individual courses for credit at another institution or faculty, typically in the same region.

CSS/PROFILE – The College Scholarship Service PROFILE is a financial aid application that is typically required by selective schools in addition to the FAFSA.

Cum. Record – a complete record of all courses completed with grades; transcript.

Decile – A division used in breaking down class rank into tenths. Top decile refers to the  top 10 percent of the class.

Deferral – This is similar to being wait-listed but it applies to early decisions/actions; a student may not be accepted or rejected at the time, but the application will be considered again during the regular admission’s cycle; rejection or admission is still possible.

Deferred Admission – this type of deferral allows a student to postpone admission for a year.

Dual-Degree Program – involves a student’s working for two university degrees in parallel—either at the same institution or at different institutions (sometimes in different countries)—and completing them in less time than it would have taken to earn them separately. The two degrees might be in the same subject area (especially when the course is split between countries), or in two different subjects.

Early Action – a type of early admission process for admission to colleges and universities in the United States. Unlike the regular admissions process, early action usually requires students to submit an application by October 15 or November 1 of their senior year of high school instead of January 1.

Early Admission – a college admission plan in which students apply earlier in the year than usual and receive their results early as well. This benefits students by reducing the number of applications to be completed at one time, and by providing results early.

Early Decision – An admission program offered by many schools that allows a student to apply by an earlier deadline and hear from the college as early as December or January. The program is binding, if you are admitted, you are obligated to attend that college, depending on the financial aid.

Electives – a course that may be taken for graduation credit, but the student has some options in terms of which courses will satisfy the requirements.

Federal School Code – Federal Student Aid assigns a number called a Federal School Code to each college that is qualified to disburse federal student aid. A Federal School Code is always six characters, beginning with 0 (zero), G, B, or E and ending with a five-digit number.

Fee Waiver – a form available to students of families with a low income (free/reduced lunch); eligible students should work with their guidance counselors to assist with the paperwork.

Graduate – A person who has successfully completed and academic degree, course of training, or high school.

Grant Aid – Money coming from a central government for a specific project. This is usually used when the government decides that the recipient should be publicly funded for their project.

Greek Life – Fraternities and sororities are referred to as Greek Life and are social organizations on college campuses. Usually, you obtain membership as an undergraduate, but then remain a member throughout your life.

Intel STS – The nations most prestigious pre-college science competition that recognizes 300 students as semifinalists each year and awards them and their schools $1,000 each.

Ivy League – A group of long-established colleges and universities in the eastern US having high academic and social prestige. This includes Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell, Brown and the University of Pennsylvania.

Kaplan – a US company that prepares students for examinations which they need to pass in order to enter American colleges or universities. These include the SAT and GRE. The company also runs English Language courses, and other general and professional educational courses. There are Kaplan Educational Centers in the US and in over 30 other countries.

Legacy – An applicant to a particular college or university who is regarded preferentially because a parent or other relative attended the same institution.

Level of Recognition – School, State/Regional, National, or International. This list is in ascending order of importance, meaning that an international award is considered the highest level of honor, because the domain of students eligible for the award is the largest at this level.

Liberal Arts – Academic subjects such as literature, philosophy, mathematics, and social and physical sciences as distinct from professional and technical subjects.

Loans – Finances that are borrowed that are expected to be paid back with interest.

Major – Specialize in (a particular subject) at college or university.

Match – A “match school” is a college or university that is likely to admit you because your grades, standardized test scores, and holistic measures are similar to those of typical students at the school.

Matriculation – The action of enrolling as a member of a body of people at a college or university.

Merit Aid – College awarded financial aid that is not based on financial need.

Minor – to study or qualify in as a subsidiary subject at college or university.

Minority – the smaller number or part, especially that is less than half the whole number.

National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) – A standardized test administered by the college board in the United States. Also known as the PSAT. The scores are used to determine eligibility and qualification for the National Merit Scholarship Program.

National Merit Commended – The national cutoff score for the ‘Commended Student’ designation will be 211 for the class of 2018.

National Merit Semifinalist – Those who score in the top 1%.

National Merit Finalist – Those who achieve a top score.

Need-Blind – Of or denoting a college admissions policy in which applicants are judged solely on their merits, irrespective of their ability to pay for tuition.

Open Admission – A type of non-selective and noncompetitive college admissions process in the United States in which the only criterion for entrance is a high school diploma, a certificate of attendance, or a GED.

Pell Grant – A subsidy the US Federal Government provides for students who need to pay for college.

Perkins Loan – A need based student loan offered by the US Department of Education to assist American college students in funding their post-secondary education. This carries a fixed interest rate of 5% for the duration of the ten-year repayment period.

Preferential Packaging – The practice of changing the type and amount of financial aid awarded to a student based on the desirability of the student relative to the applicant pool.

Princeton Review – A college admissions services company offering test preparation services, tutoring and admissions recourses, online courses, and books published by Random House.

Private Schools – A school supported by a private organization or private individuals rather than by the government.

Public Schools – A school supported by public funds.

Reach – A reach school is a college that you have a chance of getting into, but your test scores, class rank and/or high school grades are a bit on the low side when you look at the school’s profile. This article helps you identify schools that qualify as a “reach.”

Recruited Athlete – College athletes that are approached by a coach extending an athletic scholarship offer to a player who is in high school or higher.

Regular Decision – the normal process by which students apply by published deadlines, with promise of receiving an admissions decision no later than April 1st of their senior year.

Rolling Admissions – A policy used by many colleges to admit freshmen to undergraduate programs. Under this, candidates are invited to submit their applications to the university anytime within a large window.

Room & Board – The logging and food that is typically forming part of someone’s wages or included with something else such as a housing agreement.

Safety School – A safety school (sometimes called a “back-up school”) is a college that you will almost certainly get into because your standardized test scores, class rank and high school grades are well above the average for admitted students. Also, safety schools will always have relatively high acceptance rates.

Selection Index – A method of artificial selection in which several useful traits are selected simultaneously.

Selectivity – The quality of carefully choosing someone or something as the best or most suitable.

Self-Selecting – Choosing for oneself or autonomously.

Stafford – A federal student loan that allows students to borrow money directly from banks or other lending institutions.

Supplemental Application – An application that is specific to you and your intended major.

Tech School – A 2 year college that covers fields such as business, hospitality, tourism, construction, engineering, visual arts, information technology and community work.

Transcript – An official record of student’s work, showing courses taken and grades achieved.

Tuition – A sum of money charged for teaching or instruction by a school, college, or university.

Undergraduate – A student at a college or university who has not yet earned a bachelor’s or equivalent degree.

Universal College Application – A US-Based organization which provides college admissions applications that allows students to apply to any of the participating colleges.

Wait List – A situation in which a college or university has not formally accepted a particular student for admission, but at the same time may offer admission in the next few months if spaces become available.

Work Study – Relating to a college program that enables students to work part-time while attending school.

Yield – Refers to the number of accepted students who actually enroll in the school.